How Much Wood Can Termites Eat in a Year?

Termites are tiny creatures, but don’t let their size fool you. These voracious pests can eat their way through a house in no time flat.

A single termite, in fact, can eat as much as 12 inches of wood in a year.

To surprise you more, a termite colony with 300, 000 workers consume an estimated one cubic foot of wood in one year and that’s the equivalent of about 1/6 of a tree.

termites hanging around a wooden structure

While termites are mostly active during the spring and summer months, they can feed on wood all year round.

If you suspect that you have termites eating up the wood in your home, it’s important to seek a professional pest control company as soon as possible.

Contributing Factors

Termites feast mainly on cellulose. They eat materials such as paper, cardboard, and wood. These pests can devour wood at an astonishing rate but there are several factors that contribute to how much wood they can eat in a year.

Termite Species

There are a number of factors that contribute to how much wood a termite colony can consume in a year.

The type of termite is one of the most important factors. There are more than 2,000 different species of termites, and each one has slightly different eating habits.

Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites are some of the most damaging because they tend to have larger colonies and usually have created multiple colonies in an area.

This increases the number of termites eating the same structure at the same time, which expedites damage.

Generally, a subterranean termite colony can have around 60,000 members and this size can eat about 73 ounces of wood in one year.

Subterranean termites are also bigger in size so they feast on wood even faster than the other species.

These species tunnel underground and enter homes through small cracks and crevices and live mostly in hiding so they are often overlooked for many years.

When they’re discovered, they have eventually caused significant damage to your house.

Drywood Termites

Although drywood termites take longer to eat wood because of the size of their colonies, they can still cause hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage and repair costs. 

Because they are smaller in size compared to other species of termites, they eat wood and create damage slowly.

Formosan  Termites

Formosan termites are known to be particularly uncontrollable when it comes to eating wood. These termites are native to Asia but have been introduced to other parts of the world, where they have caused significant damage to buildings and other structures.

The Formosan termite may swiftly expand to become hundreds of millions of individuals in a little amount of time, resulting in much more havoc than other species.

They are regarded to be the fastest termites to cause damage. With just a single Formosan termite colony, an entire house can be consumed in just half a year.

Termite and Colony Age

The age of the termites in the colony is also a contributing factor. The smaller, younger termites have not yet achieved their full feeding potential so they tend to feed less than the older ones which are larger.

a termite colony chewing through wood

Additionally, the age of the colony itself plays a role. A newer colony will have fewer termites and can’t eat as much wood as an established colony.

Older colonies, on average, are bigger and cause more harm than younger ones. Since older colonies equate to bigger colonies, they have more members which can inflict more damage in a shorter span of time.

Colony Size

The size of the colony is also an important factor to consider when trying to determine how much wood they can eat in a year.

A small colony of a few hundred termites might only be able to eat a few pounds of wood, while a large colony of millions of termites could easily consume hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

Overall, the larger the colony, the more wood it can consume in a year.


Temperature also plays a role in how much wood termites can eat. In warmer climates, termites are active all year round.

This means they can eat continuously, leading to higher consumption rates. Termites are cold-blooded creatures, so they are more active and eat more in warm weather.

In fact, some studies have shown that doubling the temperature can quadruple the amount of wood a termite colony can eat in a year.

Conversely, in cooler climates, termites are inactive for part of the year. This leads to lower consumption rates overall.

Environmental Factors

The temperature and moisture levels in the environment also play a role in how much wood termites can eat in a year.

Termites are cold-blooded creatures, so they are more active–and eat more–in warm weather. In fact, some studies have shown that doubling the temperature can quadruple the amount of wood a termite colony can eat in a year.

Similarly, high moisture levels make it easier for termites to find food and survive. This is why you’re more likely to see these pests in humid climates or areas with high rainfall.

Why Can Termites Eat So Much Wood in a Year

Termites are tiny creatures with a huge appetite for wood but there are actually several reasons why termites are able to eat so much wood in a year.

Strong and Sharp Mandibles

close up of termite on a rough surface

These insects have very strong and sharp mandibles that can chew through wood quickly and easily.

Cellulose-Digesting Bacteria in Their Gut

Termites team up with bacteria in their gut that help them digest cellulose, the main component of wood. This allows them to digest wood more efficiently and extract more nutrients from it.

Non-stop Eating

Finally, termites are always eating. They don’t sleep and they don’t take breaks to rest. They will keep on eating 24 hours a day, seven days a week until there is nothing left for them to munch on.

The amount of wood that termites can consume in a year is truly shocking. If you have these pests in your home, be sure to call a professional.

Final Thoughts

Termites are a common problem for homeowners, and they can eat through a lot of wood in a year. These little pests can eat through wood like it’s nothing.

In fact, a single termite can consume 12 inches of wood in a year and an entire colony can eat up to one cubic foot and that’s a lot of damage.

They work round the clock, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to forage in order to feed the other members of the colony.

Because of this behavior, they can cause a lot of harm to your home in just a short stretch of time. So, if you see signs of termites, it’s important to seek a professional right away.