Termites are infamous for their destructive tendencies. By chewing through wooden structures, they’re capable of causing serious damage – experts even estimate that these pests cost home and business owners around $5 billion each year in repairs. But why do termites eat wood, and how can such a small pest cause so much damage to such a strong material?
Termites Use Wood for Fuel and Shelter
Termites are detritivores, which means they primarily feed on dead or decaying organic matter. These pests rely on one substance in particular for energy – cellulose, which is mainly found in plant cells. Wood is an excellent source of cellulose, making it a great fuel source for termites.
Wood also offers another advantage for termites. While chewing through wood, these pests are able to make tunnel systems that also act as shelter. Some species will even plug holes in the wood with their frass, or droppings, to seal in moisture and block predators from entering.
How Do Termites Eat Wood?
Wood is a very tough material that not many organisms can chew through, let alone digest. However, termites are built for the job. They have special mouthparts and incredibly strong mandibles that are able to break wood apart into bite-sized pieces that the termites can easily consume.
Termites also have special enzymes and microbes in their gut that allows them to properly digest the wood. Protozoa are the microorganisms that are mainly responsible for the digestion of wood, as they help turn the cellulose into simple sugars that termites can process into energy.
How Quickly Do Termites Eat Wood?
With how durable wood is, many people assume that it would take termites years and years to consume a considerable amount of it. However, colonies can grow incredibly large and termites never stop working – even to sleep. For this reason, termites are able to consume wood at an alarming rate.
Though the species will largely determine just how quickly a colony can consume wood, most dampwood or drywood termites can consume enough to cause structural damage within one year of infestation. Subterranean termites are even more aggressive, with the average-size mature colony able to eat through a few feet of a 2’x4’ within the same time period.
Get Professional Termite Control Services
With how quickly termites can consume wood, it’s important to seek help immediately if you notice the signs of an infestation on your property. For reliable termite control services in the greater Seattle metropolitan area, you can count on the experts at United Pest Solutions! Our team has been implementing long-term termite control solutions for home and business owners for over 60 years. To get started, get your free estimate today!