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Do Termites Eat Trees?
Some consumers with trees in their yards notice tree colonies feeding on their trees and wonder how that could be. The popular conception is that termites do not eat trees, but seeing is believing for a lot of tree owners. A more thorough explanation than just a yes or no answer is really needed to address this question in an intelligent way.
Termites Prefer Dead Wood
While termites can sometimes be spotted in trees, they tend to prefer dead wood. When they are in trees, they are usually feeding on the dead cellulose found in the trees. They normally will not eat the wood from a live tree. If you spot termites feeding in a tree, it is probably a sign of a tree health problem. When notice something like this, get a qualified tree doctor to your home to take a look and see what is wrong with the tree. Termites often take advantage of and can even precipitate a tree's decline if it is diseased.
Termites Do Not Kill Trees
Although termites are known to feed on diseased or dead trees and to eat the cellulose off of trees, they are not known to kill otherwise healthy trees. Their visible presence on dead or dying trees does not indicate a causal relationship with their presence leading to the trees' dysfunction. If anything, that relationship goes the other way.
Termites are highly unlikely to ever be spotted on otherwise healthy trees unless no other more preferable food supply is readily available. So spotting termites in a tree is overwhelming evidence that the tree already had major troubles to begin with. It is impossible to say that a termite has never eaten live wood, but their diet overwhelmingly consists of dead wood rather than live wood.