We all know that termites eat wood, but what is it about wood that they like so much? The answer is cellulose. Cellulose is found in wood, plants, carpets, insulation, cardboard, sheetrock paper, and fabric among others, and all of these items are at the mercy of termites. This dietary preference is beneficial in nature, because it allows termites to break down dead wood and plants. However, cellulose is quite hard to digest, and even termites need a little help to do it.
Termites have certain bacteria and protozoa in their stomachs which form a sort of symbiotic relationship with each other. These organisms produce a specialized enzyme that helps break down cellulose into sugar which provides nutrition for the termites. On top of that, some termite species will seek out wood that is already partially broken down by fungi to help with digestion.
Younger termites that have not reached full maturity yet do not have these organisms in their stomachs, along with soldiers and reproductives, so the workers have to digest their food for them and pass it on via a mouth-to-mouth process of feeding.
Different types of termites will go for different types of wood. Drywood termites for example will go for wood that is dry. This is unusual for most termite species which need a lot of moisture in order to survive, and this dietary preference allows drywood termites to infest wood that is usually unaffected. Drywood termites have been known to infest attics, fences, doors, furniture, and even wood shingles on the roof.
Dampwood and subterranean termites on the other hand will need wood that is high in moisture, with dampwood termites needing wood that is decaying and very moist. Subterranean termites on the other hand simply need the wood to be in contact with some source of moisture such as the ground or a highly humid environment.
So no wood is really safe unless it is treated or protected through other control methods such as chemical barriers or termite baiting systems. If you would like to know more about what you can do to keep your home safe from these pests, or if you think you already have an infestation and you would like a pro to inspect your home, contact us today. We can set up an appointment and figure out within an hour or two whether your home is infested and propose a series of measures to keep it protected.