When most people think of termites, they imagine the unseen destroyers of homes, silently gnawing away at the wooden foundations of buildings. While it’s true that wood is the dietary staple of these tiny creatures, their menu is far more diverse than you might expect.
Termites’ unique ability to break down cellulose, the primary component of plant cell walls, opens up a veritable buffet of less obvious, yet equally damaging items that they can—and will—devour. From household items to surprising outdoor targets, Smithereen Pest Management has compiled a list of 15 surprising things termites eat or chew. Understanding the breadth of their potential diet can give you an edge in preventing an infestation and safeguarding your home and belongings.
Other plants and flowers
Termites’ primary diet consists of cellulose, a complex carbohydrate found in the cell walls of plants. This means any plant life, including flowers, can potentially be food for termites. Garden spaces with a lot of decaying plant matter can attract termites and, in some cases, can serve as a steppingstone towards infesting your home.
Paper and Cardboard
Termites are attracted to paper and cardboard because of their high cellulose content. Unused boxes, stacks of paper, or even wallpaper can draw termites. It’s best to store paper and cardboard items in sealed plastic containers and minimize clutter to avoid attracting these pests.
Drywall and Particle Board
While drywall and particle board are not a primary food source for termites, they may tunnel through these materials when searching for food. This is particularly true for subterranean termites. Particle board can be more attractive due to the glue used in its creation, which often contains cellulose.
Certain types of insulation, such as cellulose insulation, can attract termites. They can tunnel through it to create pathways and can also consume it for cellulose content. If you’re renovating or constructing a home, consider insulation types that are less appealing to termites.
Unfortunately, termites can chew on paper money because it’s made from a cellulose-based material. To protect your cash, keep it in a termite-proof container or bank account.
Books, especially those left in damp or humid conditions, can attract termites due to their high cellulose content. Consider storing valuable books in a sealed, dry location and regularly inspect your library for signs of termites.
Termites can eat clothing if it’s made from natural fibers such as cotton or linen, which contain cellulose. Avoid storing clothing in damp, dark places, which can attract termites.
Some termites can chew through carpets, particularly if they’re made from natural materials. Subterranean termites, for instance, can chew through a variety of materials to reach a cellulose food source, which can include carpet fibers.
While cedar has natural oils that make it more resistant to termites than other types of wood, it’s not impervious. Over time, the effectiveness of these oils can decrease, leaving older cedar wood vulnerable to termites.
As a plant-derived material, cotton is rich in cellulose. Termites can consume cotton materials, from clothing to cotton balls, and cotton fabrics left in damp conditions are particularly vulnerable.
Certain species of termites, such as drywood termites, are known to consume feces. This is because feces, particularly termite droppings, or frass, can contain undigested cellulose and other nutrients.
Mulch, especially wood-based mulch, is essentially a buffet for termites. It not only provides a rich food source but also maintains a moist environment that termites thrive in. Keep mulch at least 15-20 inches away from your home’s foundation to reduce the risk of attracting termites.
While termites can’t actually consume concrete, they are capable of finding tiny cracks and crevices in the concrete through which they can tunnel. Over time, this can lead to structural damage.
Termites cannot eat plastic, but they can chew through thin plastic barriers to reach a food source.
Termites primarily feed on materials high in cellulose, a component found predominantly in plant matter. Consequently, their diet is heavily inclined towards plant-based foods. However, given that termites are opportunistic feeders and will eat a wide variety of cellulose-rich materials, several human foods could potentially be consumed by them. These include:
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Cereals and Grains
- Plant-based Processed Foods
How to deal with a termite infestation
While termites can play a crucial role in nature by helping to break down organic matter, their presence in homes and buildings can lead to significant structural damage. If you suspect a termite infestation, it’s essential to act quickly. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to deal with a termite infestation:
- Confirm the Infestation: Signs of a termite infestation can include the presence of discarded wings, mud tubes, damaged wood, and small, pellet-like droppings. If you notice any of these signs, it’s possible you have a termite infestation.
- Call the Professionals: Due to the potential for significant damage, it’s recommended to call professional pest control services as soon as you suspect an infestation. Professionals have the necessary experience, tools, and knowledge to manage the infestation effectively.
- Inspection: A pest control professional will conduct a thorough inspection of your property to assess the extent of the infestation and identify the termite species. This information is crucial for creating an effective treatment plan.
- Treatment: The pest control professional will develop and implement a comprehensive treatment plan to eliminate the termite colony. This may involve soil treatments, bait systems, or structural fumigation, depending on the type and extent of the infestation.
- Follow-up and Prevention: After the treatment, regular follow-ups should be conducted to ensure the effectiveness of the treatment and to make adjustments if necessary. Preventative measures, such as reducing moisture around the property, sealing up entry points, and regular inspections, can also help prevent future infestations.
As we’ve seen, termites are more than just wood-eaters. Their diverse diet includes a variety of surprising items, from your favorite books to cotton clothes, even to your hard-earned cash. If left untreated, these tiny creatures can wreak havoc on your home. If you’ve noticed signs of a termite infestation, remember that acting swiftly can save you from potentially significant structural damage and costly repairs.
That’s why we’re here. At Smithereen Pest Management, our team of experienced professionals is ready to help you tackle any termite problem. Our comprehensive inspection and treatment services will not only eliminate the existing termite colony but also help prevent future infestations, ensuring your home stays termite-free.
Don’t let termites turn your home into their next meal. Contact Smithereen today for peace of mind and a professional solution to your termite troubles.