What Do Termites Eat? 10 Surprising Things That Termites Eat

Hey there! Some links on this page are affiliate links which means that, if you choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I greatly appreciate your support!

Like most other creatures in nature, the need and want for sustenance and nutrition is what drives termites. In fact, termites adopt a very systematic approach to finding food and preserving termite colonies. That said, what do termites eat? I will give you a list of over 10 surprising things that termites eat in this article!

Why do termites primarily eat wood?

what do termites eat

Now, we all know that termites love eating and chewing through wood. In fact, that’s our main issue with these pests. But why is it that termites eat wood?

Well, termites are able to digest cellulose. And wood is extremely rich in cellulose, making it a fantastic source of nutrition for termites. This is the main reason they eat wood. However, they will also eat other things such as paper and fabric if they are available.

The reason why termites predominantly eat wood is that they have organisms in their gut that help them break down cellulose. Cellulose is the primary component of plant cell walls, and when it’s broken down, sugar is produced.

Termites also have a preference for wood that has been affected by fungi. This type of wood is easier to eat and provides the termites with the nutrients they need. Termites also like to eat other things, such as paper, drywall, and insulation, but wood is their preferred food source.

What do termites eat? Surprising things that termites eat or damage!

Apart from wood, there are many other things that termites eat. Now, I’ve offered a list of the most surprising 15 things that termites like to make a meal off. So, dig into this information, just like termites, dig into these things!

Termites eat concrete.

You read that right! Termites do, in fact, eat concrete. But, termites are not eating concrete because it appears to be food. They’re actually looking for wood because that’s what they feed on.

Termites are able to eat through concrete, but it’s not their first choice when it comes to food.

Termites eat plastic.

Termites eat plastic

Termites are able to digest cellulose, which is found in plants. This includes wood but also other materials like paper. Sometimes, of course, there’s plastic in their way.

Termites will chew through these materials to get to the cellulose they like. They do not damage the plastic with the intention of actually eating it. They just chew through it.

Termites eat cedar wood.

Termites are not generally attracted to cedar wood because it is one of the few kinds of wood that is resistant to decay. This means that the wood will not rot or decompose as quickly as other types of wood, making it an undesirable food source for termites.

Over time, however, the termites will eat through the cedar wood, leading to its destruction.

Termites eat redwood.

Termites will eat almost any kind of wood, but there are some types of wood that they prefer. Redwood is not one of these woods. But, if there is no other option available to termites, they won’t think twice before eating redwood too.

Termites eat building supplies.

As absurd as it sounds, termites also eat building supplies, including wood. In order to prevent termites, it is important to use pressure-treated wood when building. This type of wood is preserved and will not be as appealing to termites.

Do termites eat plywood or plasterboard lining paper?

Cellulose is the primary component of plant cell walls, and it is what gives wood its structural integrity. Plywood, too, is made of layers that contain cellulose, and termites will eat it unless it is pressure treated.

Termites eat sheetrock.

Sheetrock typically has paper on the top surface. Since paper is rich in cellulose, you can be dead sure that these pests will consume the paper. However, they won’t eat the sheetrock. They will, however, chew through it to find wood or more cellulose on the other side of it.

Termites eat particle boards.

Termites enjoy eating particle boards

Termites eat a variety of things in all houses, but one of their main food sources is particle board.

Particle board is made up of small pieces of wood that are glued together, and it is a common material used in construction. Termites will eat the glue that holds the wood particles together, as well as the wood itself.

Formosan subterranean termites eat live trees.

Formosan subterranean termites are a type of termite that is found in the southern United States. They are different from other types of termites because they specialize in eating live trees.

In fact, they will work their way into the center of a live tree, create a colony and call it home. This behavior is not typically seen with other types of termites.

Termites eat cypress trees.

One of the things that many people don’t know is that termites also eat cypress trees. Cypress trees are not their preferred food source, but they will eat them if they are available.

Termites typically do not damage healthy cypress trees, but they may cause decay once the tree dies.

What do termites avoid eating?

Termites are known to eat a variety of different things, including wood, paper, and other cellulose materials. However, there are some things that they avoid eating. One of these is bamboo.

This is because bamboo has a brittle outer shell that can easily shatter and damage the termite’s digestive system. Another thing that termites avoid eating is OSB or oriented strand board.

This is because OSB has a high resin content which can be harmful to the digestive system.

Even treated wood is on the menu for these pests, but if the treated timber starts to decay, termites will turn it into their snack.

There are a few types of wood that they avoid eating strictly. These include Peruvian walnut and Honduran mahogany, both of which are resistant to termites.

How do termites eat what they eat?

Termites have a unique way of eating that helps them break down cellulose into usable energy. Their mandibles are asymmetrical, which allows them to quickly chew and swallow their food. This way, their gut biome can break down the cellulose into energy that the termite can use.

There are different types of termites in the caste system, and not all of them are capable of digesting cellulose. The soldiers are responsible for defending the colony while the workers build and maintain the nests.

The reproductives are in charge of breeding more termites. The only caste that can digest cellulose is the worker caste because they have bacteria in their guts that help them break down the tough material.

In addition to eating the cellulose from plants, termites also rely on a symbiotic relationship with Termitomyces fungi. The fungi are grown in a fungus comb and allowed to mature within the mound. Once it is consumed, the termites can extract more nutrients from the cellulose.

Which bugs or pests compete with termites for food?

Powderpost beetles are competitors

Interestingly, there are other bugs or pests that compete with termites for food. These insects may limit the termite’s foraging efforts, but they don’t actually eat the same food source. This limits the damage that the termites can do and ultimately keeps them under control.

Termites are often thought to only eat wood, but they actually consume a variety of materials. One of their main competitors for food is the powderpost beetle.

This type of beetle preys on the same kind of wood that termites eat and can cause significant damage to buildings and homes.

Powderpost beetles bore into wood and lay eggs, damaging the wood in the process. Carpenter ants also eat away at wood, as do carpenter bees. These are the main bugs and pests that compete with termites for food!

When do you need a thorough termite inspection for a termite infestation?

Typically, you should be getting annual termite inspections for your house to ward off or at least, stay aware of termite infestations.

However, if you happen to spot termites or obvious signs of termite damage to your furniture or in the structure of your house, you should consider consulting a professional pest management company.


Termites eat a bunch of things. But, just to clarify, they don’t actually eat all the things that I’ve listed above. Think of it as termites clearing obstacles in their way to get to the food that you really want. It’s like eating vegetables so that you can enjoy your dessert!

About the author

A biotechnologist by profession and a passionate pest researcher. I have been one of those people who used to run away from cockroaches and rats due to their pesky features, but then we all get that turn in life when we have to face something.