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Is There Any Way To Determine How Long A Termite Infestation Has Lasted By Evaluating The State Of Structural Wood Damage, And Do Termite Pests Find Some Types Of Lumber More Palatable Than Others?

The vast majority of termite species are non-pests that dwell in heavily forested regions, and all termite species obtain their nutrients from cellulose, which is the primary constituent compound in plant matter. While termites are known to infest a small number of living tree species and other live plant organisms on rare occasions, the majority of termite species obtain cellulose almost exclusively from dead and decayed wood, such as logs, dead portions of trees, fallen branches, twigs, and occasionally, interior structural lumber within homes, exterior decorative wood, and items made of finished wood like furniture.

Urban entomologists and pest management professionals are often asked if they are able to determine how long a termite infestation has lasted by evaluating the degree and nature of damaged structural wood. Unfortunately, the short answer to this question is “no,” but researchers have gathered valuable data concerning the rate at which subterranean termite workers consume structural lumber within homes and buildings. Only pest control professionals that are properly trained and licensed to perform wood-destroying pest inspections within and around structures are able to estimate the duration of termite infestations by evaluating damaged structural wood components.

Termites are difficult to study on account of their well concealed habitat within ground soil and wood items, but experts state that subterranean termite workers often abandon the structural wood components they infest for a variety of theorized reasons. It has been suggested that variable climatic conditions may influence termite feeding habits. For example, bouts of excessively dry weather and climatic conditions during the winter season may cause moisture to evaporate from structural wood infested by termites. Since subterranean termite workers are highly dependent on moist wood in order to remain hydrated, they will promptly abandon structural wood that becomes dry.

It is also important to keep in mind that the rate at which workers consume structural lumber varies depending on the tree species in which the lumber was cut, as some wood species are more susceptible or resistant to termite attack than others. The eastern subterranean termite pest found in Massachusetts prefers to feed on some of the most common species of structural wood used for home construction, including Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, slash pine, and loblolly pine.

Have you ever encountered termite-damaged structural wood within your home?