Termites in Trees [Prevent, Identify, & Treat Them]

Location, Termites in Trees

While most people know that termites can infest homes and damage entire structures, fewer people realize that termites in trees can cause serious problems too. Termites can infest trees and even form several massive termite colonies within a single tree. They can then eventually make their way to your home or damage the tree enough that it can fall and damage your property. If you have a yard and garden area with trees in it that you care about, take the time to learn about the dangers that termites can pose to your trees.

(Video showing worker termites under tree bark.)

Why do termites infest trees?

All termite species eat cellulose material, and since trees contain cellulose, they’re an attractive food source for termites, offering a near-perfect location for termites to establish a colony thanks to a large food source and protection from termites’ predators.

Termites often gain entry to tree trunks via hollow centers, infesting trees from the inside and progressing outward. Eventually, termites will make their way through the inner core of a tree back toward the outside surface of the tree.

termites crawling along tree bark
Soldier termites crawling along tree bark

Any termite holes you find on the surface of a tree likely serve as a door for them to return outside the tree for foraging and exploring for new food (cellulose) sources. But keep in mind that many other bugs can also bore holes into trees, so ensure you properly identify the culprit.

There are many reasons behind the infestation of trees by some termite species:

  • Food source: If the tree is currently alive, then termites will invade it through the hollow center and start eating wood in the main trunk, which will cause immediate death to the tree.

If a tree is already dead, then the favorite food for termites is decayed wood where a lot of dead cellulose can be found and used to synthesize energy. Decayed wood is easier for termites to move into and turn into a nest for their colony too.

  • Moisture Source: Subterranean termites need high levels of moisture, preferring sufficiently wet underground soil. Since trees contain water, they provide termites with enough moisture and cool air to help termite colonies survive inside them.
  • Safety: Termites seek protection for their colonies, and trees offer a safe area for them to build their nest and form their colony away from humans, birds, lizards, and other termite predators.

A dead tree in the backyard can also camouflage termites’ existence, they choose the dead tree to form a massive colony underneath it and start using this source as a permanent source of food and camouflage from humans.

  • Source of darkness: Termites are blind social insects that prefer the dark and tree trunks or dead trees can provide the source of darkness that termites like.

Trees provides all the great conditions for an appropriate life of a colony, some trees can lead colonies to live up to 100 years if they are not recognized. Besides, trees are a natural treasure that must be protected of termite infestations.

How to inspect trees for signs of termites

Signs of termite infestations in trees

Wherever they go, termites leave clues you can follow. They always leave signs that allow their extermination, and you need to know about these signs so you can prevent having destructive termites in your beautiful trees.

formosan termite mud tubes going up tree's trunk
  1. Termite nests: When termites infest trees, they can form a large colony. If this happens, termite nests become clearly, identifiable, through the hollow center. A pile of mud and fecal pellets appear on the tree trunk or may cover the entire tree surface, which means the tree is suffering from thorough termite infestation and there may be an established colony underneath the tree.
  2. Frequency of holes in the tree trunk: Termites make holes in the wood of the tree trunk in order to make the shifting from the inside to the outside easier and to provide the inner space with some cool air. The frequency of these holes in a single tree can be a sign of the existence of a termite colony.
  3. Mud tubes or tunnels: Finding mud tubes means subterranean termites infestation takes place, even when an infestation in a tree is occurring, termites build mud tunnels from the base of the tree along the trunk to protect the trip between their underground nest in the soil and their food source—the tree trunk.
  4. Termite swarmers: Often in spring or summer (this may vary depending on where you live though), you might identify termite swarmers (winged termites) emerging from your trees if you have termite-infested trees.
Video showing subterranean termite mud shelter tubes on a tree.

Swarming is necessary for some termite species to guarantee the survival of their colony. Termite swarmers are reproductive termites that fly from one colony (which could. be in your tree) to new locations, attempting to establish new colonies by mating and when they arrive.

If numerous trees in on your property become infested with termites, they will be more difficult to treat than treating a termite colony in a single tree. So, if you see termites in a tree, even though most termite infestations progress slowly, it’s best to take action right away rather than waiting so you don’t end up dealing with a multi-tree termite infestation on your property.

Termites can be useful for agriculture

Termites are, truly, destructive and they cause a lot of damage either to your house or to your garden. But they were not created in the eco-system only to cause damage, they, also, have several advantages in agriculture. I mean, farmers don’t use termites to damage their trees, but in a natural setting, termites have a significant role in recycling biomaterial.

Termites are natural recyclers of cellulose eaten from wood or plants; they get it back to the soil as organic feces for the use of plants or animals. In this case, termites are good for the ecosystem as they recycle dead wood and make it appropriate for reuse.

Treating termites is necessary wherever they are, either inside the house or in the backyard garden. It is true that termites recycle wood and make it useful, but when a huge-scale colony infests a tree, it becomes a pest and it harms the tree until it kills it. There are many eligible ways to treat termites and you need to contact a pest control expert to help you identify your kind of infestation and then give you the best extermination plan.

Termites in tree stumps

Quite a few people have written me after seeing termites on a tree stump near or on their property. Seeing termites anywhere near their property makes people understandably nervous. In this section, I’ll address some common questions I’ve heard about termites in tree stumps including whether termites are attracted to stumps, how to prevent termites from infesting stumps, whether you need to worry about termites in tree stumps near your home, and how to get rid of termites in stumps.

(Video of termite swarmers inside an old stump. It’s good to remove old tree stumps because they can attract termites to your yard and thus closer to your house and your neighbors’ homes).

Do tree stumps attract termites?

Tree stumps can attract termites. Dampwood and subterranean termites are attracted to decaying wood. From the ground, they can discover an old stump and infest it. It is possible for them to move from a stump to your home, so removing the stump is a good idea if you find termites or signs of termites on a stump in your yard.

How to prevent termites in tree stumps

The most reliable method is to completely remove the stump, but some folks prefer keeping certain stumps for aesthetic purposes or as seats. If you don’t want to remove it, treat the top and sides of your stump with three or more coats of polyurethane wood sealant. This will not termite-proof stump, but it can deter termites. You could also apply termiticide

What to do about termites in a tree stump near your house

If you find termites in a tree stump near your house, call a pest control professional to get an inspection. It’s possible that termites migrate into your home from an infested tree stump near your house—particularly if they’re subterranean termites. You should remove the stump, but that will not necessarily destroy a subterranean termite colony because they live in the ground under the stump, only using the stump for food.

Removing their food source would cause them to explore nearby for new food sources which may push them toward your home. This is why it’s best to have a pest control professional take a look and offer you some options.

How do you treat a tree stump for termites?

To exterminate termites in a tree stump you can use Dominion 2L insecticide. Drill some injection holes and pour Dominion 2L into the stump, letting it seep in. You can also dig a trench around the stump (though roots will make this difficult) and pour Dominion 2L into the trench to get to subterranean termite colonies in the soil near the stump.

An easier option is to simply remove the stump but before doing so, it’s a good idea to exterminate the termites, particularly if they’re subterranean termites, so they don’t spread to other trees or your house (assuming they haven’t already). If you know you have termites in a stump, it’s best to get a professional termite inspection to ensure termites didn’t make their way to your home.

What happens if termites make a tree hollow?

If termites make a tree hollow, the tree becomes weak and can easily fall over, especially in bad weather. This is dangerous for anything or anyone nearby. The hollow tree can also attract more bugs and diseases. If you see termites in a tree, it’s important to deal with the tree (which usually means cutting it down) right away to avoid bigger problems.

(Video showing how to test if tree is hollow by tapping with a hammer)

Further resources for dealing with termites in your trees

  1. Termites Go Hungry on Resistant Trees – USDA Agricultural Research Service
  2. Termites and Cedar Timber – MyTermiteTreatmentCosts.com
  3. Subterranean and Other Termites – University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources
  4. Different Types of Tree Termites – MyTermiteTreatmentCosts.com
  5. Florida dampwood termites – University of Florida’s Featured Creatures
  6. Resins Rid Termites from Trees – CMU.edu

Termite Treatment for Specific Trees

  1. Termites in Palm Trees (Signs of Them + Treatment Options)
  2. Termites in Pine Trees (Signs of Them + Treatment Options)
  3. Termites in Oak Trees [Identify, Treat & Prevent Them]
  4. Termites in Maple Trees [Identify, Treat & Prevent Them]
  5. Termites in Fruit Trees [Identify, Treat & Prevent Them]

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