Some Termites Can Eat Through Plastic Pipes And Billiard Balls
Termites are eusocial insects like bees, ants and wasps. But termites have an advantage over all these insects, as some species can chew through just about anything. Obviously a timber-framed home is not safe from the eating habits of termites, but termites can even chew through objects that they cannot digest. You would be surprised to learn how many materials can become destroyed by a termites mouthparts. For example, Formosan termites can eat through PVC pipes. PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride. These are the white drainage pipes that you have probably seen before. PVC pipes have mostly replaced metal piping since they are easier and cheaper to install. PVC can also be made into other plastic mechanisms. PVC is also used to cover cables and wiring. In Europe twenty five percent of all cable insulation is made from PVC. It is surprising that such a durable plastic material cannot withstand termite activity.
Termites secrete formic acid, which destroys the wiring within plastic pipes. And it’s not just termites that secrete formic acid. Ants, beetles and wasps are just a few other insects that secrete this corrosive acid as well. However, Formosan subterranean termites are often the most damaging of all these insects since they dwell beneath the ground's surface for much of their lives. This makes a termites chances of encountering PVC pipes likely. Also, a termite's body is made up of a relatively high amount of formic acid, which is around three percent of their body weight. The billions of dollars in property damage caused by termites each year is not just inflicted on wood.
Of course, termites cannot digest plastic, but Formosan subterranean termites will easily penetrate PVC plastic if it means reaching food. Not only have Formosan termites broken underground plastic water pipes, causing shut-downs in water service, but they have also destroyed electrical wires within PVC pipes, resulting in power outages. Termites have even been known for chewing billiard balls, ivory and even lead.
Have you ever heard the sound of feeding termites behind the walls of your home before or after you realized you had a termite infestation?