Identifying Termite Tubes

If you're concerned about whether or not your home has termites, you may have heard that termite tubes are one sign these insects are present. Termites aren't able to live in dry conditions, so they need shelter to move. They build tubes up foundations and across other surfaces they can't dig through, looking for wood and other cellulose to feed off of. These tubes are built out of soil and termite feces, and allow these bugs to bring their preferred damp environment along with them. Tubes of this kind can let termites into your home without you noticing.

It's easy not to see tubes like this being built. They're usually constructed in dark, moist corners where they're hard to see. If you have shrubs or bushes in front of the house, they might also obscure the tubes as they're being constructed. Look for long, thin tubes of dirt stretching along your foundations if you're not sure what you might find. They can be built extremely quickly.

In one case, tubes were scraped off, and within forty-eight hours, two feet of mud tube had been rebuilt. That's why you have to be attentive when it comes to removing these tubes - termites are capable of putting them back extremely quickly. You'll need to look for and remove them on a regular basis if you want to keep these bugs from infesting your home. Prevention is much better than trying to fight them once they're established.

A tube with a wet tube is actively being constructed, and has termites in it when you're looking at it. If you look at it long enough, you'll even see termites poke their heads out from time to time! The tube is built one tiny piece of mud at a time, and can be incredibly long. These bugs will keep building until they find a food source! If you break open a tube, you may see termites scuttling away inside it. These will generally be worker caste.

Termites don't just build their tubes on the outside of your home, however. They can also construct tubes out of mud and other materials inside your home, if they're on any material that's not conducive to making tunnels. Once they reach wood, they start tunneling into it, creating their preferred environment inside it. That's why they're so hard to see. If you see a channel in the outside of a piece of wood, it's because termites have been in it for some time, and have exhausted their supply inside. Holes made by termites in the outside of a piece of wood indicate a lot of damage has already been done inside.

Anyone who lives in an area where termites are common should take a walk around and make sure that there are no termite tubes leading up onto their foundation. Tubes of this kind can be built extremely quickly, and aren't always noticable. If you see a tube, remove it. Keep bushes, pieces of wood, and other objects that termites can eat off the ground near your home, too. That'll keep termites from getting a foothold and establishing the colony that could destroy your home.

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By Frank Reece. Page last modified Nov. 10, 2008.

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