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Understanding How Subterranean Termites Eat Wood

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It is very hard, almost impossible, to look at a termite infestation and tell how old it is. Subterranean termites will eat wood at different rates depending on a wide variety of factors including humidity range, weather, the presence of other food sources, and the type of wood that is infested. For example, heartwood and sapwood have different consumption rates. In fact, even different groups within the same termite colony will eat wood at different rates.

There are however some estimates of the average consumption rate. Researchers believe that it takes about 18 termites to consume one gram of wood at 17 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this rate was calculated in a laboratory setting, with real world accurate estimations being much harder to come about.

Some studies that attempted to discover the age of an infestation looked at moisture and how it relates to the presence of subterranean termites, but the researchers soon found themselves in a chicken or the egg dilemma. Did the termites bring extra moisture into the wood, or did the wood have the right moisture conditions in order to attract termites. The study was inconclusive.

Some researchers however attacked the experiment strongly, claiming that the methodology used was flawed, since the experiment took place in a laboratory setting. These researchers also claimed that since termites have a salivary reservoir size of only 0.7 microliters, and it takes about 50 microliters to create a single drop of water, you would need one million termites to create just 2.9 cups of water. Since colonies and infestations of this size are rare, the termites cannot really be responsible for the moisture, and as such, the presence of moisture is not a good indicator for the age of an infestation.

So the average rate at which subterranean termites eat wood is still a mystery. You can have a small colony that is only eating wood from your home, and it will do so at a snail’s pace, or you can have a gigantic colony that eats wood from multiple sources, and as it grows, the rate of consumption increases exponentially, doing thousands of dollars of damage within a short period of time. This is why it’s important to have regular termite inspections performed in your home. The sooner an infestation is detected, the more money and headache you save. Contact us today if you are interested in learning more about termite inspection services and how they can help you.

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