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Eradicating insect pest infestations from homes is usually difficult, but in some cases, it can be even more difficult to detect insect pest infestations in homes. For example, German cockroaches maintain a daytime presence within obscured indoor areas, such as in wall-voids, behind furniture and in a variety of inaccessible areas where they remain hidden from human sight, but even the most cryptic of insect pests, like cockroaches, leave signs of their presence indoors. Cockroach infestations can often be detected by the musty odor that the pests secrete from their bodies. While roach infestations can be hard to detect, many pest control professionals consider termites to be the most difficult insect pests to detect within homes.

The subterranean termites that commonly infest structures in the northeast leave behind what are called “shelter tubes,” or “mud tubes,” along the foundations of the homes that they infest. Mud tubes are built by termites in order to enable the insects to travel in between the indoor wood sources that they infest and the moist soil where they retain water. Mud tubes protrude from the soil and lead into indoor structural wood through the narrowest of foundation cracks. The presence of mud tubes along a home’s foundation clearly indicate a past or current subterranean termite infestation. However, not many homeowners are aware that subterranean termites construct several different types of mud tubes on properties that can give away their presence before they establish infestations.

The type of mud tubes that most people are familiar with are known as “working tubes,” but “exploratory” tubes can be found protruding from the soil in random areas around a home, and especially within crawl spaces. Unlike working mud tubes that appear like narrow tracks running lengthwise along foundations, exploratory mud tubes resemble thin mounds that come to a point, but do not make contact with structural wood. These mud tubes look like ground level stalactites, and they do not contain active termites, but their presence indicates a termite presence. Another type of termite mud tube, “drop tubes,” could be considered the opposite o working tubes, as drop tubes are constructed from the infested wood source and down to the ground soil. These mud tubes are not commonly found along foundations; instead, drop tubes are usually located in crawl spaces and wall-voids where they connect wood floorboards and joists to the ground soil. Lastly, “swarming tubes” are constructed solely as an exit for swarming reproductive termites (alates). Swarming mud tubes are only constructed once a colony has matured enough to produce reproductive alates, and these tubes often resemble clumps of vertically standing dirt rather than hollow tubes. Swarming mud tubes can often be found protruding from cracks in concrete slabs and infested wood, and their presence in a home indicates a sizable infestation.

Have you ever spotted any of the mud tubes described in this blog?