Having an infestation of termites is an unpleasant and sometimes costly experience. So naturally, we want to try and prevent termite infestations wherever possible.
One way we can do that is by better assessing which building materials to use. One of those materials prone to termites is wood. So selecting the right wood seems pretty important, particularly if you’re in an area known for termite infestations.
But what type of wood should that be? Let’s get an approximate answer straight away for you, but then we’ll explore in a bit more detail below, as not all wood is equal!
What Type of Wood Do Termites Eat? Termites will eat most types of wood, termites respond to chemical reactions of plant-based material, therefore, the presence of most wood attracts their attention. Once suitable wood is identified as a food source they’ll set about dismantling it. But they do prefer some types of wood over others.
So which types of wood do termites prefer over others, really we’re looking for the wood that is the least attractive to termites. For that, we just need to understand a bit more about how they select the wood and what they do to it.
Why Termites Eat Wood
Termites eat a number of materials in their search for cellulose, which is the nutrient they convert to energy to stay alive. Wood, and in particular decaying wood provides a good source of cellulose, so it tends to be a good target for termites
Can Termites Smell Wood?
Termites have an inbuilt response to chemical odors. Anything that is plant-based or decaying that provides a positive chemical response will attract their attention. They are almost constantly on the lookout for additional food sources and so
How Termites Eat Wood
Termites have surprisingly strong mandibles (eating/chewing mouthparts). When it comes to wood, or in fact most surfaces, they use their mandibles as a combination of pliers, scissors and hydraulic jaws, scraping them across the wood in multiple directions.
This has the effect of softening the small area they’re working on and splintering the wood into small digestible fragments. Once soft and pliable enough, the wood fragments will break off. The termite will then swallow the resulting fragments (or splinters). These splinters will then make their way to the gut for digesting.
To provide a better understanding of this here’s a YouTube Video below which shows a Termite eating wood
Types of Wood Termites Prefer and Don’t Prefer
Termites are known to eat many things. Wood is a particular specialty of Termites. But some wood appeals to them more than others. Let’s take a look at some of the more common types of wood and how attractive they are to termites and which aren’t.
But just to be clear, termites will PRIMARILY be looking for non-live wood as they’re attracted to cellulose from decaying vegetation, except for some types of termites who are known to attack live trees.
Preferred Wood Types Targeted by Termites
- Most Untreated Softwood poses an attractive meal for Termites. Springwood in particular
- Many Untreated Hardwoods for the same reasons as softwood, but softwood is preferred.
- Gumtree, this type of tree is the natural habitat of Termites, so it’s high on the list.
- Dry, smooth wood such as banisters, hardwood floors, baseboards/wainscoting, and furniture
- Particle Board, particularly damp and swollen boards which are more attractive to certain Termites.
- Paper-based materials such as sheetrock/plasterboard lining paper
Secondary Wood Types Targeted by Termites
- Wood from Cedar Trees is not their first choice but will succumb if it’s aged enough and/or in the absence of alternative food sources
- Cypress Tree wood contains a natural resistance to Termites, mainly the heartwood and bark
- Redwood tree timber also possess a natural deterrent to Termites, mainly heartwood and bark
- Loation Teak is another termite resistant wood
- Plywood is susceptible to Termite infestation unless it has been pressure treated – see below.
Wood Not Targeted by Termites
- Bamboo is not a normal meal for Termites, it’s believed the brittle outer shell acts as a deterrent, they will seek easier meals than this
- OSB is fragmented and heavily cement bonded wood strands, for this reason, Termites would not target this type of wood.
- Pressure Treated Lumber is injected with preservatives, antifungal, and anti-pesticide chemicals. Therefore Termites will not touch it
How Fast Termites Eat Wood
As a guide, it takes a colony of termites about 6 months to eat their way through about a foot of timber of around 2×4 inches. But there are margins either way for this, depending on variables such as the softness of the wood and the size of the colony. They can eat their way through an entire average sized house in around 10 to 15 years.
What Do Termites Do to Wood
The idea of termites eating through wood usually conjures up an image similar to that of a branch gnawed by a dog. But in fact much of the damage is not visible to the eye.
Typically termites will tunnel out holes in the wood. With enough holes, this will weaken the structural integrity of the wood leading to weak spots along the length. In terms of property, the real damage is caused when these weak points give way, weakening the entire structure of the building.
It often takes a trained eye and needs some specialist equipment to properly detect Termite presence. Occasionally the effects of termites can sometimes be visible; for example, wood may appear to be gouged along the length of the grain and may appear to have soil or mud inlaid along it.
Do Termites Eat Old Wood?
Termites do not necessarily differentiate between old or new wood. It’s more about the cellulose properties of any wood they find. Old wood has pretty much the same properties as new wood but is easier to break down, therefore termites will thrive on old wood.
Which Wood Is Termite Proof?
The best type of wood to deter termites altogether is pressure treated wood. This type of wood is saturated with a chemical barrier against future impacts like rotting and fungal infestation. Any termites will not even consider this type of wood if they come across it. Beyond that, as mentioned earlier, bamboo and some woods like cedar and redwood are a little more resistant to termites but are no guarantee against infestation.
Do Termites Only Eat Wood?
Sadly not, to understand this better we need to look at what drives termites to eat anything at all. Ultimately, they’re on the search for cellulose. Wood and other plant-based material contain this nutrient which the termites then digest.
Digestion involves bacteria and protozoa which are present in the termite gut, together the termites and the bacteria form a mutually beneficial relationship known as symbiosis. The bacteria produce an enzyme which helps to break down the wood. This results in sugar being introduced into the Termites system which feeds them.
How to Prevent Termites Eating Wood
Ensure that any decaying wood or vegetation is not present in the area which could attract termites. Here are some other quick takeaway points to help prevent termite infestation, but we go into more detail on this in a later article.
- Remove wood in contact with the ground, this won’t stop them completely, but it reduces the likelihood of infestation.
- Don’t keep firewood stacked up in areas of your home
- Keep moisture in the property to a minimum and treat any damp areas as soon as possible.
- Do not stack wood against the foundations of your home or against any exterior walls
- Remove old untreated wood that appears to be rotting
- Minimize the use of Mulch around your home, this attracts Termites
- Seek professional guidance on the best ways to prevent termites from entering your property
Ultimately, almost any wood that you’re likely to use in the building of your house or everyday life could be subjected to Termite infestation. This is unless your home is modeled on the more modern treated wood which almost eradicates the possibility of termite infestation.
Likewise, there are many barriers and effective deterrents that can be deployed to prevent infestation. But if termites are an issue in the area then even these may not prevent an infestation.
At termitespecialist.sg this is what we specialize in every day. Our years of experience means we can quickly assess any prone areas in your home, or make accurate judgments on what treatments will be effective for your circumstances.
If you’re looking for some termite specialist help, then why not contact us. Initial discussions are free and we can advise you from there.
Can Termites Eat Through Aluminium?
Despite some popular myths, Termite mandibles (mouthparts) are simply not strong enough to have any affect on aluminum, or indeed any other types of metal. Metal is an effective barrier for termites, but if they can find a way around to get to wood then they will.
Can Termites Eat Through Plastic Bags?
Termites do not target plastic. Plastic contains no nutrients for them in the form of cellulose. Therefore all plastics in the home or outside are safe. However, if the plastic is a barrier to potential food such as wood, or trees, then termites may eat their way through it to get to the food source.