What Do Termites Eat and What Are They Attracted To?


Termites are herbivorous creatures in that they generally only eat the cellulose that comes from wood and paper products. This behavior can actually serve beneficial purposes in the natural environment, but it is a nightmare when these insects decide to move into homes and eat the very foundations of a house. Termites are generally attracted to moisture as well as wood; although drywood termites are attracted to wood with very little moisture, so it depends on the particular type of termite when figuring out what attracts them.

What do termites eat and what are they attracted to?

Termites live on cellulose, which they extract from wood and paper products. Moisture in soil is what attracts termites to your home and once they reach a dwelling, they seek out cellulose material.

It is important to remember that termites do not just eat wood, they will actually eat any items that have cellulose, including paper products, sheetrock, drywood and plaster. Even if they do not eat some of these materials, they can still burrow through it to reach a food source. They are attracted to moist, dark places that contain their food source and drywood termites are generally attracted to dry wood, such as furniture.

Because termites are blind, it is generally not known exactly how termites seek out food sources; their primary goals are to find a suitable habitat for a colony and then begin burrowing and sensing out food sources, preferably nearby. When termites find their way into homes, they prefer to set their colony inside of their food source to limit exposure as much as possible. The key thing to remember is that moist soil attracts termites and cellulose products are what keeps them alive.

termites dont eat cedar wood

Do Termites Eat Cedar Wood?

Not all wood is created equal when it comes to the termite digestive tract and cedar wood is one type of wood that termites will generally steer clear off. Cedar wood contains a high amount of resin, as well as other natural oils that repel termites from eating it. If the pickings are slim in their new environment, the termites may very well ignore the repellent components of cedar wood if they have no other viable cellulose source.

Do Termites Eat Redwood trees?

Redwood in its natural environment is generally termite proof due to the tannic acid of redwood bark that repels termites. The unfortunate thing about redwood as a source for structure and furniture is that the bark is generally stripped, therefore degrading the tannic acid and allowing the wood to be suitable for termites. If you use the heartwood part of redwood, which is the dense center of the tree, this can also repel termites since the tannic acid is deeply embedded into the wood grain and the dense components of the heartwood make it difficult for termites to tear through it.

Do Termites Eat Pressure Treated Plywood?

Plywood in and of itself is a hybrid of several types of wood pieced together. Generally, all of the wood types contain cellulose, which will be attractive to termites, so, yes termites can eat plywood. One option for ensuring that termites do not eat through plywood, or any type of wood, is to utilize a pressure treatment to the wood which pushes the natural components of the wood such as cellulose deep into the center, making it difficult for termites to sense the cellulose.

do termites eat sheetrock

Can Termites damage Sheetrock?

Sheetrock is not a natural food source for termites, but the product is more prone to termite damage due to the burrowing termites undertake to reach a more viable food source. Sheetrock also contains moisture which is essential for termite survival, meaning that termites can and sometimes do eat sheetrock to extract moisture. For the most part, sheetrock is just a barrier standing in the way of termite nutrients, so damage from burrowing is usually the main type of termite destruction with this product.

Do Termites Eat Drywood?

When it comes to drywood, drywood termites are the most likely culprit for any visible damage. Drywood termites differ from the other two common types – subterranean and dampwood – due to their preference for wood that is drier and harder; they also require much less moisture to survive in comparison to the other two species. Drywood termites take much longer to eat drywood due to the effort it takes to eat through the compounds.

do termites eat particle board

Do Termites Eat Particle Board?

Like plywood, particle board is a hybrid of many different types of wood, which makes it very attractive to termites. Particle board is actually a termite's dream come true because the board also contains a high amount of moisture which gives termites the two sources they require to live and thrive. If you have particle board, or are deciding to use it in construction, monitor the wood over time to ensure termites are no present.

Do Termites Eat Painted Wood?

Due to the chemical components of paint, termites will not eat through wood that is painted. You would need to ensure that the paint is a thick coat and covers every possible piece of the wood since termites will enter and eat a structure from the inside out. Additionally, if the wood structure in question is planted into the ground, subterranean termites will simply enter the wood from the ground and the paint on the exterior will never bother them.

do termites eat painted wood

Do Termites Eat Paper?

Paper is made from wood and contains the cellulose and moisture that termites thrive on. If you have stacks of old newspapers in a basement or attic, this is an easy food source for termites since no burrowing is required to get what they need. Additionally, sheetrock contains an outer layer of paper that is attractive to termites.

Do Termites Eat Sugar?

Cellulose is what termites live on and this is a form of sugar, so, yes termites primarily eat sugar. They prefer to extract cellulose and not complete sugar, so you do not have to necessarily worry about termites raiding your kitchen–that is an ant's domain. Cellulose is the primary attractant for termites.

Do Termites Eat Concrete?

There is absolutely nothing inside of concrete that will attract termites. Concrete is made of nutrient-rich compounds, but due to the incredibly hard and brittle surface of concrete, termites are in no way attracted to it. Often times, termites will crawl through cracks in concrete to reach the wood.

Do Termites Eat Plastic?

Like concrete, plastic has no compounds that are attractive to termites. Any destruction of plastic would come from the material being used as a shield to cellulose products. Termites have been known to burrow and rip through plastic, but they are not eating the material; they are simply tearing through it to reach the wood.

Do Termites Eat Boats?

Termites are attracted to boats just like any other wooden structure. Formosan termite are particularly attracted to moist areas of wood so are likely to be found eating the wood of boats and their hulls. Drywood termites also eat wooden boats. If you find sawdust frass and exit holes the surely you will have found evidence of a termite infestation on your boat. See our post on ‘how to kill termites on a boat‘ for more information.

Related ‘What Do Termites Eat' Questions

What Wood Are Termites Attracted To?

Termites are generally attracted to wood that has no repellents on its outer surface and is plentiful with cellulose. Termites are attracted to as natural and unaltered a wood source as possible. If the wood in your home is unaltered and unprocessed, termites will generally be attracted to it and eat it.

How Fast Do Termites Eat Wood?

There are many factors that affect how quickly termites eat wood. The type and size of the wood structure in question, the type of termite–drywood termites take much longer to eat their preferred type of wood–and the overall size of the termite colony in question. Generally, per six-month period, termites can eat about a foot of wood.

Is There a Termite Resistant Wood?

Redwood and cedar wood are two types of wood that are generally repellent to termites. Any wood structure that is pressured is also a deterrent to termites since they cannot reach the cellulose-rich material in the center. There are also ways to deter termites from any wood source, such as coating your wood with Ortho Home Defense Termite & Destructive Bug Killer, which acts as a powerful residual that not only repels, but also kills termites if they cross over it.

In Summary

Termites eat wood which contains cellulose – their primary food source. Termites can also eat paper products and wood types that are processed together. Redwood and cedar wood are generally repellent types of wood to termites. Cellulose and moisture are the primary termite attractants and this is evenly the same with the three most common termite types.



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