Important Information About Termite Eating Habits

by Nate on November 29, 2010

Important Information About Termite Eating Habits

No one wants to be the victim of a termite infestation, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be prepared just in case you do end up with some unwanted guests. One of the best ways to arm yourself against a potential invasion by these ravenous insects is to understand what sort of materials can attract them to your property and the effects that local climate conditions can have on their eating habits. This will help you to formulate a plan to not only combat a termite infestation should one occur, but also to take preventative measures to help keep termites from invading your home or property in the first place.

Termite Eating Habits

Most people think that termites just eat wood, but in reality they actually eat the plant cellulose that is found in the wood… this is a significant difference, because many termites will eat other forms of plant material as well. Termites are actually grouped according to their feeding behaviors, and of the six types of termites there are actually only two which are generally responsible for the damage that are caused to houses and other man-made structures. While there are termites which feed off of cellulose in the soil, as well as termites which eat grass, living woods, and occasionally even certain types of fungus, the majority of the termites that people encounter are those that build subterranean colonies and those which eat dry wood.

Of course, just as important to the termites’ diet as cellulose is water. Feeding Termites require water every few hours in order to stay alive, which is why termites can be seen swarming near the surface of the ground at times as the workers collect both food and water to bring back to other termites within the colony. It’s important to note that it’s only the workers of the colony which will gather resources for the rest of the termites within; Breeding Termites and the colony’s soldiers will die if they don’t have a steady supply of food and water gathered by workers, as they won’t go off in search of food for themselves.

Attraction to Certain Woods

It’s important to note that not all woods are created equal in the eyes of termites. Many termites will prefer a few types of wood over others, especially softer woods as they are more easily broken down and digested. Other types of wood, especially certain types of hardwood may go to the other extreme and actually keep termites at bay. While a bit of research can help you to find woods that are more likely (and conversely those that are less likely) to invite termites to your property, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no definite “anti-termite wood” that will keep the insects at bay without fail, even termite-resistant woods can fall victim to a termite infestation when you’re least expecting it.

Effect of Temperature and Climate

Like most insects, low temperatures can cause termites to become more dormant or can even kill them if the temperature becomes low enough. This doesn’t mean that just because it gets cold that you have nothing to worry about from termites, though; if a termite infestation seems to go away when the cold weather hits, they may have just gone deeper underground to stay warm and will return in greater numbers when the weather improves. Warmer weather tends to bring about an increase in termite infestations, so long as there is still sufficient water to keep the colony alive.

More important than temperature to termite colonies is the environment itself… as stated above, they need water frequently or they can’t survive. If the environment becomes too dry then the termite colony will begin to die off from the lack of moisture. Unfortunately, if the environment is very moist it can actually lead to an increase in infestation as there is generally more dead plant material in very moist environments as well as more than enough moisture to keep the colony thriving.

Using this Information to Fight Termites

While there are a number of commercial insecticides and baits available to help fight termites as well as treated lumber and mulch to try and prevent infestations from happening in the first place, having knowledge of termite feeding habits can help you to better prepare to fight an infestation should one occur on your property. Try to keep an eye on any areas with a lot of dead plant material, and make sure that you aren’t giving easy access to wood in your home. Control drainage, and don’t let wooded areas become too moist. Remember that termites can only thrive when they have access to both food and water, and do your best to cut off one resource or the other.

Craig Smith is a freelance writer who writes about topics pertaining to house maintenance such as Pest Control | Termite Control

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