Why Do Termites Eat Our Houses?

February 2, 2013

Why Do Termites Eat Our Houses?

Well, that’s a great question.  Here is my best answer.

Termites eat dead wood that is their job.  If you look around your neighborhood you will see somewhere a tree or tree limbs lying on the ground.  These trees begin to decay the moment they die.  Trees will die in place and be standing for years before they become structurally weak enough to be blown over.  Termites hasten the decaying process of wood.  They only eat the cellulose portion of the wood so they do not make the entire dead tree disappear.  Cellulose is roughly half of the makeup of wood so termite activity in the decaying process is quite important.

Unfortunately, termites do not qualify their food as to in a house or just dead wood lying on the ground.  They eat what they find.  Termites are constantly looking for food sources, they do not sleep.  In 2011 I was part of a team that went to the Central African Republic on a missionary construction trip.  Termites in Africa are most ferocious.  Any piece of wood left lying on the ground would be infested with termites in 24 hours.  It was totally amazing and kind of scary too.  Termites in Ohio (subterranean) are not that aggressive, but as stated earlier they are constantly looking for food and will begin eating what they find; if they find the wood in our houses bon appétit. 

Now, I think a perfect question at this time would be, “What signs are there of TERMITES in my house”?  Regrettably, termites do not leave droppings like mice or cobwebs like spiders they are a little bit harder to find but if you know what to look for you can spot the evidence of their presence.  An unfinished basement is a plus if one is looking for termites.  On top of the basement foundation walls is a piece of wood (the sill plate) this is an area that termites seem to find regularly and begin munching on.  Most houses with basements have cinder block walls and these blocks are not solid.  The blocks normally have two holes in them and this block often times will have small cracks that develop.  A termite only needs one sixteenth of an inch to pass through a foundation to find wood in a house.   Termites travel inside of “mud tubes” they construct for safety from predators (ants) and to control their environment.  You need to look for these “mud tubes”.  If you find one break it open.  Inside you will see the workers traveling back and forth. These workers are white and soon some soldiers will show up (they have orange heads and large powerful jaws) to protect the broken tube while the workers repair the damage.  The absence of live termites does not mean you are safe, it only means that tube is not currently being used.  Upon finding a “mud tube” it’s time to call a professional pest control company to do an inspection for termites.  Most will not charge for this unless the inspection is part of a real estate transaction.

We will have a more in depth BLOG about termites in a few weeks.     

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