Everyone knows that termites tunnel through and destroy wood, but do they actually eat the wood? And if so, how is this done?
Termites do, in fact, eat wood, but the thing they are really after is cellulose. Cellulose is the most common organic compound found in nature. Scientists call it the building block of plants, and it can be found in things like wood, grass, paper, cardboard, books, cotton, and much more. Because termites can eat wood, they have access to a source of cellulose that most creatures do not.
Getting nutrients out of wood is difficult, however, so termites require some help to digest it. Protozoa and small microorganisms in their digestive tracts help to break down the cellulose into simple sugars. This provides them the nutrition they need. This is a great example of a symbiotic relationship.
Examining termite eating habits can help you distinguish which type of termite you are dealing with. This is because different species of termites prefer different types of wood. They will also create unique looking tunnels (galleries) within the wood.
Subterranean: Subterranean termites typically eat softer wood and will leave the hardwood behind. This produces a layered or honeycomb pattern on the wood. They also tend to eat with the grain of the wood. Subterranean termites live underground and depend on the soil for moisture, so their tunnels are typically filled with mud or loose soil.
Drywood: This type of termite likes to eat wood that is dry, so they can end up causing damage to house frames, hardwood floors, and even furniture. The galleries of drywood termites are smooth in appearance and lack the soil present in subterranean ones. Drywood termites will eat across the grain.
Dampwood termites: As the name implies, dampwood termites like moist or decaying wood. Common food sources include: rotting logs or trees, wood piles, bridge timbers, pilings, and more. Dampwood termites are less likely to infest homes, unless you have a consistent moisture problem that has caused the wood to get soft.
So, not only do termites tunnel through the wood, but now you know that they also eat it. Termites can chomp away at the wood in your house 24 hours a day. For this reason, termite prevention and control should not be taken lightly. Harris Termite Powder can be used to control termites, other wood-destroying insects, mold, and fungi. With Harris products, you can feel confident that you are getting the best home pest control products on the market. For more information, check out Termites: The Ultimate Guide.