Termites are small but capable of doing a large amount of damage to wood structures – $5 billion worth annually in the United States. Termites are difficult to spot and can go unnoticed for years. Like all animals, termites have basic needs. Understanding what attracts them is a good way to eliminate and prevent them.
Wood and Cellulose
The most obvious thing that attracts termites is wood and plant-based materials. Termites rely on wood, wood products, and anything that is made out of cellulose for food. Leaves, paper, cardboard, fencing, lumber, firewood, trellises, and other structures are susceptible to damage from termites. Unless one uses pressure-treated lumber, cedar, redwood, or other materials that are resistant to termites, it’s important to promptly remove construction debris and keep wood at least 6 inches off of the ground to keep termites out.
Subterranean termites are the type of termite most commonly found throughout the United States. They have soft bodies that can dry out under dry conditions and moist wood makes it easier to digest the cellulose. In addition, they use water to build mud tubes that keep them protected in open areas. As such, they seek out damp soil where they can live away from their feeding sites. Keeping moisture away from the outside of buildings is necessary. This can be done by fixing leaks, grading soil away from the foundation and removing any plants that are close to the foundation.
Darkness (and Light)
Termites can be detected by the dark mud tubes and tunnels they create. They create these to connect their underground nests to food sources or secondary colonies. The mud tubes may lead to the inside of a building or up high in a tree. Mud tubes protect the termites from predators. Swarmers, winged termites, are attracted to light in the spring when they emerge to mate and find a new place to colonize. Many people find out they have termites by the presence of swarmers or their fallen wings.
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During the cold, winter months, termites are usually inactive and typically live in the soil below the freezing line. When they have access to areas that have been heated, they can eat year round. To keep termites from entering homes or businesses, it helps to avoid using mulch around foundations. Termites are attracted to mulch and kind find cracks and holes as small as 3/10ths of an inch to entire buildings.
Termites aren’t easy to spot and can cause damage for years before being noticed. Learning about the things that attract termites and taking preventative measures can stop them in their tracks before they do extensive damage.