Do Termites Eat Painted Wood? Myth or Fact?

Termites are voracious eaters, chowing down on a wide variety of materials, including leaves, compost, sponge cake, and even wood.

Termites will never eat painted wood. But, they’ll still eat the wood underneath the paint. A single crack is all it takes to expose the wood to termites. Once they’ve found a way in, the infestation can spread quickly.

human hand holding a piece of termite infested wood

Depending on how well your wood has been stained and painted, termites may still find their way to the wood.

If that piece of wood is sticking underground, unpainted, there’s a good chance that termites will find their way toward your wooden structure.

Why Are Termites Attracted to Wood?

Generally speaking, termites aren’t attracted to wood per se, but they’re actively looking for cellulose.

Cellulose is an organic compound that’s found in plant cell walls, and it’s a primary food source for these little critters. Wood is simply one of the most common places where they can find cellulose.

While termites eating painted wood is nothing more than an urban legend, they still have plenty of ways to get to the wood underneath the paint.

While it’s true that painted wood offers added protection from termites, this isn’t a guarantee that they won’t find a way in.

Additionally, wood provides shelter and protection from the environment for termites. If a termite colony is already present in the soil near your home, they may be attracted to any wood that’s close by – painted or not.

Termites and Their Eating Habits

Termites are often seen as nothing more than pesky insects that can wreak havoc on wooden structures. However, these fascinating creatures have a much more complex and nuanced relationship with the world around them.

Not only do they exert an important effect on the food chain by providing a valuable source of nutrients for other species, but they also have specialized eating habits that make them particularly well-suited to life in the wild.

close up of termites inside a piece of wood

Unlike most species, which eat either plants or animals, termites consume both. They possess powerful jaws that allow them to chew through hard plant materials like wood and bark with ease, but they can also secrete powerful digestive enzymes that break down tough fibers and cellulose from plant cell walls.

In addition, termites must maintain a relatively high body temperature to stay active during cold temperatures, making them excellent at harvesting heat-producing fungi and dead organic matter for food. This complex diet allows termites to live in various environments, from tropical rainforests to arid deserts.

While they are most commonly associated with woodlands, termites can also be found in grasslands, savannas, and even urban areas.

Termites are one of the earth’s most successful groups of insects, with an estimated 12,000 species living on every continent except Antarctica.

What Kind of Wood Will Termite Eat?

There are more than 2,000 species of termites, and they all have different dietary preferences. Some species of termites will only eat softwoods, while others will feed on both hardwoods and softwoods.

Still, other species have very specific tastes, and will only dine on certain types of wood. For example, the Formosan termite is particularly fond of bamboo, while the West Indian dry wood termite has a preference for mahogany.

As long as the wood contains cellulose, there’s a good chance that termites will find it irresistible. This means that any type of wood – whether it’s hardwood, softwood, or even bamboo – is at risk of being eaten by termites.

Here are some of the most common wood types that termites are known to eat:

Dry Wood

Dry wood such as baseboards, furniture, hardwood floors, and wooden frames are all at risk of being eaten by termites.

This is because dry wood is an easy source of cellulose for these pests. Specific termite colonies prefer dry wood because it is easier to digest than other types of wood. When you see tunnels on the surface of dry wood, it’s a good indication that termites have been feeding on it.

Plywood

Plywood is another type of wood that’s often targeted by termites, with an exception. Plywood that has been pressure treated is less likely to be eaten by termites because the chemicals make it more difficult for them to digest. However, untreated plywood is just as susceptible to termite damage as any other type of wood.

Particle Board

Particleboard is a type of wood made from sawdust and other wood particles glued together. This type of wood is often used in the construction of furniture and cabinets.

While particle board is not as appealing to termites as other types of wood, it can still be damaged if the insects are able to find their way into small crevices and cracks.

Lumber

There is no shortage of kinds of wood that termites will eat. From finely grained hardwoods to softer woods, termites are opportunistic feeders that will consume any available source of cellulose.

Perhaps the most common kind of lumber in regular use for building construction, both exterior, and interior, is pine. Other types of lumber that may be attractive to termites include poplar, spruce, walnut, and cedarwood.

How to Keep Termites Away From Your Wooden Structures

The best time to start preparing for a termite infestation is before your wooden structures are even placed and built. This is because termites are able to sense the presence of wood from great distances and will travel long distances to find a food source.

Here are some tips on how to keep termites away from your wooden structures:

Only Use Pressure Treated Wood

One of the best ways to keep termites away from your wooden structures is to only use pressure-treated wood.

This type of wood has been treated with chemicals, which we all know by now, aren’t what termites are looking for. Most of the time, wood that’s been chemically treated is marked, so be sure to look for the label before making your purchase.

Keep Your Wood Piles Away From Your Home

If you have any woodpiles on your property, it’s essential to keep them away from your home. This is because woodpiles are often the first places termites will look for a food source.

By keeping your woodpiles away from your home, you can help to prevent an infestation before it even starts.

Remove Dead Trees and Stumps

Another way to keep termites away from your home is to remove any dead trees or stumps from your property. This is because these are often the places where termites will nest.

If you have any dead trees or stumps on your property, be sure to have them removed as soon as possible.

Stain and Paint Your Wood

human using a paint brush to paint a piece of wood

This goes for both the inside and outside of your home. By staining or painting your wood, you can help to make it less appealing to termites.

Remember, termites often start their way underground, where your wooden structures are bare and unprotected. So, by staining or painting your wood, you can help to keep them away before they even have a chance to start.

Final Thoughts

Termites won’t eat through painted wood, but this doesn’t guarantee that your home is safe from an infestation.

The best way to keep termites away from your wooden structures is to take preventive measures, like using pressure-treated wood and keeping your woodpiles away from your home.

If you think you may already have a problem, be sure to contact a professional pest control company right away. A termite infestation can severe structural damage when left untreated, so it’s important to deal with the problem as soon as possible.