What do termites eat?

What do termites eat?

This is not a trick question, but it might feel like one. The answer is wood, right? Termites eat wood! Technically, that is correct, but it isn’t the wood they are after. It is a byproduct of the wood called cellulose.

Termites eat wood to get to the cellulose and nutrients they need to live. Termites don’t digest the wood they eat. Instead, there are microorganisms living inside the termite’s digestive system called protozoa that do the heavy lifting.

The protozoa break down the wood to expose the cellulose thus creating a digestible product for the termite. The protozoa turn’s the cellulose fibers into a wholesome meal and gives termites access to a food source that’s largely ignored by other species.

What is cellulose?

Cellulose is the most plentiful organic compound on the planet. It is the organic substance which gives structure to wood, plants, and grass.

Cellulose is made of sugar molecules linked together to form a chain-like pattern. Wood is made up of mostly cellulose, and this is what termites ingest when they feed on wood.

What types of wood do termites eat?

Different species of termites eat different types of wood. In Fredericksburg, Virginia, the most common type of termite is the Subterranean termite.

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Subterranean Termites

These termites prefer moist, underground conditions and soft wood. Wood damaged by ground moisture makes for easier eating and living underground provides them with shelter from predators.

Subterranean termite behavior

Drywood Termites

These termites prefer the wood used in your home's framing, structural timbers, hardwood floors and furniture. Unlike their subterranean cousin, drywood termites inhabit the wood directly and not the soil.


Dampwood Termites

These termites feast on the wood found in decaying logs, stumps and wood piles. These conditions are NOT normally associated with your home, but if given the chance, and the proper conditions, dampwood termites will come knocking.

Other things termites have been known to eat:

– particle board, sheetrock, plywood.

What types of wood will termites NOT eat?

Termites don’t eat ALL types of wood. There are some they’ll steer clear of. Some wood, like cedar and redwood, is naturally resistant to termites. Remember, termites like decaying and rotted wood, while cedar and redwood are resistant to decay. 

Pressure-treated wood is another termite resistant wood. Pressure treated wood embeds preservative chemicals into the wood, thus creating a chemical barrier that resists termites and decay. 

Plastic composite materials are also resistant to insects and they don’t rot. The use of waste wood fiber and plastic creates a material used in construction that is impervious to insects.

Other notes:

  • Termites will not eat through paint, but they may eventually find a way to get to the unpainted part of the wood.
  • Termites normally to not eat live trees or bushes because they prefer decayed or dying wood.

What should you do if you have termites?

If you see the signs of termites already in your home, you may have a problem which needs to be handled by a trained professional.

If left untreated, termites can seriously weaken the wood within your home (floors, walls, joists, timbers, frames) leading to possible collapse and costly repairs. Every home with a wood structure should be actively protected from termites.

Sigma Pest Control offers the most comprehensive, affordable, and flexible treatment control plan in the industry. Utilizing the most effective method of control (liquid barrier) with the longevity and flexibility most other companies only offer with the inferior baiting method. Couple this with our bundled payment options, and Sigma Pest Control is the only answer to protect your most valuable investment, your home, from termites.

If you see any one of the signs mentioned in this post, call Sigma Pest Control – 540-94-SIGMA – for a free inspection (WDI inspections do not apply).

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