How Do Termites Eat Wood?

Termites are some of the most feared of all household pests because of the damage that they can do to homes. The Sunshine Coast is particularly susceptible to termites because of its warm, humid climate. Damage to homes occurs because termites live in and eat wood, but why do termites eat wood, and how do they get the nutrients they need to survive?

It is true that termites eat wood, but what they are really after is cellulose. Cellulose is considered the building block of plants and is the most common organic compound found in nature. Cellulose can be found in things like wood, grass, paper, cardboard, cotton, books, magazines, and more. By devouring wood, termites have access to a source of cellulose that most other creatures do not.

Although they can eat the wood, termites must have help to get at and digest the cellulose. Microorganisms and protozoa within the digestive system help break down the cellulose into simple sugars that provide nourishment for the termites. This symbiotic relationship is crucial for their survival. 

Termite Wood Preferences

Interestingly, not all termites prefer the same kind of wood. Different species seek out different varieties. 


Subterranean termites eat soft wood, and will usually leave the harder wood behind. This preference for the softer parts will create a distinct “honeycomb” pattern. The damage will follow the grain of the wood, and you may find dirt and fecal material within the galleries. One of the most obvious signs of a Subterranean termite infestation is the presence of mud tubes. Subterranean termites live underground and depend on the soil for moisture, so when they go in search of a food source, they will maintain a connection to the soil by creating a mud tube. 


As the name suggests, drywood termites eat wood that is dry, like what is found in manmade structures. It could be a home’s framing, floors, structural timbers, or even furniture that are attacked by this type of termite. Damage from drywood termites has a smooth appearance. They do not need to maintain contact with the soil, so you will not see mud tubes. 


Dampwood termites seek out wood that is moist, decayed, and rotting. They love to eat and live in old tree stumps, rotting logs, and wood piles. Dampwood termites do not often infest buildings, but they will if they find signs of moisture damage.

Sunshine Coast Termite Control

Termites damage and eat away at homes all across the Sunshine Coast. It is estimated that 1 in 3 homes will be affected by them, so prevention is key. A yearly termite inspection can give you peace of mind and help keep your home safe from termites. At Radar Pest Control, we inspect, monitor, and bait for termites. We have the experience and expertise that you are looking for so that your home and family doesn’t suffer. Contact Radar Pest Control today to learn more.

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