Written by

David Floyd

David Floyd

Reviewed by

Brett Ehlert

Brett Ehlert

Why Do Termites Eat Wood?

Termites are relentless creatures that consume wood material non-stop, day and night to survive and expand their colonies. This is due to their high requirement for cellulose, which is mainly found in wood. Therefore, the fundamental explanation to the common inquiry is that wood makes up a significant portion of their sustenance as it provides a crucial source of nourishment. Now, let’s delve into the reasons behind termites’ consumption of wood!

why do termites eat wood

Why Do Termites Eat Wood?

Termites eat wood because it’s an abundant source of cellulose which they are able to consume and use as fuel. Most other animals can not consume cellulose, so it gives termites an advantage over other insects, and gives them an abundant food source! This is why they’ll often scour your yard and look for food sources such as firewood or tree stumps, and this is why do termites eat wood!

termites eating wood

Just as we depend on nutrients to stay healthy and active, termites have special nutritional needs too – cellulose in this case. Luckily, they have a body system that supports this uncommon diet. These pests also eat books, money, newspaper, and more because they contain cellulose as well.

What really is cellulose? It is the major structural component of the cell wall of green plants. The nature and arrangement of molecules in it give it tensile strength and enable cells to have structure. Cellulose is also in the production of paper and paper products. 

How Do Termites Consume Wood?

Termites are equipped with special mouthparts that enable them to dig through wood and ingest it even. Along with this, yes termites do bite people with these strong mouthparts, but it is pretty rare. Different types of termites consume wood in different forms.

how do termites consume wood gif

Drywood termites, as their name implies, infest dry areas since they have only little need for moisture. This species does not need to have contact with soil. They also feed on dead, decayed wood such as tree stumps, rotting logs, and firewood.

Damp wood termites also derive their name from the environment they prefer to live in. They thrive well in areas with a lot of moisture and love to feed on moist wood. These pests are usually found in cool and humid areas.

Subterranean termites also stay in areas with moisture and occupy soil or wood directly in contact with the ground. To survive, they live in places where they can access water and dirt. So you’ll find them creating mud tunnels usually found near homes. They also love spaces within the walls and foundation fittings.

 Termites rarely have competition when it comes to food. This is because wood is extremely difficult to ingest, and only a few organisms can process it.

How Do Termites Digest Wood?

Termites belong to a group of organisms known as detritivores or detritus feeders. This means that they feed on dead plants, which include wood. They possess special mouthparts that enable them to break down wood into sizable bites.

Termite gut contains special enzymes and microbes that help them break down cellulose in wood, enabling them to obtain necessary nutrients. After complete digestion, some parts of termites’ excrement are expelled, while the rest is used to build.

Why Do Termites Only Eat Wood?

Termites are looking for cellulose which is found predominately in wood but in other paperlike materials such as paper and clothes as well.

How Long Does It Take Termites To Eat A Piece Of Wood?

The average termite can eat about 2% of its body weight in wood every single day. That means a colony of roughly 50,000 termites can around a square foot of lumber every single month.

Final Thoughts On Termites Eating Wood

One fun fact is that only a few organisms can break down cellulose, not even humans. Termites can eat anything made from wood too, like pictures, books, and cardboard. They usually make homes from these as well. 

Now, to keep these pests off your important possessions, ensure you don’t store them in damp places. You could also use insecticides or termiticides. For severe cases of termite infestation, do not hesitate to reach out to a professional exterminator. Check out our guide on how to remove termites from your home! Termites can be an extremely dangerous pest to your home and your family, so it is best to act quickly to ensure the safety of your home! I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide on why do termites eat wood.

Resources:

http://extension.msstate.edu/content/termite-biology-eastern-subterranean-termites-and-formosan-termites

David Floyd:

David Floyd has 20 years of experience working as a pest control technician as well as running his own pest control company. David is Quality Pro certified and is a certified Structural Pest Control Operator in the state of North Carolina, and the owner of NCPestControlExperts pest control company.

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