Diet of Termites

What do termites eat?

Termites are known for eating dead wood (hence, they cause damage to your homes). However, termites also eat a variety of food, including small bits of decomposed plants, dead grass, dung, dead grass, the waste material of animals , fungi, mosses, lichens and plantlike organisms that are closely related. Some termites consume crops such as corn. This is why termites have been identified as an agricultural pest, particularly in Asia and Africa.

The reason why termites eat wood, plants, dead grass, etc, is because of the cellulose content in them. Termites consume cellulose in all forms. This is the reason why termites not only feed on wood in your homes, but also feed on paper, carpets, and other cellulostic material. Since cellulose is provided by plants, many plant-based materials have cellulose in them and will be consumed by termites.

Worker termite feeding on wood

Wood-eating and plant-eating termites are unable to digest food on their own. Because of this, they rely on a single organism called a protozoan, which is in their stomachs, to help them to digest their food.  This organism has a body which is made up of only one cell. Termites depend on each other for food. Termites which lack protozoan have to grow their own fungi. If not, they have special chambers in their stomach which are populated mainly by a variety of bacteria, which aid in digestion.

Termites are grouped according to their feeding habits. Examples of groups of termites include subterranean, drywood, dampwood and grass-eating termites. Of these, subterranean and drywood termites are primarily responsible for damage to human structures.

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