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  • Michael Perrino

Can Flying Termites Chew on Clothes?



Few people consider clothing damage when thinking of termites. Fabric pest is mostly associated with carpet beetles, clothes moths, flying ants, silverfish, webbing clothes moths, and fire ants. Despite their reputation as wood-eating pests, termites also affect other unsuspecting items lying around at home. Flying termites can cause great damage to your home structure and other wooden objects. These pests follow the scent of fungi associated with food as they attack and break down wood.


So do flying termites eat clothes? Yes, flying termites can chew on anything with cellulose, even on clothing. Flying termites are attracted to clothing food sources that are stained with body soil, food, or beverages. As they eat the food, they often cut into the fabric, thus causing holes. The signs to look out for to confirm a flying termite infestation are piles of discarded wings and termite droppings, also known as frass, around the home.


Can Flying Termites Eat Clothes?

Besides eating through wood and weakening integral home structures, termites can also eat through pieces of clothing. This is especially true with clothing stained with food or drinks. As they eat the crumbs of food on your clothes, they also end up eating through the fabric. Various termite species such as drywood termite, Formosan termite, subterranean termite, and dampwood termite can cause not only termite damage but also a termite infestation.


When flying termites gnaw into a piece of wood, what they’re really looking for is cellulose. Cellulose is an organic compound that’s actually a type of sugar known as a polysaccharide. Cotton has cellulose in it, which the flying termites are after, hence they chew on clothes. Often as termites burrow into your home, they creep their way into your closet for a tasty morsel of your favorite dress or shirt. There are many other products that have cellulose in them including wallpaper, sheetrock, paper, clothing, cardboard boxes, and more. Sometimes, workers will exit a wall and enter into a pile of clothes or boxes to feed. This can cause widespread damage through these items.


Digesting cellulose is no easy task. In fact, many animals, including humans, can’t do it. On the other hand, termites can because they have organisms living in their stomachs that help. Bacteria and protozoa have a mutually beneficial relationship with termites, living in their stomachs and producing a particular enzyme that breaks down cellulose. Once they digest the cellulose, it converts into sugar, and that's where the termites get their nutrition. Certain termite species like to eat wood that has already started to break down because of fungi which make it easier for termites to digest.


Signs of Flying Termite Presence


Discarded Wings

A termite swarmer sheds its termite wings shortly after it finds a mate, leaving behind an obvious sign that they’re occupying space. Termite swarms may take place inside or outside of a home as mature termites leave the nest to start new colonies. Soon after swarmers take flight, they shed their wings. You may find small piles of wings in spider webs and on surfaces around your home's foundation, like window sills. If you see piles of wings on your porch or in windows, you may have a termite infestation or a termite colony nearby.

Termite Droppings

Worker termites leave small brown droppings known as frass. These droppings often look like wood particles or sawdust due to how much wood termites eat. If you find these pellet-shaped droppings, your home may have a termite infestation.

To keep their nests clean, termites create kick-out holes where they remove their excrement. Since termites eat wood, their excrement is wood, which essentially creates mounds of pellets. These mounds of pellets, resembling sawdust or coffee grounds, may indicate the presence of drywood termites.

Mud Tubes

Swarming termites build mud tubes to commute between their food source and main colony. If you find these tunnels in the ground or inside wood on your property, you may find more termite activity inside your home.

Pencil-sized mud tubes can be found wherever the ground meets your house or any other possible food source like a tree or shed. This is because most termites species nest underground and forage up to their food source, which is often a house structure. These termites require a certain temperature and humidity level to survive. Their tunnels help block out cool, dry air, effectively turning your home into an environment where they can thrive.

Damaged Wood

Wood damage can be found below and behind surfaces like walls, floors, and more. This can be caused by termite workers chewing through wood in search of cellulose, leaving behind long grooves. Over time, these grooves weaken the wood and create structural damage. Hollowed wood usually has a honeycomb interior and an empty sound.


Learn more: Why You Should Care About Flying Termites in Your Home


How to Prevent Flying Termites From Eating Clothes

An effective way to help prevent an infestation of fabric-eating bugs such as flying termites is by paying close attention to the places they like to hide. With a few action steps and the right treatment plan, you can enter your closet with confidence.


Here are some tips to practice termite control and to keep them away from your closet.


Wash Soiled Clothing

Termites are attracted to the soils left on clothes. Wash soiled clothing before putting them back in the closet. Pest may be more attracted to the smell of your dirty clothing. This is because of the oils, food debris, hair, and skin that gets left on worn clothing. It’s much better to wash clothing immediately after wearing them.

Vacuum the Closet

It’s easy to forget to regularly and thoroughly vacuum closets because they’re low-traffic areas. Failure to vacuum your closet space might be a welcome sign for termites. Be sure to vacuum carpets, rugs, tapestry wall hangings, and upholstered furniture thoroughly to help remove any larvae such as moth larvae and carpet beetle larvae.

Remove Firewood Stacks

If you have stacked wood near the outside of your home, move it farther away from the foundation where the insects can move quickly from the logs to your house.

Keep Moisture Out

The wood-eating bugs also love moisture, so make sure you have good ventilation in your kitchen and bathrooms. Seal areas of your home like the crawlspace. Broken seals, cracked walls, and other gaps will welcome species such as carpenter ants, pavement ants, odorous house ants, and varied carpet beetles right into your bedroom or hall closet.

Avoid Storing Items for Too Long Without Inspecting Them

Inspect your heirloom clothing regularly, as well as clothing that’s stored and items you don’t wear often. Make sure the area where you store clothing stays as clean as possible, whether it’s a trunk, the attic, or a closet. Untouched places will most likely house moth infestation and a termite swarm when it’s not acted on immediately.

Learn more: Treatment Options for Flying Termite Prevention

Stop Flying Termites From Damaging Your Clothes With Midway Pest Management

Make your clothing and home less appealing to termites when you take steps to stop their destructive advances. While there are things you can do to prevent clothing moths, bed bugs, and other insect species from getting into your things, working with a local pest control company is always a faster, more effective solution. Midway Pest Management can help provide you with the best strategies for termite treatment and termite prevention or against other pest infestations. Give us a call today to know more about us and our services.


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