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Like all subterranean termite species, eastern subterranean termites in the northeast live in colonies below the ground where they cannot be seen by homeowners. Subterranean termites remain invisible after workers infest above ground structural wood within homes, but the mud tubes they build to access structural wood are very much visible. Unlike drywood termite infestations that see entire colonies infest structural wood, only workers from subterranean termite colonies infest structural wood. Workers travel back and forth between structural wood and their below ground colonies in order to deliver bits of wood to their hungry nestmates. Workers construct mud tubes out of a hardening mixture of saliva, soil, feces and bits of wood, and these tubes are usually found running vertically along the foundation walls of infested homes, but they may also be found in crawl spaces or connected to wooden patios. Finding mud tubes indicates that subterranean termites have established an infestation within a home.

Light to dark brown mud tubes are as narrow as a pencil, but they may be slightly larger, and when they are found, homeowners should break them to see if worker termites come flooding out. However, if breaking mud tubes does not reveal workers, it could be that workers simply abandoned those mud tubes, and an infestation may still be active. If homeowners find that broken mud tubes have been rebuilt, then an active infestation must exist. Old mud tubes that are leftover from past infestations are particularly dry and fragile. If old mud tubes are found, then the home’s history of past infestations should be checked.

Most mud tubes are found protruding from the ground along foundation walls. Amazingly, these mud tubes squeeze through narrow cracks or crevices in brick or cement foundations where they lead to indoor substructural wood componentes, like sills, joists, beams, headers or footers. During the warmer months, homeowners should inspect their crawl space with a flashlight to see if any mud tubes have been constructed beneath a home. If fresh mud tubes are found, a pest control professional should be contacted as soon as possible so that a proper inspection can be carried out.

Have you ever found mud tubes within your crawl space?