Termites are fascinating insects, but they can cause significant damage to homes and businesses. That is why it is essential to take the proper steps if you find a termite tube. Keep reading to learn all about these mysterious mud tubes and what to do if you spot one around your home.
What Is a Termite Tube?
A termite tube is a thin structure made from mud and wood pulp. It serves as a protected highway for termites to travel from one area to another. They allow termites to:
Many tubes extend between the ground and the wood sill plate on a building. These are known as working tubes and are used to enter and exit the structure. There are also hanging tubes, which you may find extending from floor joists in basements or crawlspaces or ceilings inside a home with a heavy infestation.
Why Do Termites Build Them?
Subterranean termites live all (or almost all) of their lives underground. Their bodies require high moisture levels, which are found in the soil. For most termites, exposure to the air and sun will cause them to dry out. As a result, they travel through the soil, wood, or wood fiber materials. When they must go from one area to another, with no direct, protected route, termites build thin tubes out of mud and bits of wood or fibrous materials.
So, just like a subway allows people to travel from one place to another without dealing with traffic and road conditions, a termite tube lets the colony move from one area to another without exposing themselves to the outside environment.
How Do Termites Make Mud Tubes?
Subterranean termites make a sort of plaster from soil and wood mixed with their droppings and saliva. The termites will start applying this to a surface they want to travel over and gradually build up the structure until it forms a tube. It is lengthened as they go forward. An exploratory termite tube can be constructed in just a few days; however, a whole tube will usually take a few weeks to build.
Can You Just Take Mud Tubes Down?
Many homeowners mistakenly believe removing any visible mud tubes will eliminate the termite problem. However, it will just force them to make new tubes. Alternatively, if they have already settled into another portion of your home, they may not even notice the broken tunnel. You might think the problem is solved when, in reality, it is just growing in another part of the house. For these reasons, removing a termite tube yourself is generally not a good idea.
You might want to break a small portion of a tube to determine if it is active. If you decide to give this a try, follow these steps:
Knock out a small portion of the tube — no more than a couple of inches. If it is active, there may be termites moving inside. Leave it otherwise undisturbed and inspect it daily. If there are termites still using it occasionally, they will try to repair the tube. On the other hand, if it remains broken after several days or a week, it is probably no longer active.
An inactive tube does not mean you are termite-free. Remember that termites build tubes to avoid exposure to the outside air. If the access tubes are inactive, the termites can easily have moved on to another area of the house and are now happily tunneling through the wood there.
What Should I Do if I Find a Termite Tube in My Home?
Now that you know a bit about termite behavior and why they build tubes, let's look at what to do if you find one around your home.
This is a crucial first step. The sight of a termite tube can cause a moment of panic. Your mind might automatically conjure up images of termites crawling through the house's framing or tunnel-marked wood struggling to hold walls up. However, in most cases, especially if you are vigilant about monitoring your home for signs of pests, that is not realistic. So take a moment to collect your thoughts and remain calm as you address the situation.
Inspect the Termite Tube
Take a few minutes to inspect the termite tunnel. Be careful not to disturb it if you can help it. Consider these things to look out for: Is the mud moist and fresh-looking, or is it dry and crumbling? This can help you determine if it is an active tube or an abandoned one. Remember that an old tube doesn't necessarily mean you don't have an active problem; the termites could simply be in another area of the home now.
Are there any signs of termites going into or out of the tube? This is a surefire way to know if there is current activity.
Call in a Professional
Professional termite control experts have the training and equipment to handle termite infestations in homes and businesses, which is why calling one if you find a termite tube is your best course of action. First, our technicians will determine if the tube you found is active, and then they will dig deeper into the situation.
We can often determine where the termites are and then destroy the entire colony. Because termites can control a large portion of land, sometimes traveling up to 200 feet from the nest to find food, this can be a highly complex process. However, we use bait stations to effectively attract termites who then bring the poison back to the rest of their colony.
How Will You Handle Termite Tubes?
Now that you know the best thing to do if you find a termite tube around your home, the next steps should be easy. First, no matter how gross the tubes may seem, try to remain calm and inspect them for moisture content or visible activity. Then, contact our office to schedule a professional inspection. Our technicians at Bug Ninja Pest Control know the correct way to handle termite mud tubes to eliminate the infestation at its source.
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I really enjoy researching and writing about pests. The more we know about bugs, the easier it becomes to control them.