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Can Termites eat through Concrete Slabs, Drywalls, Sheetrock & Books?

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Can Termites eat through Concrete Slabs, Drywalls, Sheetrock & Books?
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Can a termite eat through concrete?

A reader e-mailed in this question:

“Can Termites eat through concrete? I had a dark spot coming through my vynl floor and would I was having it patched there was a hole discovered in my concrete and the installer said it looked like it might be termites. Then as I looked up over my window I saw 3 small holes in my wall. So, now I am thinking the hole in the concrete is from termites.”

No – termites can’t eat through concrete. This is an urban legend that has arisen because termites are often able to find tiny cracks in mortar or in the concrete itself and find a way through. There are some home inspectors out there who actually believe this, so word of it spreads around.

This doesn’t mean that concrete slabs should go untreated, however. It’s often a good idea to have a “barrier treatment” done when a house is being constructed (basically liquid pesticide that will kill or repel any termites trying to get in). Termites could not eat a hole in your concrete, but they could still get past it or through it.

It’s hard to tell what actually caused the hole in your concrete floor, but there’s a list of common defects here – it might be that it was poured improperly, or that stress caused the hole to occur.

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termite infested door

Will termites eat drywall?

A reader e-mailed in this question:

“part of my bedroom wall is drywall and there is one place where there is sandy stuff coming out of a hole something has made in the wall. a freind said it might be termites but I didnt think theyd eat drywall and its only a small spot. help me.”
Yes, termites will eat drywall (also called sheet rock). They will really eat pretty much anything based on wood, because it has something called cellulose inside, which is what termites need in order to survive.

Your description sounds exactly like you have a termite problem. Termites will push waste and feces out of holes in their colony, and it looks like little pellets or sawdust.

Even if it is only a small spot, that doesn’t mean the colony is small. That might only be the end to one tunnel. Even if the colony is small right now, it will get bigger – and as time goes on, it will do more and more damage to your home. You need to get the drywall inspected and treated to deal with the problem before it gets even more serious.

Will termites eat my books

A reader e-mailed in this question:

“I have a bunch of books in my collection and the other day I opened one up and saw a small white bug that looked like an ant crawling in it. I think it’s a termite. I’m afraid they will damage my collection and I can’t check every page of every book to try to find them. Are these termites and is there any easy thing I can do?”
Yes, termites will eat books. Books and other papers are made from wood, and they contain all the nutrients termites need, from a substance called cellulose, and are an obvious food source for them.

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The good news is that the termites aren’t actually living in your books. The bad news is that there is likely a colony in your house. Termites won’t build a colony in the books, but they will send out workers looking for food who will tunnel around and will start eating at the books, bringing the food back to the nest.

The immediate thing you should do is box up the books and move them away from where you found the termite. Like ants, termites will follow paths back to food that they’ve already discovered. The books are fair game at this point and they’ll be back looking for more. If you put them in a different place, the chemical trail at least won’t lead back to them – for now.

After doing that, you need to get rid of the colony itself, otherwise both your house and your books will continue to be damaged. You’ll have to call in an exterminator to do this, because it’s not something you can really do yourself.

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