Termites are a homeowner’s worst nightmare! They can munch some serious damage into the structure of your home. What attracts termites? What will they avoid? These are some important questions I’m going to answer below-
- What Termites Eat
- What Termites Don’t Eat
- How Do I Prevent Termites?
What Termites Eat
Termites are attracted to anything with cellulose. What is cellulose? It is the primary building block found in plant matter. Termites have special bacteria in their guts to break down cellulose.
Breaking down cellulose is a difficult job, but termites are up to the challenge. Their gut bacteria turn that tough cellulose into food for the termites. This allows them to have a plentiful food source that is usually ignored by other animals.
Termites are famous for their love of all things wood! Drywood termites are the common culprit for home damage. They especially enjoy the kind of dry timbers we have in our beams, floors, and furniture.
Dampwood termites particularly enjoy moist, soft, or rotting wood. These types of wood are much easier for them to sink their jaws into and digest.
Since paper is a wood byproduct, it is a favorite with termites. Termites have been known to eat their way through books and papers.
Termites especially love cotton fibers! Cotton is rich in their favorite food – cellulose. If you suspect your home has termites, check clothing, curtains, and bedding for bugs.
Termites do not usually eat live trees or bushes. They instead go for dead or rotting wood. However, termites have been known to tunnel into a live, softwood tree to form a nest.
Carpet fibers contain cellulose. Termites can get into the carpet, the pad, and even the subfloor.
If the termites are just in the carpeting, it is relatively simple to exterminate the termites and replace the carpet and the pad. You may run into problems if they have made their way through the carpet and have compromised the subfloor or the floor beams.
If you suspect there may be termites in your carpeting, immediate action is recommended.
Termites will typically avoid fiberglass insulation. They can infest foam board insulation and cause great damage. Foam board insulation installation is increasing due to its energy-saving properties. However, pest specialists recommend sticking with fiberglass near the ground in areas that are known for heavy termite activity.
Termites have no interest in sheetrock, but the paper covering on it is a tasty snack! Once they eat the paper, often they’ll tunnel into the sheetrock to look for more cellulose.
This is a termite favorite! Particleboard is made of pieces of softer wood and wood shavings pressed together with heat. It is easy for the termites to burrow in and have a meal.
Cardboard is another wood byproduct that termites will readily chew. If you suspect you have termites in your home, be sure to inspect books, paper, and boxes for bugs and damage.
Termites aren’t born with their cellulose-digesting bacteria ready to go. They gain these digestive powers by feeding on each other’s feces. Each time a termite molts, it has to re-establish its gut microbiome.
What Termites Don’t Eat
Live trees do not tempt termites’ appetite. However, they have been known to nest in a live tree.
Pressure-treated or chemically treated wood will completely repel termites. They won’t want to eat it. They won’t want to live in it.
The wood is made with preservatives embedded into the wood fibers. This helps slow down rot and mold. Most construction experts recommend pressure-treated wood in structures close to the soil to prevent mold and rot. The fact that it is also termite-proof is an added bonus.
Oriented Strand Board, or OSB, is made of some of termites’ favorite ingredients. However, it has one ingredient they can’t stand: cement. OSB is bonded with cement to give it an extra level of sturdiness. This cement is also a termite deterrent.
Some composite wood products include a blend of wood and plastic. Termites do not care for plastic, and will generally avoid eating wood that contains plastic.
Termites have no interest in eating concrete. Ever. They will go through cracks in concrete to find cellulose, so make sure all the cracks in your home are sealed.
Termites are not interested in plastic. They have been known to chew through plastic in order to reach the wood part, however!
Metal does not contain cellulose and does not interest termites. They can not chew through it, either.
Bamboo isn’t technically wood, but it is still a plant material. Termites may eat it if it is unprocessed. Bamboo found in homes is almost always processed in a way that makes it indigestible to termites.
Some Hard Woods
The following types of wood are termite-resistant:
These types of wood are more dense, and therefore, less attractive to termites. Teak is the most termite-resistant hardwood. However, if any of these woods become damp and starts to break down, the termites will eat it.
Heartwood is the non-living, extremely dense center of a tree. Because it is so hard, termites are less attracted to it. Building with heartwood, or heartwood grade lumber may be a good way to keep the termites away.
Termites will not eat paint. However, they are great at finding nooks and crannies to chew. If you are painting wood to deter termites, make sure you use a thick coat of paint and don’t leave any exposed cracks in the wood.
Termites will not eat sheetrock, but they are not above tunneling through it in order to find something to chew! As mentioned above, they are attracted to the paper on the outside of the sheetrock.
How Do I Prevent Termites?
Termites are quiet and sneaky! They can cause a great amount of damage before you even realize they are there. Make your home as termite-proof as possible before they even arrive.
Whether you’re building a new home or renovating, choose pressure-treated or processed lumber, especially near the ground. Not only will this type of lumber last longer, but it will resist termite damage.
Get Rid of Moisture
Rotting wood is a termite’s favorite snack! Keep damp woodpiles away from your house. If you have any damp or rotting wood in your home, replace it with pressure-treated wood. Find and repair any leaky pipes or gutters.
Seal It Up!
Take these steps to keep the termites out! Check and repair weather stripping around all doors and windows. If there are any cracks or holes in your home, seal them thoroughly. While you’re at it, check all around your home for mud tubes – a sign of termites.
Where is the soil line at your home? Soil should be at least two inches from any wooden part of your home. Trim grass and bushes so that the termites don’t have easy access to wood siding or trim.
If you live in an area with a lot of termites, a little knowledge will be helpful. No one wants to attract termites! Removing, or replacing materials that termites love with more termite-resistant materials may help you keep the termites at bay.