Why Do Termites Eat Wood?

Termite on a piece of wood

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!

Treat Your Christmas Tree for Pests

People loading up Christmas tree into car. United Pest Solutions in Seattle WA talks about how to treat your Christmas tree for pests.

Freshly-cut Christmas trees are beautiful, they make our homes smell nice, and they get us in the holiday spirit! Unfortunately, when we bring a live Christmas tree into our homes, it may also come with some uninvited guests in the form of pests. Many types of pests make their homes in Christmas trees including aphids, spiders, and mites. While these pests are typically harmless to humans, their presence could be unnerving. So we’ve compiled a few steps you can take to treat your Christmas tree before you bring it into your home.

Which Types of Insects Live in Christmas Trees?

Entomologists say there could be more than 20,000 insects in a single tree including:

  • Spiders and mites: Commonly found on Fraser-fir, Douglas-fir, White pine, and Spruce trees. These pests may leave small red stains on your Christmas ornaments or floor.
  • Aphids: Usually found on White-fir, Fraser-fir, Balsam-fire, Spruce, Evergreen, and Pine trees. They are typically found on lower boughs of the tree.
  • Bark Beetles: These beetles are about the size of a grain of rice and are red, brown or black in color. They are commonly found on White-fir, Juniper, Coulter pine, Jeffrey pine, and Monterey pine trees.
  • Adelgids: Resembles dusting snow; common in fir trees, Scotch pine, and White pine.

The types of pests that live in Christmas trees varies depending on where you live and the species of tree you have chosen. It’s also important to keep in mind that many of these pests are harmless and will die off once inside your home because your home is not a suitable environment for them.

Pest-Proofing Your Christmas Tree

While most Christmas tree lots take preventive measures to help remove pests, below are some additional steps you can take to help prevent bringing bugs into your home.

  • Inspect your tree: Look for nests, eggs, and signs of insects on the tree’s trunk and branches. You may want to use a flashlight for this step. If you notice any eggs or nests on branches, prune them.
  • Shake your Christmas tree: Layout a light-colored cloth and give your tree a good shake over it. This will not only help remove any bugs but it will also remove dry, loose needles from your tree. Then vacuum up the debris.
  • Keep your tree in the garage for a few days: This will allow any eggs living in your tree to warm up and hatch in the garage and not in your home.
  • Keep your vacuum handy: Your vacuum is not only effective in picking up fallen pine needles, it is also great at helping prevent insects from spreading. If you see aphids or other insects on or near your tree you can simply suck them up with your vacuum.
  • Do not use aerosol pesticide sprays: Aerosol sprays are not needed and are flammable! Insects require humidity to live, and most will desiccate and die within a matter of days.

If your Christmas tree does have a large amount of insects in it, most tree lots will allow you to exchange it for another. If you have any questions about Christmas tree pests or other pests native to the Pacific Northwest, feel free to contact us at United Pest Solutions!

Using Integrated Pest Management in Your Home

United Pest Solutions in Seattle WA talks about what Integrated Pest Management is and why it's important for pest control.
United Pest Solutions in Seattle WA talks about what Integrated Pest Management is and why it's important for pest control.
IPM is a team effort between homeowners and pest control professionals.

One of the best ways you can prevent pests, like rodents and spiders, from entering your home is by Integrated Pest Management. Integrated Pest Management often called IPM, is a green approach to preventing and controlling pests. When using IPM, homeowners and pest control companies work together as a team to control pests.

What is IPM?

IPM consists of five parts:

  1. Inspection: Routine home inspections will help to find pests and identify any potential areas where a pest can gain access.
  2. Identification: Different pests have different habits. IPM starts with correctly identifying which pests are sighted so that they can be removed without harming other organisms.
  3. Establishing Thresholds: Is a pest’s presence a nuisance, economic threat or health hazard? Every customer may have a different threshold, and it is important for IPM, because it helps focus the size, intensity, and scope of a plan.
  4. Two or More Control Methods: Often the right treatment is a combination of methods, from sealing cracks and crevices to removing leaf litter, to utilizing pest control products.
  5. Evaluate for Success: IPM is an ongoing process, so constantly checking your property for pest activity will help protect against an infestation and help to get rid of any existing ones.

How Does IPM Work?

Integrated Pest Management focuses on stopping pests before they invade your home. IPM relies on the commitment of homeowners and pest control technicians working together as a team.

Instead of just eliminating a pest, with IPM, environmental factors are considered and used to determine the best course to take to prevent or get rid of pests. This can include:

  • Sealing cracks/crevices
  • Keeping counters/floors clean
  • Using sealed containers for human food and pet food
  • Using sealed containers for trash
  • Keeping wood piles stored away from your home
  • Reducing clutter
  • Trimming tree branches and plants

With IPM, prevention is just as important as treatment. An experienced pest control professional can help identify any vulnerable points in your home or office and provide protective measures including capping your chimney and installing screens.

Advantages of Using Integrated Pest Management

There are several benefits to using IPM including:

Environmentally-Friendly

IPM techniques involve sustainable methods
Less pest control products used also doesn’t affect your soil

Safer

IPM focuses on applying other interventions before using pest control products
Minimizes chemical exposure for family and pets

Cost-Saving

Using products often may eventually lead to high costs

Fewer Pests

Using best practices and creating an environment that doesn’t invite pests, will lead to fewer pests in the long-term

If you’re interested in implementing Integrative Pest Management, contact your local pest control company. They understand pests and their habits. They’ll not only help with your prevention measures but will also provide you with highly-effective treatment options.