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!

What Are Swarming Termites?

What swarming termites look like in Seattle WA | United Pest Solutions

With warm spring weather comes flowers, sunny days… and swarming termites. Though many people assume termite swarmers are just flying ants, these pests could actually be a warning sign of an infestation that you shouldn’t ignore.

Termite swarmers, also known as alates, are winged termites that are responsible for the colony’s reproduction. Alates come out as the weather warms up to mate and establish new colonies, which is why it’s important to watch out for signs of them on your property.

Are Swarming Termites Dangerous?

Though it can be alarming to come across a termite swarmer, these pests are generally not aggressive or dangerous to human health. That said, swarmers could be an indicator that there’s an infestation nearby, which may put your safety at risk.

Since termites chew through key wooden components in homes and buildings, they could weaken the structural integrity of your house. So, while swarmers themselves may not be particularly harmful, a termite infestation can be dangerous to you and your family.

How to Tell Swarming Termites and Flying Ants Apart

Termite swarmers and flying ants look very similar, which causes many people to mistake the two. To determine whether you are dealing with relatively harmless ants or if you are potentially facing a destructive termite infestation, it’s useful to know how to distinguish the two. These key differences can help you tell swarming termites and flying ants apart:

  • Wing size: Termites have two sets of wings that are roughly the same size. Though flying ants also have two sets of wings, the bottom ones are much smaller.
  • Antennae shape: Termites have straight antennae, while ants have bent elbow-shaped antennae.
  • Body size: Flying ants have a narrower body and thin waist, while termites have a thicker body shape with a wider waist.

What to Do If You Notice Swarming Termites

Swarming termites are often one of the first signs of an infestation, which is why it’s important to be vigilant if you spot these pests on your property. Here are some steps you can take if you find swarmers near your home:

  • Try to contain the termite swarmers: Collect multiple samples in a jar so a professional termite exterminator can identify exactly which species you are dealing with. Swarming termites, generally speaking, are harmless to your home, but can be a big nuisance, especially indoors. Vacuuming is one of the more effective ways to remove these from indoor environments.
  • Fix potential entry points to your home: Correct any situation where wood siding is touching the ground or tree roots are pressing through or under the foundation.
  • Call a termite exterminator as soon as possible: Termite infestations are no joke – it’s even estimated that these pests are responsible for $5 billion in damages every single year. Since they are able to cause so much destruction so quickly, it’s important to call an experienced termite exterminator to address the problem as soon as possible. If you need termite control services, United Pest Solutions is here for you – give us a call today to speak with one of our experts.

Signs of a Termite Infestation

Top signs of a termite infestation to look out for in Seattle WA - United Pest Solutions

Top signs of a termite infestation to look out for in Seattle WA - United Pest SolutionsTermites are notorious for causing significant damage – experts even estimate that these pests are responsible for about $5 billion in repairs each year! That’s why it’s so important to keep an eye out for signs of an infestation. Though many homeowners assume that termites are only a summer problem, these pests actually remain active all winter long, so you’ll want to watch out for them year-round. Here are the top signs of a termite infestation to look for:

  • Mud “tubes” in or around your home. Most termites will build small mud tunnels extending from their nest. These tubes allow termites to travel freely without risk of drying out or being spotted by predators. If you spot these in or near your home, it’s important to contact a pest control expert before these pests can cause more damage.
  • Damage to the floor, ceiling, or walls. Termites primarily feed on the cellulose found in wood, though they can also eat a number of other objects that cross their path. If your floors, ceiling, or walls have noticeable but unexplained damage, it could be a sign of termites.
  • Cracking or bubbling paint or plaster. As termites feed on walls or support beams, the paint or plaster may bubble up. The bubbling may look like minor water damage, but if it is caused by termites, then it could be a dangerous sign that termites are causing significant destruction in your home.
  • Electricity is frequently short-circuiting. Electrical fittings give off heat, which often attracts termites – especially in winter when the weather is cold. This may cause termites to chew around your electrical components, which may cause short-circuits. To check for this problem, look along your electrical fittings for soil, mud, or other signs of termites.
  • Spotting live or dead termites. Live or dead termites in or around your home is a surefire sign that these pests are invading your home. If you find termites in your home, call an expert to get rid of these pests as quickly as possible.

Reliable Termite Control in Seattle WA

A termite infestation is no joke. Not only are these pests incredibly damaging, but they can also be very challenging to remove – especially since they are experts at hiding in hard-to-reach areas. To keep your home safe from termites, call the termite control experts at United Pest Solutions today! Our technicians have nearly 60 years of experience serving homeowners throughout Seattle WA, and we are dedicated to providing you with fast, friendly, and reliable service. To get rid of termites quickly, call us today!

Late Summer Pests in the Pacific Northwest

United Pest talks about the late summer pests in the Pacific Northwest.

Family enjoying a BBQ. United Pest talks about the late summer pests in the Pacific Northwest.

[2021 Update]

Summer brings warm weather and longer days, but it also brings pests. As you anticipate your pest control needs this summer, keep in mind the various pests that invade homes and businesses in the Pacific Northwest during this time of year.

Here are some of the most common invaders and tips to help control them.

Common Late Summer Pests in the PNW

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are one of the most common pests discovered in hotel rooms. Since summertime is a time when many families travel, it’s important to stay on guard. Remember, these pests are great at hitchhiking.


Ticks can transmit diseases to humans, some of which are considered harmful. These pests breed in the summer and live in tall grassy, or wooded areas and on pets.


These tiny pests start to come out in the springtime and stay around during the warmer summer months. You’ll most often see them out on pavement but after a good rainfall, they may make their way into your home seeking dry shelter.


If you’re having a lot of gatherings outside your home that involve food, you’re likely to see flies buzzing around. They like food and warmth. So summer BBQs are a good recipe for attracting flies.

Stinging Insects

Like flies, stinging insects including bees, hornets, and wasps prefer warmer weather. Since they’re out more during this time of year, the chances of someone coming near a nest are higher.


This time of year is famously known for its high number of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so mosquito problems may increase after heavy rain.


As summer turns to fall several critters, including squirrels and raccoons, may start planning ahead to the winter months, looking for warm shelter. This may involve them invading your home, damaging it in the process.


Subterranean termites and Dampwood termites live in the Pacific Northwest. They will make nests in your soil and in any wood items you may have around your home including old wood stumps.

How to Prevent Pests During Late Summer

  • Eliminate standing water: like previously mentioned, mosquitoes breed in standing water. So eliminating these sources will help reduce mosquitoes on your property. Think buckets, tarps, birdbaths, and flower pots.
  • Keep your grass trimmed: this will help reduce mosquitoes and help
    prevent ticks.
  • Relocate firewood: if you keep firewood on your property, store it away from your home and if possible keep it elevated.
  • Properly seal your home: ensure windows, doors, and garage doors aren’t kept open for long periods of time and install or repair any screens.

Pest Control Seattle

If you’ve tried these methods or already have a pest infestation on your property, we can help! United Pest Solutions is your local source for pest control in the Seattle area. Our certified technicians will identify which type of pest you have and find a solution. So contact us today!

How Termites and Carpenter Ants Differ

Termite and carpenter ant up close. United Pest Solutions serving Seattle WA and Kirkland WA talks about how termites and carpenter ants differ.

The horrors of termites that are eating the wood of the house. They destroy houses, wooden parts and wood products. United Pest Solutions serving Kirkland WA and Seattle WA talks about how termites and carpenter ants differ.Spring is right around the corner and as the temperatures rise and the ground becomes warmer, you may start to see flying insects around your home. This time of year is when termites and carpenter ants emerge, reproduce, and start new colonies.

Both of these pests share a common love for wood, but they’re vastly different. While you should contact a pest control company regardless of which pest you have, this article will explore how these wood-destroying pests differ.

Physical Differences

Termite swarmers are about 1” long and are dark brown to black in color. Their front wings are the same size as their hind wings. Termite workers, on the other hand, are smaller than swarmers and have light-colored bodies that are almost translucent. These pests have straight antennae and mostly uniform bodies.

Carpenter ant swarmers are reddish-brown or black in color and are about ¾” in size, larger than the average carpenter ant. They have two sets of wings: a larger set in the front and a smaller set in the back. Worker carpenter ants have the same body color and narrow waists.

Behavioral Differences

Termites feed on wood for its cellulose content, whereas carpenter ants excavate wood to create safe nesting places. Another difference between the two insects is the type of wood they prefer. Carpenter ants typically seek wood that is damp or rotting, whereas termites prefer all wood. They’ll even eat drywall and other material with cellulose.

At first glance, wood damage from both of these pests may seem similar. But with further inspection, you’ll notice that the damage is either smooth or ragged in appearance. Termites create ragged-looking tunnels due to transported mud, while carpenter ants leave behind smooth tunnels with wood shavings nearby.

Suspect a Carpenter Ant or Termite Infestation?

If you believe you have ants or termites in your home, contact the professionals at United Pest Solutions. These insects can cause severe damage to your home, impacting its structural integrity.

We will inspect your home, identify the pest, and get rid of those unwelcome visitors for good. We’ve been helping homeowners and businesses in the Seattle WA area since 1960. Contact us today for an inspection!