The eastern subterranean termite is the most widespread, and therefore, the most destructive termite species in the United States. This species can be found throughout the eastern US, as well as in several states west of the Mississippi River, and it’s the only termite species that inhabits Massachusetts. Subterranean termite colonies contain three main castes known as soldiers, workers and the royal pair (queen and king). Colonies inhabit nests that are located below the ground where workers regularly seek out food sources away from the nest. A small number of soldiers accompany workers while they forage, but most non-worker termites never leave the nest. Subterranean termites feed on the cellulose contained in dead plant matter found below the ground, but sometimes foraging workers will stumble upon a timber-framed house.
In order for subterranean termite workers to establish an above ground infestation without succumbing to the dry outside air, they create “mud tubes” that directly connect the ground soil to indoor structural wood sources. These mud tubes are usually located on the foundation of infested homes, and amazingly, the tubes are constructed to reach indoor structural wood sources by squeezing through extremely narrow foundation cracks. Due to their usual underground habitat, subterranean termites are usually found infesting structural wood near the foundation of homes, but a recent study has revealed that eastern subterranean termites make use of many entry points in order to establish infestations within homes.
According to a study of 46 properties that had been infested with eastern subterranean termites, infestations were most frequently found in bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms and utility rooms. Out of the 46 houses surveyed, 32 percent saw eastern subterranean termite infestations in bathrooms, 14.3 percent in kitchens, 35.7 percent in living rooms, and 18 percent in utility rooms. According to the study’s authors, water and utility lines provide eastern subterranean termites with a direct pathway into homes, specifically, bathrooms, kitchens, and utility rooms. Following water and utility lines into homes also provides termites with direct access to the most moisture-rich structural wood sources in a home, which the termite pests need to survive. Homeowners should take the time to locate and seal the gaps that surround utility cable and pipe openings on a home’s exterior.
Have you ever worried about insects and spiders entering your home by following utility cables that lead indoors?