The short answer: termites will eat anything that has cellulose including wood, linen, paper and cardboard.
But just like us, termites prefer to eat certain foods more than others.
In this post, we’ll go over the most common items termites feed on.
Let’s dive in.
Termites will eat cedar, but it is toxic to them.
In this study, 75% of termites that consume cedar died within two weeks.
In general, termites will generally stay away from cedar. But, they will eat it, especially the ones that are experiencing decay.
Termites will eat Redwood, but they’ll generally avoid them.
That’s because Redwood is deadly to termites.
In this study, Redwood was shown to produce a 100% mortality rate on termites after three weeks.
It also showed that of six species of wood, Redwood and cedar were the least preferred woods of Formosan subterranean.
The termites consumed it significantly less than pine, spruce, hemlock, and Douglas fir.
3. Pressure Treated Lumber
Termites will not eat pressure treated wood unless it’s cracked, damaged, or rotting.
Pressure-treated wood is resistant to decay and termites.
It’s gone through a process that uses high pressure to force preservative chemicals deep into the pores of the wood.
These chemical solutions slow down natural decay and protect the wood against fungus, moisture, and termites.
That said, pressure-treated wood is “termite-resistant,” not “termite-proof.”
The chemicals will slowly dissipate over several years, making the wood vulnerable over time.
If there is any crack on the wood, the termites can bypass the external barrier and enter it. While this is rare, it can happen.
Still, some protection is better than none.
And, despite its flaws, using pressure-treated wood is undoubtedly a great strategy to keep termites away.
For the most natural and tested chemical against termites, wood treated with borates has been proven to be extremely useful.
Termites will eat plywood unless its pressure is treated.
Plywood is made from thin sheets of wood bound together, which contains cellulose.
Termites will eat plywood for this cellulose.
That said, termites wouldn’t eat the plywood if it is pressure-treated.
5. Drywall or Sheetrock
Termites do not eat drywall, but they will chew through them to eat the covering of the drywall.
Drywall, also known as sheetrock, is made of plaster panels with heavy sheets of paper.
The paper contains cellulose, which is the primary source of nutrients for termites.
Termites especially love drywalls when they are damp.
The water makes it much easier for termites to penetrate them and get to the paper.
Termites will also chew on drywall to get to the wood walls behind it.
Particleboards consist of small bits of wood, which termites love.
It also absorbs a high amount of moisture, making it even more ideal for termites.
7. Oriented Strand Board (OSB)
Termites will eat OSB for its cellulose.
It’s also highly susceptible to moisture damage, making it an attractive food source to termites.
To prevent termites from eating OSB, I recommend purchasing ones with termiticides.
8. Live Trees
Subterranean termites eat live trees.
But in most situations, termites don’t attack a tree unless they are dying.
If you find termites on a live tree, it’s often because the pith of the tree is dying.
It’s a good idea to contact professionals to determine what is causing your tree to die.
Once the termites have penetrated a tree, they’ll eat it from the inside out. Eventually, the termite damage will be too severe for the tree to survive.
Termites will eat Cypress wood. But they consume less of it than average wood.
In this study, they show that termites will eat 90% less when fed cypress wood.
That’s because cypress wood is deadly to termites. It has a 33.5% mortality rate after four weeks.
That said, termites will eat more of cypress wood if it’s rotting or decaying.
10. Dry Wood
Both subterranean and drywood termites eat dry wood.
But, subterranean termites prefer softwood over drywood.
11. Poplar Wood
Termites will eat Poplar wood.
In this study, they showed that poplar wood is one of the most preferred wood by termites, second only to maple.
Poplar wood is a mixture of different types of wood.
And specific blends of poplar wood are more palatable to termites.
Some popular wood contains wood that is naturally-resistant to termites like trees like cypress, redwood, and cedar.
Naturally, termites will avoid eating these types of blends more than others.
Termites will eat anything that has cellulose, including books.
That said, you’ll generally find termites eating books unless the books are near an infestation.
If you see termites eating your books, contact professional pest control immediately.
13. Paper and Cardboard
Termites will eat nearly anything with cellulose, including paper and cardboard.
The cellulose in cardboards is the main reason why you see it often used as bait for termites.
Termites particularly love damp cardboards. They are easy to penetrate and eat.
Termites also love paper. You’ll find them eating newspapers, books, and wallpapers.
14. Plant Roots
Termites are not known to eat plant roots unless they are dying.
Any rotting or decaying cellulose, termites will gladly eat.
If your tree is dying, the roots are a natural source of nutrition for subterranean termites.
Termites will eat fabrics that contain cellulose, like cotton and linen.
That said, they’ll generally touch fabrics unless there is no other source of food.
If you see termites eating your clothes, it’s a sign that you’re dealing with a large infestation.
Agricultural termites eat grass.
These termites are unique because they primarily feed on grass and weeds rather than other cellulose sources, such as dead wood.
They commonly build mud tubes over grass and other vegetation while they eat it.
Agricultural termites include desert subterranean termites, conehead termites, and mound-building termites, among other smaller species of termites typically found in Africa and Asia.
Termites will eat anything with cellulose, including mulch.
Not only that, but termites are particularly attracted to mulch because of its ability to trap moisture and insulate against harsh temperatures.
To keep termites away, minimize the use of wood mulch in your home.
Also, keep mulch away from your wood siding, door, window framing, and foundation.
Another preventative method you can do is to use mulch that naturally repels termites such as redwood, melaleuca, cypress, and cedar mulch.
Termites prefer to eat dead or decaying cellulose.
They do not eat live plants.
If you find termites infesting your plants, they are more likely to eat the dead cellulose from your plant than the live plant.
In some cases, the termites might recognize your plant has died even before you have.
Subterranean termites don’t naturally eat leaves.
They typically use the laves for the moisture and shelter they provide.
Agricultural termites, on the other hand, will consume any leaves on the ground.
Since their primary source of cellulose comes from grass, wood, and leaves
Traditional loose-fill insulation does contain cellulose and is often consumed by termites.
On the other hand, spray foam insulation does not have any cellulose.
Termites will not eat spray foam insulation, but they will tunnel through it to reach other food sources.
Insulation often provides warmth and shelter and retains moisture, making them extremely attractive to termites.
21. Painted Wood
Termites won’t eat through paint.
But they may get into a painted wood if the paint is worn-off or not very well done.
If there are pieces of the wood that are bare, termites can crawl through it and start eating the wood.
To keep termites away, apply a fresh layer of paint to your home.
For added protection, add an oil-based primer on top of the paint.
Priming makes the paint more durable and resilient to termite infestation.
Termites will not eat bamboo, but they will chew through raw bamboo culms to access the cellulose inside.
Raw bamboo contains cellulose fibers, which are the main source of nutrients for termites.
Once these cellulose fibers are extracted, the bamboo will have no nutritional value for termites.
In such a case, termites will not touch the bamboo.
By removing the starch and sugar inside bamboos, you can make it termite resistant.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Do Termites Eat Concrete?
Termites do not eat or chew concrete.
They get their nutrition from cellulose.
Since concrete doesn’t have this compound, it has zero nutritional value for termites.
Termites, however, will crawl through existing cracks on concrete in search of cellulose.
These pests are tiny and can penetrate through the smallest holes and crevices.
If the concrete around your home has cracks or damage, they are vulnerable to termite invasion.
Do Termites Eat Stucco?
Termites do not eat stucco.
Like concrete, termites get no nutritional value from stucco.
That said, termites remain to be a problem in stucco homes.
That’s because termites will crawl through the tiniest crevices on stucco to get to the wood.
Termites are especially problematic on “synthetic” stucco finishes or EIFS.
The EIFS are multi-layered exterior wall systems often comprised of five layers:
- Exterior finish
- Reinforcing mesh
- Insulation Foam
- An adhesive substance to bind the insulator
- A substrate
Termites are attracted to the EIFS system insulation foam.
While termites will not eat the foam insulation, they will mine through it for protection, insulation, and easy access to wood.
Foam insulation provides termites an easier way to travel.
They will chew through it to create highways that make it easy to find and consume wood.
The foam also retains moisture and provides insulation for termites to thrive.
Finally, foam insulation protects termites from other predators and terminators alike.
Do Termites Eat Plastic?
Termites do not eat plastic, but they will chew through it to get to food.
They will gladly chew through plastic barriers to get wood and other materials with cellulose.
Do Termites eat PVC Pipes?
Termites will not eat PVC pipes, but they will chew through them.
PVC or polyvinyl chloride is widely used drainage pipes for their affordability and ease of use.
It’s made of plastic and, therefore, not digestible or nutritionally valuable to termites.
But termites will gnaw through PVC to get to the wood and other materials with cellulose.
It’s not uncommon for Formosan termites to break underground PVC water pipes and destroy electrical wires within PVC pipes.
Why Do Termites Eat wood?
Termites eat anything that has cellulose, including wood.
Wood may be hard to digest for most species. But termites have bacteria in their gut that enables them to break down its cellulose fibers.
As such, wood is termites a favorite source of nutrition.
Termites especially love soft, rotting wood.
Decaying wood is not only nutritious but also easy to penetrate and consume.
What do termites eat in the rainforest?
Syntermus Dirus is the common species of termites found in the rainforest.
These termites live underground and feed on dead leaves and fallen trees on the forest floor.
They play a crucial role in the rainforest ecosystem by keeping fallen material under control and shepherding nutrients from dead materials back into the system.
How fast do termites eat wood?
A mature termite colony of 60,000 termites can eat about ten pounds of wood per month.
Ten pounds is equivalent to about three feet of wood.
That means 60,000 termites can leave your home with a three-foot hole within a month.
But, if not treated, those 60,000 termites will continue to spread and multiply.
They can cause significant damage by destroying the structural integrity of a home.
Significant structural damage to home happens after 3-5 years of infestation.
Resource: How Fast Can Termites Destroy Your Home?
What do termites eat in the Savanna?
The Macrotermitine termites, found in the Savanna, rely on dry and rotting wood as well as grass for cellulose.
They are known for their fungus farms.
These farms allow termites to extract more nutrients from wood by cultivating them into fungus.
To do this, they eat and swallow the wood.
Then they return to their nest, where they remove the materials as pseudofeces.
The pseudofeces are then passed on to nest workers to be cultivated into fungus.
The termites then feed this enriched food to the queen and the rest of the colony.
What Types Of Wood Do Termites Prefer?
Termites’ favorite wood are ones that are dead and rotting.
Termites also have a natural preference for certain species of wood.
In one study, they show that termites especially prefer Douglas Fir and Southern Pinewood.
Other types of wood that termites love are Oak, Spruce, and Hemlock.
While avoiding these woods will not necessarily keep termites away, it will prevent termites from destroying your home faster than they should.
How Do Termites Get Water?
Subterranean and Dampwood termites get the moisture and water they need from the soil and the wood they eat.
Drywood termites can retain more moisture that both Subterranean and Dampwood termites.
As such, they can live off the little moisture from drywood.