What Do Termites Eat? Types of Termite Diet


Ever wondered what do termites eat? It’s a common question, primarily if you’ve heard rumors of them devouring wood like it’s nobody’s business. While wood is undoubtedly a major part of termite diet, there is much more variety regarding termite feeding habits. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of food that termites consume and how they choose which item satisfies their cravings the best.

What Do Termites Eat?

Termites may be tiny insects, but they have a big impact on the environment. The main source of food for termites is cellulose, which is found in wood, paper, and other similar materials. Their strong jaws help them to break down the material into small pieces so that it can be digested by the bacteria in their gut.

Cellulose is a complex carbohydrate that is found in plant cell walls. Plant cell walls are composed of cellulose, which accounts for 40–50% of the dry weight of the walls. It’s what gives plants their structure and strength.

Termites aid in decomposing dead wood and other organic debris, which serves as food for other living organisms. While most people view termites as a pest, instead they actually provide several important ecological functions.

Also Read: What are Termites? Types, Characteristics and Importance

Why Do Termites Eat Wood?

Wood is attractive to termites because it has cellulose, which is an important part of their diet. Wood is typically composed of about 70% cellulosic carbohydrates, with roughly 45% cellulose.

Termites eat the wood from the inside out, so they can tunnel through the wood without being detected. This lets them stay safe from predators and get to food sources they wouldn’t be able to get to otherwise.

How Much Do Termites Eat?

There is no one answer to this question when it comes to termites. The amount of food a termite consumes depends on the species of termite, the stage of its life cycle, and the availability of food.

Termites, like Pac-Man, which are constantly eating almost whatever they come across. Termites feed on a variety of materials, including wood, paper, insulation, and other cellulose-based items.

Termite Diet

Subterranean termites are voracious eaters. It takes an eastern subterranean termite colony around 5 years to mature and reach its full size. There are between 50,000 and 1 million workers in a fully-grown colony of Eastern subterranean termites.

Subterranean Termites – A small colony of subterranean termites has the ability to eat 1/5 ounce, or 5 grams, of wood each day. It takes them around 6 to 7 years to form a colony, and they can number in the thousands. Each day, subterranean termites consume approximately 2–3 percent of their body weight in the form of wood.

Dampwood Termites – A single colony of dampwood termites can potentially eat up to 5 kilograms of wood per month. Dampwood termites typically feed on wood that is already in the process of decay, so they can consume large amounts of wood in a short period of time.

The size of a mature colony of dampwood termites can reach as many as 4,000 termites. This process begins when a group of winged swarmers leaves their parent colony in search of a new place to build their own colony and reproduce. Once they find an appropriate location, the swarmers shed their wings and pair off to mate.

Drywood Termites – They typically take 2- 4 years to form a colony. This time frame is dependent on the climate and availability of food sources. It also depends on the size of the initial colony, with larger colonies taking less time to form.

A mature colony of dry wood termites can eat more than 5 grams of wood in a month. This number can change, though, according to the size of the colony and how much food is available. If wood is abundant, the termites may eat more.

How Do Termites Eat Wood?

Termite’s digestive system contains protozoa that break down the cellulose in wood. They also have enzymes in their saliva that break down lignin, which is an essential part of the wood. Together, these two things help the termite break down the wood.

The termite gut is home to a range of different bacteria, including Cellulomonas species and spirochetes. These bacteria produce enzymes that break down cellulose into glucose, which termites can use for energy.

The breakdown of cellulose also produces other compounds that termites use as signals to regulate their gut activity. A symbiotic relationship exists between termites and the bacteria in their guts that allow them to digest wood.

Termites eat wood from the inside out, first with the softest parts. They make galleries or tunnels that are as long as 100 feet through the wood. These termites then eat their way through the wood, slowly damaging it over time.

What Do Termites Eat Besides Wood?

Termites are not limited to wood as a food source. Their diet generally consists of paper, cardboard, dead leaves, grasses, cotton, paper, plants, and sheetrock. However, their primary food source is still wood, which they use to build their nests and colonies.

what do termites eat

What Type Of Wood Do Termites Eat?

Well, there’s quite a variety! Termites are known to feast on softwoods and hardwoods. But they’re especially fond of dead wood, as it’s an easy food source.

Termites are most attracted to soft and damp wood, such as cedar, pine, and other softwoods. However, they can also feed on hardwoods such as oak and maple. Termites will even tunnel through concrete and other building materials to reach their meal. The bottom line is if it’s made of wood, chances are good that termites will try it!

They will also feed on non-pressure-treated plywood, particle board, and other materials that contain cellulose. Non-pressure-treated wood is particularly attractive to termites because it is not infused with chemicals that make it easier to decay.

Particle board is one of the major termite food sources as it is made from sawdust and other recycled materials. It is not as dense as natural wood and it can be easier for termites to break down and consume. It is often used in cheaper furniture or home goods.

Type of Wood Subterranean Termites Eat

Subterranean termites are among the most dangerous pests on the planet. They’re well-known for their ability to eat through wood quickly, causing extensive damage to homes and other structures.

So, what type of diet do they prefer? While all types of wood are at risk from subterranean termite damage. Structures made from softer woods like cedar, oak, and pine are more likely to be targeted. Subterranean termites leave a honeycomb-like pattern of tunnels in the wood.

Type of Wood Dampwood Termites Eat 

Dampwood termites only eat a specific type of wood: damp, softwoods with high moisture content. They are known to eat through wood at an alarming rate. Dampwood termites are often found in fallen trees, stumps, or other wood in contact with moisture.

They can also eat wood treated with chemicals to keep it from rotting under pressure. This usually happens when the pressure-treated wood comes in contact with moisture. This makes sense when these termites spend most of their lives underground, where damp conditions can quickly break down harder woods.

Type of Wood Drywood Termites Eat

Drywood termites are a type of insect that are mainly wood-eating. They consume dry wood as their primary food source. A drywood termite colony can have a maximum of 4,800 termites.

They are commonly found in warm, arid climates. and can be a severe problem for homeowners. These termites do not require ground contact or moisture to stay alive and can travel far distances in search of food.

Drywood termites typically eat softwoods like pine but can also infest hardwoods like oak. This is because drywood termites have the ability to digest cellulose, which is found in both softwoods and hardwoods.

What Do Flying Termites Eat?

Adult reproductive termites, known as flying termites or alates, leave their colony in need of a mate. This is because they have to reproduce in order to keep their population growing.

Flying termites primarily eat wood but will also consume other materials like paper, cloth, dried plant matter cardboard, and other cellulose-based materials.

Most people find difficulty in differentiating between flying termites and flying ants. Although having similar appearances, these two insects differ significantly from one another. The waist of a flying ant is narrow, while the waist of a flying termite is much wider.

Also, if you look at a flying ant’s wings, you’ll see that they are not all the same length. On the other hand, a flying termite’s wings are all the same length. Lastly, the antennae of most flying ants are bent, while the antennae of most flying termites are straight.

Also Read: Facts about Ants for Kids

How Fast DoTermites Eat Wood?

The speed at which termites eat wood depends on several factors, such as the type of wood, the termite species, the colony’s age and size, and the environment’s temperature and humidity.

A colony of termites can quickly consume a large amount of wood, even though each termite’s consumption rate is relatively low. In ideal conditions, a colony of termites can consume up to two grams of wood per day. For example-

  1. In six months, an eastern subterranean termite colony with 60,000 workers could consume more than one foot of a pine 2X4 board due to their ability to consume 1/5 of an ounce of wood per day.
  2. Formosan Termites can eat up to 13 ounces of wood in a single day, meaning that a single colony can destroy an entire structure in very little time.


Termites are fascinating creatures that feed on a wide variety of materials. They often rely on wood as their primary source of nutrition. But they can also feed on other cellulose-based materials such as paper, dead plants, and fabrics.

Termites are sometimes considered as pests, but their ability to quickly eat rotting wood has made them an essential part of the ecosystem. Now that you know what they eat, you can look at this vital insect with curiosity instead of fear or anger.




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