Why do termites eat wood and how to prevent them

Termites are one of the most destructive termite species in North America. These termites are known for eating wood and can cause a lot of damage to property. Therefore, it is important to understand why termites eat wood so that you can prevent them from damaging your property. In this article, we will discuss how termites eat wood and what you can do about it!


What are Termites :

Termites are a common insect that causes a lot of damage if they enter the house.  They are social insects that are part of the cockroach family. Yes, they are part of the cockroach family. If they have a bad reputation like their cousins, it is because of their affection for the wood they consume (without moderation): they are xylophages who use their mouth apparatus of the chipper type to detach fragments of timber and digest them in their digestive tract. 

Why do termites feed on wood? 

Termite food consists primarily of cellulose, an organic fiber found in abundance in wood and some other plants such as grass. When termites digest cellulose, it provides many of the nutrients they need to survive. 

How do termites eat wood?

Since wood is difficult to consume and digest, termites can eat wood. They can be classified based on their diet. 
  • Higher termites can digest cellulose on their own through enzymes (cellulase) produced by their digestive tract. 
  • Lower termites can assimilate cellulose through nitrogen fixation through a symbiotic relationship with the organisms they harbor in their intestines.
  • The fungus termites that use a fungus to predigest plant remains to assimilate them by their digestive tract.
  • humivorous termites swallow large quantities of soil to digest the proteins contained in the humus. 
Termites feed not only on wood but also on many insects that live on it, making wood an important source. 

Therefore, they live on trees, wood, soil, and wooden structures, and thus homes are vulnerable to damage caused by termite feeding. 

How does termite diet affect homes?

 In several cases, termites invade homes unnoticed for long periods. Once they establish colonies within the home structure, they can remain permanently unnoticed by the homeowner, except for some termite species that require moisture or soil to survive. 

Because termites need wood and depend on it for their diet, termite systems can destroy buildings, often resulting in costly repairs. 

What are the most common types of termites that harm homes? Two types of termites can affect wooden furniture:

Subterranean termites: live in the soil and prefer moist conditions; they build colonies under the house, which means that they easily destroy the foundation of a wooden house.  

Drywood termites: they only attack wood.

Check for the presence of termites.

Start by looking to see if there are holes at regular intervals in the frame, beams, floor, etc. If the search was not successful, take untreated wooden stakes against termites and place them in the cellar, floors, baseboards, and cupboards. Indeed, these xylophagous insects do not hide in the wood of the frame but inside the basement. If one or more stakes become damaged after a few days, it means that there are termites hidden in the room (s) in question.

You can also :
  •  Look for holes in the wood by pressing it with a cross key. If the wood falls easily, this is a sure indication of termites in the furniture.
  • Look for termite droppings with sawdust or wings around the areas where they appear.
  • Look for mud tube formations on the walls of the house, which are a sign of underground termites. 

How to treat wood to prevent termites

Prevention is always better than cure, so here's what you can do to prevent termite infestations: 
  • Ensure that your furniture is not exposed to the moisture of any kind. 
  • Apply aloe vera gel to wooden furniture now and then because it acts as a protective cover against termites. 
  • Polish the wood and hire a professional to apply it to all your wood furniture. 
  • Remove unwanted wooden items from your home as they can be infestations. 
  • Apply chemotherapy now and then by professionals if you live in coastal cities. 

By following these tips carefully, you will no longer need to worry about termites in wooden furniture.

The right gestures

Tip # 1: Call a professional every ten years for preventative treatment.

Tip # 2: avoid any risk of humidity (effective ventilation, maintenance of gutters, treatment of infiltrations, etc.).

Tip # 3: keep food resources away from termites by burning dead wood and old stumps, storing firewood far from your house and away from the ground, by planting trees with a minimum distance of 15m from home. 

Eliminate Termites 

Method # 1: Create a chemical barrier in and around the termite nest. Drill the walls every 30 cm, inject chemical product inside each hole and then fill them up. 

Method # 2: Set up traps with baits (pieces of wood) covered with insecticides. Place the pieces in different places where you think the termites are circulating. It suffices that a few termites are affected so that the entire colony is contaminated. In a few weeks, all termites will be eliminated. 

Method # 3: create a Physico-chemical barrier by insulating the soil with a film impregnated with a biocidal product. 

Method # 4: apply a curative product. Remove the damaged parts of the wood: brush and dust. Then, with a brush, apply two coats (24 hours between the two) of curative product. 

Tip: go for a healing product that is white and then becomes invisible when drying. You will be sure to have deposited the product along the entire length. When termites have infested your home, you have to report it to the town hall. 

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