Classified as either subterranean, dry wood, or damp wood, termites are identified by the different types of environments they inhabit. Due to diverse nesting habits of termites, the damage caused by the wood-eating insects tends to vary according to the particular type of species. Subterranean termites primarily live in the soil but often emerge to forage above ground. The subterranean termite species attack wood structures located at or near ground level. Consequently, wood damage typically remains confined to the lower level of the home.
Though sometimes difficult to locate, termite wood damage generally indicates the presence of a nearby infestation. Ranging in size from a few thousand to millions, termite colonies are capable of simultaneously infesting multiple homes or buildings located within close proximity of each other. Researchers estimate that an especially large termite infestation can consume more than a pound of wood each day. In fact, termites cause billions of dollars in damage across the United States every year. Upon discovering termite damage, homeowners should contact a HomeTeam professional to determine the location and size of the infestation in order to implement an effective solution.
The main source of nutrients in the diet of termites is cellulose. A complex sugar molecule and the main component of plant cell walls, cellulose gives wood structural strength. Termites use mandibles to tear off tiny chunks of wood to ingest and store in the gut. Incapable of breaking down cellulose without aid, termites benefit from a symbiotic relationship with various species of protozoa and microorganisms which live in the stomachs of the termites. Once the cellulose is broken down and digested, the resulting biomass (a substance known as humus) helps replenish the fertility of the soil. Wood already in the process of decay due to the presence of fungi produces an odor that is attractive to termites.
Though termites most commonly consume wood, any kind of plant matter supplies the pests with appropriate nourishment. The diet of a termite includes roots, mulch, paper, cardboard, cotton, burlap, and the occasional fruit or nut. Additionally, termites require large amounts of moisture, and soil is the main water source. Consequently, subterranean termites often invade homes and other buildings from the base of the structure where soil is plentiful. As the pests tunnel and explore a building, defective plumbing, leaky roofs, leaky air conditioning systems, and poorly maintained gutters provide the necessary moisture for the continued survival of termites.