Why Do Termites Need Moisture? The Facts On Why Termites Love Water

It's a fact that termites need moisture. It's practically their closest friend.

They don't just need it for building their colonies. They need it for food. They need it for survival. 

One of the most common reasons of termite infestations is too much moisture in a house. So dialing down the moisture level can potentially stop these destructive insects from invading.

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Why Do Termites Need Moisture

Water and moisture attract termites because they need them for food and nesting. CC Image courtesy of Jo Naylor on Flickr

Termites need moisture to survive

Termites need moisture and dampness to live.

It’s basically how they’re built. Subterranean termites, which are notorious for causing a lot of damage in the US, have bodies that are able to hold on to water.

A study on the moisture augmentation of food items by a subterranean termite species tells us that these insects have a pair of salivary reservoirs that store water. These are used to increase the humidity in the nest and to aid in eating a dry food source.

Termites wet their food because they’d have a hard time digesting cellulose if there isn’t any water in it. Some species also go as far as keeping things moist to farm fungi.

Moisture also plays a key part in building their nests.

Termites keep the mud tubes moist because they can only last a few minutes in a hot and dry environment. They get water from condensation and sources nearby. They can also go deeper into the ground to bring it back with them. The mud tubes enable them to travel long distances without drying out.

Can drywood termites survive without moisture?

One common mistake is believing that drywood termites don’t need moisture.

They do.

But, they don’t need huge amounts of it compared to subterranean and dampwood termites. Drywood termites get it from humid air. They also have dry frass because they suck in as much water from it as possible. These termites are common in humid places like in the south.

How to control moisture in your house

Controlling moisture is critical to stopping infestations. Moist places in your house like your basement and crawl spaces attract a lot of termites. Typically, these are where infestations start. Here are some things that EPA suggests to keep your house in check:

  • ​Landscaping can fix water entering from the outside.
  • Water in the basement means you need more gutters or a water flow.
  • Check and fix your pipes. Repair plumbing and other water-related problems in the house.
  • Cover dirt crawl spaces with plastic to stop condensation and water from escaping from the ground.
  • Ventilate those crawl spaces too.
  • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Let your clothes dry outside.
  • Turn off appliances like humidifiers and kerosene heaters.
  • Use dehumidifiers, air conditioners or vaporizers.
  • Use insulation or storm windows.
  • Open doors between rooms to raise air circulation.
  • Be sure that your house has a source of fresh air.
  • Regularly check your carpet and concrete floors.
  • Use area rugs that can be washed regularly.

Moisture can be your enemy or your friend. All termites need it to survive. Drywood termites don’t need a lot of it, but they’ll still die without it. So controlling moisture in your home can be the difference between inviting or preventing an infestation.

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