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Eradicating a pest infestation within a home is always a challenging task, but some pests are more difficult to control than others. Most insect pests pose nothing more than a temporary nuisance within the homes they invade. However, some of the most commonly managed insect pests will remain within homes indefinitely without professional pest control intervention. These insect pests include German cockroaches, bed bugs, and termites, and they all establish indoor harborages that are located within inaccessible locations that cannot be readily inspected or treated by pest control professionals. This is especially true for subterranean termites because they dwell solely within the ground soil or within wood where they remain completely concealed from view. Although modern homes are designed to be well protected from subterranean termite attacks, the pests still manage to travel into homes along hidden pathways, and their tiny bodies allow them to squeeze through cracks and crevices as narrow as 1/32 of an inch in width.

Subterranean termite workers leave nests to forage, and they are the only termites that infest wood. Workers easily establish infestations by traveling directly into substructural wood members in contact with the soil. However, modern building codes prohibit structural wood from making contact with ground soil for this reason, but workers can still access above ground structural wood by constructing air tight mud tubes. Mud tubes protrude from the ground and connect directly to substructural wood members. Since workers often construct mud tubes along the exterior walls of cement and brick masonry foundations where they penetrate cracks to reach wood, they commonly serve as the first sign that an infestation has been established within a home.

Homes with stucco or brick-veneer exterior walls hide mud tubes from view, and mud tubes are commonly found in crawl spaces where they connect to substructural wood components, such as peers, joists, girders and sill plates. Laying a vinyl or plastic vapor barrier over crawl space soil will not only prevent workers from building mud tubes, but it will also prevent vapor from rising and saturating substructural wood members. This is important, as subterranean termites are unable to infest dry wood. Workers may also construct hidden mud tubes within the hollow spaces within brick masonry walls, but capping these bricks will eliminate this possibility. The gaps in concrete slabs where plumbing or cable lines penetrate can also be exploited by workers looking to access indoor structural wood. Foam insulation obscures termite activity and hinders termite inspections, which has become a common problem since foam insulation became a popular alternative to traditional insulation. In order to prevent termite damage, homes in Boston should be inspected for termites once annually.

Have you ever discovered termite mud tubes within your home?