Subterranean termites feed exclusively on wood and wood products containing cellulose. Termites have protozoa (microorganisms) in their intestines that provide enzymes to digest cellulose. Although termites are soft-bodied insects, their hard, saw-toothed jaws work like shears and are able to bite off extremely small fragments of wood, a piece at a time.
Termites often infest buildings and damage lumber, wood panels, flooring, sheetrock, wallpaper, plastics, paper products and fabric made of plant fibers. The most serious damage is the loss of structural strength.
Other costly losses include attacks on flooring, roofs, carpeting, art work, books, clothing, furniture and valuable papers. Subterranean termites do not attack live trees.