It is often said that termites eat wood, and while this is true, it does not mean that all sources of seasoned wood are vulnerable to termite damage. Most of the 3,000 termite species that have been documented worldwide consume cellulose from slowly decaying forms of fibrous plant matter, which is mostly wood. However, some termite species only consume humus-rich soil, while other termite species limit their diet to dung excreted by meat-eating animals. The more than 50 termite species that have been documented in the United States consume cellulose, but not necessarily from wood. For example, Gnathamitermes perplexus is a termite species that consumes cellulose from soft plant tissue, and they are commonly found in rural fields and occasionally in residential yards. These termites are commonly known as “agricultural termites,” and although they may eat turf-grass on rare occasions, they are not considered pests. Most termite pest species in Georgia only infest structural wood in homes, and not single wooden items, or items made from wood components, like furniture, dressers or wooden ornaments.
Most termite pests in Georgia are subterranean termite species that live in colonies below the ground-surface. Workers in subterranean termite colonies infest homes from the ground up, which is why most infestations in Georgia are generally found in substructural wood components located close to the ground. The eastern subterranean termite is responsible for most termite-related property damage in Georgia, but dark southeastern and light southeastern subterranean termites are also common in the state. While these species are not known for infesting single wood items in homes, the multiple drywood termite species found in Georgia are well known for infesting movable items like furniture, wood carvings, and even wood bowls. The most common drywood termite pest in Georgia is the southeastern drywood termite, followed by the West Indian powderpost drywood termite, and occasionally, the western drywood termite is found infesting furniture being shipped into Georgia.
All drywood termite pest species in the US are often found infesting both structural wood and single wood items, but the West Indian powderpost drywood termite usually infests furniture, and they are unique for being absent from the natural environment in the US where they are not native. Unlike subterranean termites that dwell in soil, drywood termites dwell in relatively small colonies that are completely contained within above-ground wood, such as logs, fallen branches, and stumps. They establish new colonies by swarming, and infestations occur when swarmers (alates) fly into homes and initiate colonies within furniture wood, other movable wood items, or structural wood. It should also be mentioned that invasive Formosan subterranean termites, which are rare in Georgia, occasionally infest single wood items due to their ability to form isolated above-ground colonies within carton nests.
Have you ever discovered a drywood termite infestation in a piece of furniture?