Termites are destructive pests that eat 24/7. If left undetected, a termite infestation can cause thousands of dollars in property damage. As a homeowner, you need to be vigilant when it comes to termites, and this means understanding potential risk factors for infestations around your house. Building materials are one area of concern. It’s common knowledge that termites eat wood, but do they actually prefer certain types of wood over others? Could the wood in your home be attracting these pests?
One type of wood that many homeowners wonder about is cedar. Find out if termites like to dine on this fragrant wood and learn more about what attracts them to your home.
What About Cedar?
Cedar is commonly believed to be a termite-repellent wood, but the truth is, these pests will eat it if they have to. That said, termites are less attracted to cedar than other types of wood. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that’s because cedar contains allelochemicals. These are substances naturally produced by plants that act as repellents against some insects. Allelochemicals are typically found in the heartwood, or core, of trees. This wood is traditionally darker and denser. Unfortunately, while the core of the cedar may be somewhat termite resistant, it does not fully repel the insects and the white wood on the outside of the core is not termite resistant at all.
For some homeowners, this extra layer of resistance and durability may make cedar an appealing building material. However, it is more expensive than other types of wood.
So, termites will eat cedar if they have to. Now you may be wondering why they even eat wood at all. The answer is simple: cellulose. Cellulose is a substance contained in the cell walls of plants that gives them their rigid structure. Termites, along with other animals like cows, horses and sheep, have bacteria in their guts that contain the enzymes necessary to break down cellulose and convert it into the nutrients they need to survive. Unfortunately, termites really don’t discriminate when it comes to sources of cellulose, so any wood around your home could become a meal.
Humans cannot digest cellulose because our bodies don’t contain the right kind of enzymes. However, we do utilize the compound almost daily – it is present in plant-based items like paper products and cotton, linen and rayon clothing.
Termites aren’t necessarily picky eaters, but it may surprise you to learn that different species do have some preferences about the types of wood they will eat. In the United States, subterranean and drywood termites are the primary threats to homes and property. Each of these species can attack a structure in different ways, so it’s important to understand the types of wood they’re attracted to and how your home could be a target.
- Subterranean termites – These termites live underground and must have a moist environment with access to soil to survive. They construct mud tubes that act as tunnels between their underground colonies and their food sources. When it comes to food, subterranean termites generally prefer to dine on soft springwood- the softer part of the growth rings in wood. They also prefer some species of trees over others. For example, pine is generally preferred over cedar.
- Drywood termites – Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites don’t need soil moisture to survive. As their name implies, they prefer to dine on sources of dry wood, including paneling, furniture and hardwood floors. These termites eat across the grain, and they will destroy both springwood and hard summerwood- the harder, darker growth ring in wood.
Termites in Mulch
Most homeowners are concerned about termites in their houses, but they should also be concerned about their yard. Many people wonder about the connection between termites and mulch. While it’s highly unlikely that mulch purchased from a store will contain live termites, mulch in your yard may trap moisture and provide an environment that attracts the pests.
Mulch may not act as a food source for termites, but it can certainly make the area around your home more enticing and make it easier for the pests to access your house. If you have landscaping in your yard and add mulch for aesthetic reasons, you can decrease your chances of attracting termites by using mulch made of cypress heartwood, melaleuca, eucalyptus, southern tidewater red cypress or, not surprisingly, cedar. All of these woods are generally less attractive to termites. A better choice for mulch would be a synthetic source such as rubberized materials or gravel.
Termites and the damage that they can cause are no joking matter, and any home is an easy target for these voracious pests. The best way to defend your home against termites is contacting a pest control specialist. These professionals can conduct an inspection of your house and property to determine potential points of entry and recommend any necessary treatment steps or preventive measures. Call today to schedule your FREE inspection.