Termites are destructive creatures that invade homes and businesses. They are known as silent destroyers as they can eat through wood for long periods of time without being noticed. According to the National Pest Management Association, structural damage from termite infestation costs American homeowners an estimated $5 billion in repairs annually.

From decks and furniture to windows and doors, termites eat through any and all wooden structures, often damaging them beyond repair. 

What Do Termites Eat?

Termites target foods that contain cellulose, an organic compound found in plants, algae, and other materials humans use daily. Unlike other creatures, the bacteria in a termite’s digestive tract enables it to break down cellulose fibers into simpler molecules enabling them to better absorb its nutrients. 

Cellulose is mainly present in plants, trees, and materials like wood and cotton fiber. Some common sources of cellulose include:

  • Animal feces
  • Cardboard
  • Carpet
  • Fabric
  • Insulation
  • Paper products
  • Sheetrock paper

On one hand, termites’ ability to break down these substances makes them an important part of our ecosystem. However, their tendency to chew through these materials brings several problems for homeowners and can compromise the structural integrity of a building. Termites are also, a potentially significant source of methane emissions — more than 3% globally.

What Type of Wood Do Termites Prefer?

termites eating wood

The type of wood termites prefer to eat depends upon their species. The following are the most common termite species and their feeding habits:

Drywood Termites

As the name implies, dry wood termites prefer feeding upon dry wood. Dry wood can be used in your home’s window frames, door frames, furniture, hardwood floors, or wooden cabinets. These termites commonly enter homes through vents, either in the attic or the foundations. Termites can also gain access to your house through wooden shingles.

Unlike other types of termites, drywood termites do not require contact with soil. They get all the moisture they need from the wood they invade.

Dampwood and Subterranean Termites

In contrast to drywood termites, dampwood and subterranean termites eat decaying or rotten wood. They tunnel from their underground nests to these food sources, which are usually found on exterior walls. A dampwood or subterranean termite infestation might indicate a leak in the home, which is creating moist conditions for the termites to thrive.

How Do Termites Find and Eat Their Food

Termites have powerful mandibles and a unique digestive system. The bacteria and protozoa in their gut work together to break down cellulose and release its nutrients in the form of sugar, helping further digest the food.

In order to feed the nest, these insects send out vast amounts of worker and soldier termites to locate a food source. However, termites are notorious for being sight-challenged — kings, queens, and reproductives have small, weak eyes, and workers and soldiers are entirely blind. So, to find food they have to rely on a combination of touch and environmental cues.

Worker and soldier termites forage above and below ground for food, following rocks, stray pieces of wood, moisture in the soil, the smell of fungi, and more to locate cellulose fuel. Upon locating a food source, the workers will release a trail pheromone for their nestmates to follow. 

However, not all termites in the colony can digest cellulose. To counteract this issue, worker termites will feed the other termites through a process called trophallaxis, which refers to the mouth-to-mouth exchange of food between members of an insect colony. 

Termite Problem? We Can Help!

a termite seen under the magnifying glass

Termite colonies can chew through wood undetected for years, so it’s often too late by the time an infestation is spotted. If you see any of these common signs of an infestation, you need to act now:

  • Frass or termite droppings
  • Mud tunnels
  • Swarmers or discarded wings
  • Pin holes on wood
  • Tight-fitting doors or windows
  • Faint head-banging sound
  • Hollow-sounding wood when knocked on
  • Bubbling or peeling paint

If any of these signs are present in your home, calling termite experts can help avoid further damage and stop the infestation in its tracks. With more than ten years in business, Stampede Pest Control delivers effective pest solutions by exterminating existing termites and putting measures in place to prevent further pest infestations.

Stampede guarantees that our services work. Call today to get a free quote on protecting your home!