A Comprehensive Guide To Termite Mud Tunnels

August 18, 2021

Termites are silent destroyers. They damage wooden materials from furniture pieces to lumber structures. Fortunately, you can detect and eliminate them before they wreak havoc. Termites usually build mud tubes that are easy to spot around your property. On seeing a mud tunnel, know that you have a termite infestation to deal with promptly.

Why Do Termites Build Mud Tunnels?

Termites are highly susceptible to dehydration because they require moisture to survive. Therefore, they construct mud tunnels for shelter from dry air. Besides locking in moisture that enhances termite survival, mud tubes protect termites from predators and facilitate travel from nest to wood and back.

How Are Termite Tunnels Made?

Termite mud tubes are irregular in shape and made of wood matter, dirt, faeces, and saliva. You will see them inside or outside your house. Termites make and use tunnels to travel within wood or from soil to wood. Never disturb a termite tube unless you want to get attacked by soldier termites and possibly get bitten.

Types Of Termite Mud Tunnels

To answer the question of what do termite tunnels look like, here are the different types of termite tubes you will find around your property.

Different Types Of Termite Mud Tubes

1. Exploratory Tunnels

Exploratory tunnels are fragile and thin. You can easily spot them because they branch out in several directions. They are made of dirt, faeces, and saliva. A tunnel can go up to fifteen feet above the ground when built over metal or concrete. Usually empty, exploratory tunnels do not connect to wooden material. Since they are mostly uninhabited, they indicate that termites have relocated to other parts of your home searching for food.

2. Working Tunnels

Also referred to as utility tunnels, working tunnels are mainly used by termites to move from the nest to a source of food. These termite mud tunnels are loosely organised, with some lanes for food transportation and others for construction and repair works. They measure between a quarter an inch and an inch in diameter. Working tunnels are more long-lasting than exploratory tunnels. They also help termites travel longer distances along building foundations and basement walls.

3. Swarm Tubes

Termites build swarm tubes, also known as swarm castles, to accommodate swarmers as they leave the colony. Swarmers are usually delicate, requiring protection to keep them intact and fully functional when departing. Swarm tubes are, therefore, made explicitly to protect swarmers. These termite mud tubes can be larger than four feet wide. Before leaving the nest, swarmers gather in a location that is both smooth and free of debris. When the time to depart arrives, worker termites direct the swarmers to the protective swarm castles.

4. Drop Tubes

Drop tubes are the easiest tunnels to spot as they resemble stalagmites in caves. The tubes are built towards the ground, hanging from wood support. They make it easy for worker termites to acquire food by acting as expressways between food source (high point) and nesting place (low point). Termite drop tubes feature more wood fibres than working tunnels and exploratory tunnels. Anyway, they have the same brittleness and diameter as exploratory tunnels.

What To Do When You Find Termite Tunnels

When you spot a termite mud tunnel, break a small part of it open using a gloved hand or pointed stick. If there are active termites inside the tunnel, they will reseal the opening. If no resealing happens, it indicates that the residents have relocated. Consider calling an expert pest control company or applying DIY techniques to eradicate the termites before they cause severe damage.

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