Beyond the Wood: Other Areas Where Termite Damage Can Occur

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Quick: think about termites. What’s the first image that comes to mind?

You probably saw a termite colony happily munching away on the wood in your home. But did you know that there are many other areas where termites can do serious damage? We’ve outlined a few of the most common – and surprising – ones below.

Termites live on a diet of cellulose, which is found in plant fiber. Cellulose is very difficult to digest, which is why you don’t see many other animals or insects that subsist on a cellulose-only diet. Termites have special microbes and bacteria in their gut that help them digest this tough fiber. They’re also rather single-minded about their eating obsession – termites are so focused on finding and eating food sources that they don’t even sleep! They can also construct tubes up to 60 feet long in pursuit of a food source.

Since termites are able to digest cellulose, almost anything that is made up of plant fiber is fair game in their diets. They’re kind of like the goats of the pest world, as they really will eat almost anything!

  • Clothing: Many of your favorite clothes start out as plant fibers. For instance, anything made of cotton is fair game. Termites won’t hesitate to eat through clothing as an alternative food source.
  • Pool Liners: In addition to being voracious eaters, termites are also thirsty bugs! If their need for water is great enough, they will eat through pool liners to get that the precious water inside. While termites can’t digest the plastic used in pool liners, they can eat holes through them to access water. While it can be hard to notice the water weeping out through the holes at first, it will become faster and more noticeable as the termites create more access holes.
  • Pool Framing: Most in-ground pools are constructed with a wooden frame with liners installed over the wood. While this wood is typically treated against moisture and decay, these treatments wear off over time, and the moist wood located in the ground is a perfect food source for termites. Concrete in-ground pools don’t typically have termite troubles.
  • Pool Filtration Systems: Termites can eat through a variety of different materials such as plastic, rubber and soft metal materials – all of which can be found in your pool filtration system. They can cause significant damage!
  • Books: If you have boxes of books in your basement – especially on the floor or against a wall – you might want to check them for termites! Since books are made of paper, they are an excellent alternative food source when termites can’t find the wood they prefer.
  • Animal Dung: Since most animals can’t digest tough cellulose, there is usually plant material in feces. In tropical or desert climates when there are no other food sources available, termites will take advantage of the cellulose in animal dung.
  • Furniture: Drywood termites can fly, and they don’t need to burrow through your home’s foundation to find food. In fact, since they don’t need much water, this species of termite can burrow into your comfy couch and live there undetected for years.
  • Gold and Minerals: In Australia, soil-feeding termites eat dirt to get at plant fiber. They inadvertently eat any gold or other minerals found in the soil, as well – some termites have even left traces of gold in their excrement!
  • Money: Yep, it’s made of plant fiber, too! Termites have done damage to large amounts of money that were improperly stored – check out this article, where termites ate through a woman’s entire life’s savings! If you’re keeping your cash under a mattress, you might want to think about opening a savings account.
  • Carpet: The most common termite in Arizona, the subterranean termite, finds food sources by burrowing into your home’s foundation. If they happen to surface on a floor that is covered with non-synthetic carpet, they’ll eat their way through that, too!
  • Fungus: Some termite practice “farming”! They cultivate fungus colonies so they can eat them when they are mature.
  • Insulation: Even though most insulation is not made of plant fibers, its soft texture allows termites to burrow through and construct tubes on their way to wood food sources. They also eat the paper that covers some insulation materials.

The lesson here is simple: keep an eye on your home for termite damage! It just might not be in the places you expect. Be sure to schedule your free termite inspection so you have all your bases covered.

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