How Quickly Can Termites Eat Wood?

As most homeowners know, nothing can pose danger to a home quite like termites. Fast, insidious, and highly problematic if left unchecked, termites are a nightmare scenario for millions of property owners across California.

However, knowing that termites eat quickly isn’t the same as knowing average consumption rates and what kind of damage to expect over time. It’s easy to miss the signs of termites, and easy to allow the problem to spiral out of hand – particularly when homeowners assume termites move far slower than they actually do. By knowing how fast each major variety of termite destroys wood, it’s possible to craft the perfect plan of attack.

Termites in California

Since the word “termite” is frequently used as a catch-all term for wood-damaging insects, many homeowners don’t know that there are multiple varieties of termite. Climate and average temperature can play a role, but some regions in the state are vulnerable to more than one type of termite. The three most common forms of termite in California include:

  • Formosan Subterranean Termites: As the name implies, these termites operate primarily underground. Their swarms are large and their initial presence is invisible, so it’s very possible for these termites to cause structural damage before anyone is the wiser. These termites are attracted to moisture and are most common in warm, damp areas.
  • Drywood Termites: Unlike Formosan termites, which are attracted to moisture, drywood termites are most active in dry climates. They are particularly dangerous in the fall and spring, when the climate is temperate. These termites are larger and move slower than other forms of termites. Cedar is toxic to drywood termites.
  • Pacific Dampwood Termites: Pacific dampwood termites also operate in climates where moisture is prevalent, and are most active in the summer and early fall. These termites are also most common in areas at least 6,000 feet above sea level, which applies to many different areas in Southern California and beyond. In addition, these termites are the largest of the common varieties and leave the least visible damage, as signs of their presence can be confused with with common moisture damage.

How Fast Do Termites Eat?

Unfortunately for homeowners, termites move quickly. This is why knowing the signs and acting hastily is imperative. However, not all termites eat at the same rate. Some can cause serious problems in a matter of weeks, while others take months to leave lasting damage.

Climate, home construction, location, and interior conditions can all play a role in encouraging termite activity. For example, some varieties of termites thrive in damp areas, so any excess moisture can be an invitation to feast. As such, all homeowners are encouraged to be vigilant about preventing situations that could attract termites.

Formosan Subterranean Termites

This moisture-loving termite breed is known for fast consumption speeds. A medium size horde, which contains around three million termites, is capable of eating a foot of a standard 2×4 in as little as two days. This is an alarming amount for many homeowners; a foot of wood could mean burrowing through a wall, consuming a large portion of a piece of furniture, or otherwise causing substantial damage.

If you see signs of subterranean termite activity, contact a professional as soon as possible. Waiting as little as a few days to start extermination could mean serious problems.

Drywood Termites

Drywood termites, while still problematic, offer a reduced threat to many homeowners. In addition to a slower rate of consumption, drywood termites often have smaller hordes of closer to 60,000 termites – a far cry from several million. When operating at full capacity, drywood termites can consume a foot of a 2×4 in five to six months.

As with other forms of termites, homeowners should still address signs of damage expediently, even if the risk seems comparatively low. Damage in the wrong spots can cause foundation problems and other structural damage, even if progress is slow.

Pacific Dampwood Termites

Dampwood termites move quickly, but they’re less dangerous to a home’s construction as they primarily target trees, branches, and logs. These termites live fully within damp wood and do not need to be subterranean. Their consumption patterns are similar to drywood termites; dampwood termites move faster and are larger than other varieties of termites, but tend to have smaller hordes compared to their underground siblings.

Due to the larger size of dampwood termites, even small hordes can create issues. Though less likely to be found within a home’s walls, a lower chance doesn’t mean no chance, so homeowners should continue to monitor for dampwood damage.

Addressing Signs of Termites

If you’ve seen signs of termite damage, or think you’ve seen signs of termite damage, it’s time to take action. The sooner exterminators are brought in, the less likely it is that you’ll face thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in repair costs. There are several at-home remedies for termites but these aren’t usually adequate, particularly in the midst of a full infestation.

Termites can be a big problem for homeowners, particularly when ignored or left untreated. By understanding the risks and knowing what action to take, it’s possible to minimize the likelihood of serious and lasting issues.

Dealing with termites is no walk in the park. If you believe you have termites in or around your home,  Request a free termite inspection online, call us at 888-945-2847 or visit our contact page. All of our termite inspections are no obligation and 100% free!