Do Termites Eat Live Trees? [Termite Tree Damage]

There are three types of termites that are commonly found in live trees. Those are the Drywood, Formosan, and the Subterranean termites. The Subterranean and Drywood termites will only attack live trees with dead layers while the Formosan can attack and eat a live healthy tree.

Formosan termites can eat live trees while living inside them. They will nest and make holes in the trunk. This will make the tree weak with stagnant growth and after some time, it will fall down. If a live tree has dead cambium layers in its trunk, dry wood termites can also attack and feed on it.

Termites can live in trees and feed on them from the inside. The damage will only be noticed when it is too late. They lay eggs and multiply very fast especially if the tree is large with a big trunk that has several dead layers in it.

Do Termites Eat Live Trees?
Termites eating a live tree

What trees do termites eat?

Naturally, there are trees that termites like to feed on and those that they hate. If you live in an area with a high termite infestation, you may want to grow those that termites hate.

However, this may be difficult because it is easier and cheaper to grow trees that termites like to eat. Here is a table that will show you trees that termites eat vs those that they hate:

 Trees that termites eat             trees that termites don’t eat
1.Red oak1.Iroko tree
2.White oak2.Greenheart
3.Pine tree3.Australian cypress
4.Black locust or the False acacia4.Teak tree
5.Siberian pea tree5.Redwood
6.gum trees6.Niove tree
7.Osage-orange7.Mahogany
A table of trees that termites eat vs those that they don’t eat

Before growing any tree, you need to find out if it can grow in your area. Trees can be choosy and not every tree will grow in any soil or region depending on the climate.

You may want to grow termite resistant tree but you location may not favour it. You there fore need to know how to prevent termites from attacking you tree if you have to grow trees that they will it and your area is infested.

Do termites eat pine trees?

Termites eat pine trees and they will attack and eat them at any given chance. Pine trees are from the conifer genus and they are classified under the Pinus. Termites love trees from this group and this is why they will eat all types of pine trees.

They like pine trees because they grow in sandy soil. In most cases, pine trees can grow in places that are not swampy and this makes them a a favourable choice for termites. They are also rich in cellulose which termites need to survive.

If you find drywood termites in a pine tree, that is a sign that the tree is already dying and it has a good number of dry parts in it. The Formosan termites can  live in pine trees and feed on them. With time, they destroy the tree before it withers and fall to the ground.

Do termites eat acacia trees?

Termites can eat attack and eat the outer layers of a live acacia tree but only if it is dry. Just like termites attack any other tree, they will attack acacia trees if they have dry areas on the trunk and branches. However, Termites cannot eat through the inner hard part of the acacia tree that is located at the center.

The centre part of the acacia tree is termite resistant and this is why the acacia tree is considered to be a hard wood that is termite proof.

Quality structure that can resist termites are always made from acacia because it is also tougher than most woods. This can also help a lot in building termite resistant kitchen cabinets in case you have an infestation problem at home.

Termites in palm trees

Termites eat palm trees because they contain high cellulose concentration and fiber. When termites attack a palm tree, they will start eating it from the bottom where the roots are attached to the ground. They will live inside the tree and eat it for quite some time and you will only notice the damage when it is severe.

A sign of termites in a palm tree includes a mound near the tree right at the base. You will also notice frass or termite waste that looks like dust around the palm tree.

The frass will be in large amounts because there will be plenty of food for the termites to feed on. The palm tree will eventually fall down because termites will also have eaten its root and it will become weak.

Signs of termites in a live tree

To identify and know if a live tree is being eaten by termites, you will check for their activities on the trunk and the roots. This is important because you can save a tree with termites if the signs are identified early enough.

Signs of termites eating a live tree
Signs of termites eating a live tree

Termites have different behaviors depending on the type and group. For example, the Formosan and the Drywood termites will eat a tree from inside while the Subterranean will feed on the trunk from outside. Here are some basic signs that will help you identify a termite infested tree:

1. Mud tunnels on the trunk

Mud tunnels on the tree trunk that look like tubes is a sign of subterranean termites on a tree. Those tunnels begin from the tree roots as they climb upwards. Those are made to protect them from the sun and anything that may attack them as they feed on the tree.

They walk through those tunnels as they crawl on the tree. If you break those tunnels open, they will fall out in a rush towards cover because those termites do not like direct sunlight that dehydrates them. This is their natural way of survival. Those tunnels are always fresh and this helps in keeping them cool and moist.

2. Termite holes in trees

 A sudden appearance of tiny holes on the tree’s trunk with mud around it is a sign of termites infestation in a tree. If the drunk is too dry, the holes may continue to grow. In some cases, there may be liquid-like sap or fluids oozing from the trunk through the holes.

The liquid from termite holes on a tree trunk may be fresh or dried depending on how long the tree has been injured. If most of the liquid is fresh, then the infestation is at its early stages. If it is dried on the trunk, then this is a sign of a termite infestation on the tree that has lasted for a long time.

3. Termite waste

Termite poop which is also known as frass can be found around an infested tree and this is a sign that termites are eating into the tree.

To identify termite poop, look for tiny particles that look like powder with a color shade that is similar to the tree. If the tree is dark brown, the termite poop will also take the same color.

When this is found in plenty, it an indicating that the attack is serious. The tree trunk in also be covered by termite waste and this should be easy to identify. In most cases, the powdered termite poop will be spread around the tree. It is easy to notice them since they will be spread on the grass or the leaves of any plants growing around the tree.

4. Discolored leaves

When termites are eating a live tree, they will soon derail and rob it of its natural nutrients. This will cause the tree to have discolored leaves. In most cases, some branches will start to fall of. If they brake open, you will see termites and their eggs in it.

Discolored leaves with dry branches is a sign that the termites tree have already eaten and damaged the tree. Severe cases like that cannot be reversed and it is better to bring the whole tree down. This will prevent further damage to other trees around that area.  

Cutting down a tree with termites

Before you cut down a termite infested tree, you need to inspect if the damage has been spread to those that are around it. If the area is clear, spray a termite resistant i.e. liquid termiticide to the rest.

Spraying a liquid termiticide will prevent termites from infesting other live trees that are growing around the infested one. The importance of spraying is that, when you cut down a termite-infested tree, it will fall down and crack because it is hollow and dry. Termites will then scatter all over the place and they will look for a new habitat.

They will crawl the other trees that are near to build and start a new colony. This is why you should take preventive measures to ensure that when the tree is cut, termites will not infest the other trees around. Those small pests are very organized and starting a colony is very easy for them.  

If you are cutting down a tree with termites near the house, ensure you do so during the day. Use a rope to ensure that the tree falls away from the house.

As you cut, use the rope to pull the tree so that when it falls, any scattered termites will not go into the house.  You can also use motor oil to repel termites from any piles of wood in the are before you cut the tree down. Simply paint them with fresh or used motor oil so that they are not infested.

How to get rid of termites in trees naturally

If the signs of an infestation has been identified early and in good time, you can save a tree that has termites. Any step you use should be safe for the tree because some chemicals can burn and and destroy the tree.  Here are some steps you can use to naturally get rid of termites in a tree:

1. Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is made from the Australian tea tree and it has been noted to be effective when it comes to getting rid of termites naturally. To kill termites, mix 6 ounces of tea tree oil with 250ml of hot water and spray it directly on the termites. It it comes into contact with them, they will die.

2. Clove bud

Clove bud kills termites instantly when it is spread on them.  Simply mix 3 ounces of clove bud oil to 200ml of water and spray it on the termites get rid of them instantly. Clove oil is safe to use on tree because it has less toxins in it and it will not have any negative affects on plants and trees.

3. Orange oil

Orange oil is a natural termite controller because it contains an element known as d-limonene which is toxic to termites. Here is how to make an orange oil for termites at home:

  1. Crush a cup of fresh orange peel in a bowl
  2. Add 5 ounces of alcohol (Vodka) and ensure that it covers the peels
  3. Add water just enough to cover the peels and let it sit for  days
  4. Pour this into a spray bottle
  5. Spray the solution direct on the termites and ensure it gets into the holes they have made on the tree

4. Lavender oil

Lavender oil is deadly to termites when they come into contact with it. It contains linalol and linalyl acetate that is toxic to termites. 250ml of water with 8 ounces of lavender oil and spray it on the termite infested tree to kill and repel them.

You need to note that most of those natural termite control measures are only effective if the termite infestation is minimal. If you are dealing with a serious infestation, you need to either cut down the tree or seek a professional pest advice.

How to kill termites in a tree

There are several chemicals that you can use to kill termites fast but the problem is that most of them can be harmful to plants and domestic animals. This is why it is not advisable to walk into any shop and get chemicals to spray on your tree and surrounding.

Borax that can be bought from the local stores is a good way of killing termites in a tree. It comes in powdered form and if you spread it directly on the termites, they will die. It dehydrates them very fast and it is safe to use especially if the termites are well-targeted.

Fipronil is used to make liquid termiticides that can be safely sprayed on trees to kill and keep termites away. It can also be sprayed around the trees to repel termites and protect the trees from attacks.

However, you need to check if it is okay to use it in your area because there have been reports that it can kill bees and some countries have banned it.

You can also spread termite powder on the tree and in the holes where termites are hiding. Use some on their trails and tracks around the tree to kill them. Try and aim close when spreading the powder because you do not want the wind to blow it to other areas where it is not necessary.

References:

  1. Oxford Academic: Distribution of termites on trees: Environmental Entomology
  2. University of Carlifonia: Subterranean termites on trees: UCIPM