15 Surprising Things Termites Eat (And Don’t Eat)

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Curious to know what termites like to eat?

Well you’re in for a treat because we break down everything you need to know about termites and their dietary habits!

From concrete to plywood, what WON’T a termite chomp on?

Check it out!

Reviewed By:
Ed Spicer

Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!

Table of Contents

    Termites and Their Eating Habits

    Have you ever noticed that you only seem to see termites infesting wooden structures?

    Why is that? Do they eat anything else?

    Why Do Termites Like Wood?

    Studies of the gut of a termite have been performed on a microscopic level to reveal something unexpected: these pests actually have bacterial protozoa living in their stomachs, digesting their food for them.

    These protozoa break down cellulose, a biological compound found in wood, and create fuel from this unlikely resource. Because cellulose is found most abundantly in wood and tree roots, termites gravitate toward it.

    Check out this video to learn more about WHY termites like wood!

    Will Termites Eat Concrete?

    Termites will NOT eat through concrete.

    However, because termites will crawl through pre-made cracks in concrete structures and surfaces in search of wood, many people will fall to the misconception that the termites themselves have created the cracks.

    Will Termites Eat Plastic?

    Yes and no.

    While termites only feed on items with a cellulose compound, it’s not uncommon for termites to use their serrated jaws to chew through plastic barriers. When it comes to wood, termites will do whatever they can to gnaw through blockades.

    The termites aren’t eating the plastic, however. This will not give them sustenance; they are using their jaws more as a weapon than as a vehicle for food.

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    What Wood Will A Termite Eat?

    Okay, so termites are really only in search of cellulose, which is found primarily in wood.

    But is all wood created equal to termites? Keep reading to find out.

    Will Termites Eat Cedar?

    Cedar is a type of wood that is somewhat naturally resistant to termites.

    These pests will stay away from cedar at first, however, this won’t always be the case. Over time, the wood will begin to break down and the resinous decay will be attractive to termites.

    Read Also: What’re the best treatments for termites?

    Will Termites Eat Bamboo?

    While bamboo is often eaten by pests, it’s not by termites.

    The most common insect feeding off of this unique type of wood is the Bostrichid powerpost beetle, which feeds on different types of hard and soft wood.

    Will Termites Eat Redwood?

    Redwood is another type of wood that’s a natural deterrent for termites.

    In the wild, redwood acts as treated wood does in warding off worker termites seeking food for the colony. However, as time wears on, the wood gets worn out. Its resin seeps into the ground, luring termites to feast.

    Termites actually have bacterial protozoa living in their stomachs, digesting their food for them.

    These protozoa break down cellulose, a biological compound found in wood, and create fuel from this unlikely resource. Because cellulose is found most abundantly in wood and tree roots, termites gravitate toward it.

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    Do Termites Eat Building Supplies?

    If you’re in the process of building a home, shed, garage, or any other structure, you’re going to want to use the right materials upfront.

    To prevent termite infestation, read below about how likely termites are to chow down on your different supplies.

    Will Termites Eat Pressure Treated Lumber?

    The answer to this is a solid no.

    Pressure treatment of lumber with chemicals is the number-one step taken against termites. The wood is packed with a preserving agent to stop decay as well as fill the wood with a chemical compound which acts as a blockade against termites. Normally, this is the wood that makes direct contact with the ground, so that when termites encounter the lumber, they’ll pass it right by.

    Will Termites Eat Plywood?

    This answer depends on whether the plywood has been pressure-treated or not.

    Plywood is composed of several cuts of wood glued together, which contains cellulose. Normally, termites will find this cellulose in plywood, so they’ll eat it. However, with a pressure treatment, the termites will no longer be able to sniff out their favorite food.

    Will Termites Eat OSB?

    Oriented strand board (OSB) is made of wood, but it is cement-bonded for extra durability. For this reason, termites aren’t likely to eat it.

    The presence of the cement works to deter termites from the cellulose in the wood chips which make up the board, but also prevents decay. These two factors significantly decrease the likelihood that termites will eat OSB.

    Will Termites Eat Sheetrock?

    The paper which lines the front of a sheetrock wall is comprised of cellulose, so it’s a nice appetizer for termites. While they don’t like to eat the actual sheetrock itself, they’ll begin to eat the outer layer and search inside for more cellulose.

    Also, the walls behind the sheetrock layer in a home or a garage are primarily made of wood, so it’s not unlikely that a termite will keep journeying straight through the sheetrock to find even more cellulose.

    Will Termites Eat Particle Board?

    Because particle board is made up of several different types of wood (chips, sawdust, waste materials), termites LOVE to eat particle board.

    Another major attractant of termites to particle board is its ability to swell with moisture. Because some termites love dampened wood, wet particle board is like serving termites their favorite food on a silver platter.

    Termites and Their Diet Outside!

    What do termites eat in the wild?

    Do you have plants in your yard that could be harboring termite colonies without your knowledge?

    Read on for more info.

    Will Termites Eat Live Trees?

    Normally, live trees and bushes are not optimal sources of food for termites, as these insects feed on dead and decaying cellulose.

    However, Formosan Subterranean termites can take over some species of live trees, burrowing into the centers and making themselves at home inside.

    Unless the tree starts to decay, you should be okay.

    Will Termites Eat Cypress?

    Cypress is another type of wood (along with cedar and redwood) which is naturally decay-resistant during its lifespan.

    However, once the tree dies, it will eventually break down. Also, the presence of moisture within the tree’s trunk, branches, and roots can lead termites to a cypress tree.

    Read Also: What’re the different type of termites?

    Will Termites Eat Dry Wood?

    The answer to this question, unfortunately, is yes.

    There’s a species of termite which feeds exclusively on dry, smooth wood such as hardwood floors, banisters, baseboards, and even furniture. The tunnels made by the termites’ chewing are smooth and finished, as the drywood termites don’t have the same serrated, jagged jaw that the dampwood termites have.

    Will Termites Eat Painted Wood?

    Here’s some good news for all homeowners: termites won’t eat through paint!

    However, whether or not a termite colony will make its way into your wood depends on how well the wood was painted. If the pieces of wood inside the ground are bare, then this is a surefire way for termites to make their way inside the wooden structure.

    Do yourself a favor and leave no spot unpainted.

    Will Termites Eat Poplar Wood?

    Poplar wood is defined at utilitarian, working wood. It can be a blend of a few different types of wood, all with different levels of resistance to termites.

    Each kind of wood has cellulose, which will always be what a colony of termites is after. However, some poplar wood may be stronger at protecting against termites if made from certain naturally-resistant trees like cypress, redwood, and cedar.

    Termite Diet Final Thoughts

    If there’s one thing to remember about a termite’s dietary habits, it’s that these insects will always feast on cellulose and decaying wood.

    Any item or particle made up of cellulose is prime cuisine for a termite. This includes nearly every type of wood, especially those which swell with moisture.

    Steps can be taken, however, to protect wood against termite infestation such as pressure treatment, concrete reinforcement, and sealant coats.

    By knowing the prime attractant for termites, you can better protect against an infestation in the future.

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