What Do Termites Eat for Breakfast? {The Joke and The Truth Explained}

Have you heard this joke before? What Do Termites Eat for Breakfast?


Are you wondering if termites only eat wood? Why do they love wood so much and what else do termites eat?

In this article, we’ll find out what termites eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

What Do Termites Eat for Breakfast?

Oakmeal. Just kidding. The real answer is cellulose.

Termites make meals out of oak and many forms of wood from paper to even stacks of money. Be careful with your wooden soles on your favorite dress shoes. Termites are looking for cellulose wherever they can find it.

Wood is an excellent source of cellulose and anything that is made of wood is fair game. Termites live to eat. Always consult a professional and get an inspection in your home if you see any signs of termites eating through wood or wood based items.

What Is a Termite’s Favorite Food?

It doesn’t matter if it’s morning, noon or night, these termites are looking for cellulose. Cellulose is the staple diet for termites. They can find and absorb it from the following sources:

  • wood
  • grass
  • leaves
  • humus
  • manure from herbivores animals
  • paper
  • cardboard
  • cotton

This list grows when you think of all wood derivatives and any items in your home made of wood. The best wood for termites is one that is partly decayed or shows cracks and openings through it for swarms of termites to enter and devour.

Do Termites Eat?

Yes. Termites are not just living in wood, they are eating it up. The wood is rich source of cellulose and nutrients. It sustains termites and allows their colonies to swell to astronomical numbers.

Termites posses protozoa, which is a bacteria that causes illnesses on many animals like fish, but it’s actually very helpful to these pests.

Protozoa helps termites break down cellulose in their guts. They ingest fibers of wood and the bacteria does the rest by making the cellulose available in the wood to sustain and nourish them.

This is very difficult for other creatures in the nature to copy, leaving termites to enjoy a food source without much competition.

Do Termites Eat Meat?

No. A termite is considered a detritivore. The diet of a termite mainly consists of:

  • wood
  • decaying plants
  • fungi
  • roots
  • manure from herbivores

Termite have adapted to find nutrients out of things that we would never think could be considered food. This is because they have discovered how to absorb cellulose from these natural sources.

The unique ability to use gut bacteria to pull out cellulose out of debris, fungi and even manure from plant eating organisms gives termites an incredible advantage for survival.

They do not need to protect or conserve food for the winter when it is so widely available since other creatures are unable to do what they do to ingest a nutrient dense source of cellulose.

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What is a Cellulose Made Of?

Cellulose is fiber made of Sugar molecules. Can Humans Digest Cellulose? No. Do Termites Eat Cellulose? Absolutely. Why Do Termites Eat Cellulose? Because they can!

Cellulose difficult to digest. It is made of sugar molecules that form a long fibrous chain. Cellulose is found is the cell walls of plants and traces of it are found in plant based foods that we eat.

This fiber is insoluble and passes through our guts without much else going on, but it’s completely different for termites. They have a special ability to break down cellulose with protozoa bacteria in their gut to digest rich nutrients from within.

Will Termites Eat Sugar?

Yes, but this isn’t the same sugar that you are thinking of. The sugar that termites desire in contained in a long chain of molecules that form cellulose found in wood.

Worker termites are busy passing on the cellulose that is a sugar based substance to other termites through mouth-to-mouth feeding.

Once they discover wooden structures or anything made of wood, they will aim to chew through it to obtain the sugar molecules that are found in cellulose which is rich and dense in many forms of wood.

Each species of termite aims to target different types of wood, but they must all consider the well-being of their colonies and there is no better source of nutrition for them than cellulose.

What Food Does the Queen of Termites Eat?

The Queen termite does not have to chew through wood. Her workers will feed her directly. They will pass the cellulose they have extracted from wood into the mouth of their Queen.

The workers are feeding on wood all day and turning it into cellulose with the help of their gut bacteria. They bring back the cellulose and regurgitate it into the mouth of their Queen.

She can rest while they lick her clean and feed her the best nutrients without having to venture out.


The next time you hear the children’s joke, “What Does A Termite Eat For Breakfast?”, you will know the silly answer and the real truth behind it. “Oakmeal” is not a real word, but the quirky joke refers to oak and other wood as rich sources of cellulose that termites crave and desire to stay alive.

They can extract cellulose in such an efficient way that the Queen can lay back and wait for her breakfast to be delivered to her. She waits for her workers to turn wood into cellulose in their guts with the help of bacteria known as protozoa.

Once they have this sugary and fibrous substance within their bodies, they return to the colony headquarters to satisfy their Queen with her meals each and every day.

We can admire the effort and ability of termites in their capability to turn wood, decaying plants or even the manure of herbivorous animals into a rich nutrient known as cellulose that keeps their colonies thriving. Our only wish is that they do this in nature and far away from our properties.


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Jason Barrett

Hello, I'm Jason. I have 11 years of experience in dealing with pests. I try to provide you the best information that'll help you to make the pest control process easy & affordable