Do Termites Eat Cardboard? Uncovering the Truth About Their Diet

folder_openInsecta, Isoptera
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Termites are known for their voracious appetite for wood, but these insects aren’t picky when it comes to finding other sources of cellulose. Cardboard, being a derivative of wood pulp, is also an attractive meal for termites. This article will discuss the relationship between termites and cardboard and will offer insights into how homeowners and businesses can protect their property from unwanted termite damage.

For example, termites don’t just target wooden structures and furniture; they can also tunnel through the cardboard covering of sheetrock walls or even munch on stacks of old paper and books. As such, it’s important to maintain proper preventive measures to ward off these destructive pests from causing extensive damage to both wood and cardboard-containing items.

Some termite prevention tips include regularly inspecting your property for signs of infestation, clearing away potential food sources, and ensuring proper moisture control. Keep an eye out for mud tubes, soft wood or blistering paint – these can be indicators of a termite problem. Also, consider storing cardboard boxes and paper materials in secure, termite-proof containers to reduce the risk of attracting these pests.

Understanding Termites’ Diet

Primary Food Source: Cellulose

Termites are insects known for their ability to consume cellulose, a major component in plant materials. Examples of cellulose-rich items include wood, dead leaves, and paper. As such, termites can eat cardboard, which is made of cellulose.

The cellulose content in various materials:

  • Wood
  • Cardboard
  • Dead leaves
  • Paper products

Feeding Habits and Nutritional Needs

Termites can be classified based on their feeding habits, which include:

  • Subterranean termites: live below ground, eat wood and damp materials
  • Drywood termites: live above ground, consume dry wood

The difference in feeding habits affects nutritional intake:

HabitatPreferred MaterialsMoisture Content
Below GroundWood, damp materialsHigh
Above GroundDry woodLow

Factors contributing to termites’ feeding preferences include:

  • Moisture content in materials
  • Accessibility of cellulose-rich materials
  • Environmental conditions

Examples of termite-damaged items:

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Wooden furniture
  • Bookshelves

In summary, termites eat cellulose-rich materials, which include cardboard. Their diet varies based on their habitat and feeding habits. It’s important to be aware of termite activity to prevent damage to property.

Cardboard as a Termite Attraction

Why Termites Are Attracted to Cardboard

Termites are attracted to cardboard because it is made up of cellulose, a main component of their diet. Furthermore, damp cardboard provides both food and moisture, creating an ideal environment for them to thrive.

For instance:

  • Dampwood termites prefer wood with high moisture content.
  • Drywood termites infest dry wood, though cardboard can still be a food source.
  • Subterranean termites, commonly found in the southern US, are the most problematic and can damage cardboard items as well.

The likelihood of a termite infestation increases when damp cardboard is exposed to moisture and poor air circulation, such as in basements or crawl spaces with leaks.

Cardboard Boxes and Other Household Items

Household items made of cardboard can also attract termites in different ways:

  • Cardboard boxes are commonly found in storage areas and can become damp from leaks, making them susceptible to termite infestations.
  • Wallpaper and paint-covered surfaces can show signs of termite infestations, such as narrow, sunken winding lines or sunken areas in the finish, caused by termites feeding on the cardboard covering of sheetrock.

Some items that could potentially attract termites:

  • Cardboard boxes in damp environments
  • Sheetrock with cardboard covering
  • Wallpaper backed with cardboard

To prevent termite infestations, it’s crucial to:

  • Eliminate moisture in storage areas
  • Repair leaks and improve air circulation
  • Regularly inspect items and store in plastic containers when possible

Pros and Cons of Cardboard Boxes

InexpensiveCan attract termites
Easy to sourceSusceptible to moisture damage
BiodegradableLess durable than plastic containers

In summary, it’s important to be aware that cardboard can be an attractant for termites, especially when combined with damp conditions and poor air ventilation. Becoming proactive in reducing moisture and using alternative storage options can help minimize the risk of termite infestations.

Damage and Signs of Infestation

Termite Damage to Cardboard and Other Household Materials

Termites are known to cause significant damage to various household materials. They primarily feed on wood, but can also attack other items such as:

  • Cardboard
  • Books
  • Drywall
  • Fabric
  • Carpet

These pests may even tunnel through non-cellulose materials like plastic to reach their food sources. While termites rarely target living plants, they can cause damage to damp or decaying wood in your garden.

In general, termite damage occurs gradually, but it can lead to severe consequences if left untreated.

Recognizing Signs of Termite Infestation

To prevent termite infestations and minimize property damage, it is essential to recognize the early signs of their presence. Some common indicators include:

  • Mud tubes on walls, especially near the soil
  • Damaged or hollow-sounding wood
  • Discarded wings near windows or doors
  • Clicking sounds from within walls
IndicatorCaused by
Mud tubesSubterranean termites
Hollow-sounding woodDrywood and dampwood termites
Discarded wingsSwarmers or reproductive termites
Clicking soundsTermites communicating

If you suspect a termite infestation, it is advisable to contact a professional pest control expert immediately to assess the situation and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Preventing and Controlling Termite Infestations

  • Maintain a dry environment: Termites thrive in moist conditions, so minimize moisture around the foundation and inside the house.
  • Clear debris: Keep mulch, firewood, and cardboard away from the foundation, as they attract termites and provide food sources.
  • Monitor wooden structures: Ensure porches, decks, and fences are in good condition, and fix any rot or damage promptly.

Regular inspections by a pest control professional can also help detect and prevent termite infestations. Check for telltale signs such as mud tubes on walls, sagging floors, and hollow-sounding wood.

Termite Control Methods

There are two primary methods to control termites: using a barrier system or baiting systems.

Barrier System
A soil-applied barrier treatment helps protect the home by repelling termites. However, improper application can cause contamination.


  • Effective at preventing infestations
  • Long-lasting


  • Requires professional installation
  • Potential for contamination

Baiting Systems
Termite bait stations can be placed around the foundation. Termites consume the bait and take it back to their colonies, eventually killing them.


  • Less invasive
  • Targets the entire colony


  • Requires ongoing monitoring
  • May take longer to work
MethodBarrier SystemBaiting System
Speed of actionFasterSlower
Environmental impactModerateLower

Remember to consult a pest control professional to identify the best approach for your specific situation. While silverfish may not require the same level of intervention as termites, it’s always essential to take action when any type of insect infestation occurs.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Termites from Indonesia

Subject:  what’s this bug?
Geographic location of the bug:  bali, indonesia
Date: 01/21/2020
Time: 02:07 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  hi, I found these bugs just chilling on my doorstep. it keeps coming even though we sprayed just a week ago with bug sprays. it’s like a colony of ants, brown and red colors, has black claws on the head. but I’m not sure its ants because of the size and proportions are not like ants I ever know, they are too fat for ants and has short legs to be a sun spider. I can’t get a detailed image with my phone though, because I’m too scared to get too close and seeing those big head with those claws (i have severe allergic reactions to insect bites) and I really want to know what are those things living on my doorstep, is it dangerous?
my door made out of wood – we living in Bali close to the beach (if that’d help)
How you want your letter signed:  Defina


Dear Defina,
This is a colony of Termites, and they are likely feeding on the wooden frame of your house.  The large heads makes us suspect they are members of the soldier caste.  You can locate additional information on Asian Scientist and on Rentokil where it states:  “Soldiers defend the colony against attack by predatory enemies such as ants, and are equipped with large jaws, sticky fluids or chemical spray to do so.”


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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Tags: Termites

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • I live in Pennsylvania and discovered termites last year after bombing my home for flies; it must have angered the termites because that’s when I noticed being sprayed/spit on by something. To make a long story short, I did see one soldier termite inside my home and another outside during the day by a Maple tree — verifying that I did have a subterraneans. It got worse! I discovered things that are NOT termites, but more on that later (I’ll be sending pictures for ID). My issue now is I’ve gone through the spraying liquid and the exploding phase, but now I’m being gassed and need to know how toxic it is to humans?
    Thank you,
    Rich from PA.


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