What are Termite Mud Tubes? 

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People often ask, “What are termite mud tubes?” Unfortunately, termites are extremely common in the Phoenix area. Mud tubes are pathways termites use to connect colonies in the soil to food sources above ground. Tubes work as a shelter to protect termites from predators.  In addition, these tunnels lock in moisture needed for termites to survive. Continue reading to learn more about mud tube types, how to identify them, and most importantly, how to protect your home from becoming a termite colony’s next lunch. 

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What is a Termite Tube? 

A termite mud tube is a tunnel used by subterranean termites to help protect them from drying out and from predators. These tubes are composed of soil, wood, and saliva. Mud tubes shelter termites while they are working and obtaining substance. 

What Do Termite Tubes Look Like? 

Termite tubes are generally ¼ to 1 inch in diameter and look like veins being spread across your foundation, ceiling, or walls. The color of these tubes varies based on how dense and active the infestation. Regardless of the density, shape, or color, discovering termite tubes should not be taken lightly as it indicates you have an infestation and should take immediate action. Just removing the tubes isn’t enough. Termites work quickly and will rebuild tubes in no time at all.

Types of Termite Tubes 

There are four primary types of termite tubes. They vary in structure and function. 

Exploration Tubes 

Exploratory tubes are used in search of food sources. Growing as high as 15 feet above ground, these thin and delicate mud tubes can be quite prominent. Coming from the soil, but not connecting to a food source, they have a unique look. By the time they are discovered, these exploratory tubes have usually been abandoned. Abandoned exploration tubes are never a good sign as it indicates termites have ventured deeper into a structure to find food.

Working Tubes

Working tubes are essentially the transport tunnels between food sources and the termites’ nest. Working tubes are built to be more durable than exploration tubes to allow for long-distance travel along foundations and walls. Commonly found in places like window frames, subflooring, and under porches and decks. 

Swarm Tubes 

When winged swarmer (alate) termites prepare to leave and start new colonies, the scene can be quite chaotic. Worker termites build temporary swarm tubes to help protect and organize the swarmers. Also referred to as swarm castles, these tubes can be very large in size, up to four feet wide. When ready to move out, workers direct the winged swarmers out of the swarm castle.

Drop Tubes 

Drop tubes are easy to identify because they often resemble stalagmites in caves.  Lighter in color than other mud tubes, drop tubes contain more wood fibers and less mud.  Coming from the ceiling of structures, drop tubes try to make a connection with working tubes, making food sources more accessible for termite workers, and increasing humidity by reestablishing contact with the soil. 

Why Are Termite Tubes Bad? 

Mud tubes alone aren’t the problem, the issue is what they imply.  Providing a protected gateway into your home, mud tubes are a sure sign of infestation. If you stumble upon a termite mud tube, take immediate action. 

Where Can People See Termite Tubes? 

Termite mud tubes are most easily spotted along exterior concrete walls or your home’s foundation. Sometimes they are difficult to detect because they’re hidden in places like crawlspaces, cracks in your foundation, behind baseboards, or inside your walls. 

Preventing Termites in Your Arizona Home 

Termites are so common in Arizona that it isn’t a question of if you’ll deal with them, but when. Termites are the most destructive urban pest in Arizona.

Because termites are such a problem, we’ve compiled a list of some preventative termite prevention methods: 

  1. Seal all gaps and cracks in your home, including cracks around water and gas lines, damaged siding, and windows and doors. 
  2. Keep wood piles, lumber, and piles of paper away from the foundation of your home. 
  3. Make sure your plants and trees aren’t leaning onto the roof of your home. Termites will use them as highways to make their way into your home. Vegetation can also act as shelter for termites and other insects. 
  4. Routinely check any of your external wooden structures for signs of rotting or infested wood. This would include sheds, fences, and decks. 
  5. Most importantly, get a routine termite inspection by a professional pest control company in your area. This could save you thousands of dollars in the long run. Reputable companies will often offer free termite inspections, so you have nothing to lose. 

What Are Termite Mud Tubes Conclusion 

Termite mud tubes by themselves pose no danger, but what’s inside could be wreaking havoc on your home.  Should you discover a termite mud tube, reach out to Blue Sky Pest Control. We’ve been protecting homes from termites and other Arizona pests for 20 years. Our team of highly trained, high-character technicians will create a custom termite treatment plan and restore your peace of mind knowing your home is safe.

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