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Termite Facts

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Have you ever wonder how such a tiny bug eats something as strong as wood? Termites have special enzymes, protozoa and bacteria in their guts that allow them to digest cellulose. Cellulose is the organic fibrous material in wood and plants. Sound delicious? Not really….but the good news is, at the rate a single termite eats wood, based on some loose but reasonable assumptions, it would take one termite 3,144 years to eat the wood in a 1,000-square- foot home. But termites don’t live alone. That’s the bad news. The largest subterranean termite colonies eat about a pound of wood per day. Even when the amount of wood eaten in a day by a termite is multiplied by 1,000,000 termites, it may not seem like very much. The problem is that termites remain hidden when they attack a home. So days, weeks and years of chomping on wood add up. By the time they are finally discovered, severe termite damage may be present.

The termite facts of life include living in a colony in a structured society. Colonies can range from a few thousand individuals to several million, depending on their species. There is a complex set of roles and hierarchy to a termite colony, including a queen who lays eggs, workers who do all the hard labor and nymphs or immature termites who have lighter duties but still work in the colony. In many parts of the country, there are several colonies per acre of land, but the colonies do not intermingle, they coexist. It is a peaceful arrangement, but if a termite from one colony violates another's nest or tunnels, they will be killed and removed immediately. The number of colonies in an area varies greatly between species and geography. Termite colonies differ, but some consist of more than 15,000,000 termites, and the colony can survive for many years. Multiply the number of colonies living next to each other, and you can see how you might have a huge termite problem close by.

The most common species of termite in the United States is the eastern subterranean termite. They live underground in the soil and build mud tubes as a means of transportation. Individual termite workers live about two years, and the total wood consumed each day just isn’t very much – after all, they are only about one-eighth of an inch long. Because they slowly eat away at the wood inside your home, termites can cause extensive damage to a home and its structural integrity. How fast do termites eat wood? It depends on how many colonies exist inside the home. The termite facts, when it comes to cost of repairs, depend on how much wood they have eaten, how long the colony has been in existence in the home and where the damaged wood is located in the house. Repairs are usually much more expensive than original building costs. Any structure that is made of wood, slab foundations and any wood that touches the dirt surrounding the home and inaccessible crawlspaces are especially susceptible to termites.