Several subterranean, drywood and dampwood termite species inhabit Texas, such as Formosan subterranean termites, western drywood termites and desert dampwood termites. Homes in central Texas are mainly vulnerable to the subterranean variety of termites only, namely eastern, dark southern and light southern subterranean termites. The distribution range of the tremendously destructive and invasive Formosan subterranean termite is largely limited to the southeastern portion of Texas, and they rarely infest homes in central Texas. Unlike drywood termite colonies, which dwell and feed only in above ground wood sources, subterranean termite colonies are located below the ground where workers tunnel through soil in order to retrieve damp and decaying wood to transport back to the nest. Subterranean termites can only access above ground wood sources through “mud tubes” that they construct to protect them from the desiccating effect of the dry outside air.
The most common type of mud tubes protrude from the ground and lead directly to natural and finished wood sources, allowing workers to return to the damp soil to hydrate. These mud tubes are known as “working tubes,” or “utility tubes,” and they are commonly encountered on foundations where they penetrate narrow cracks and lead to indoor structural wood. “Exploratory tubes” are built solely to make quick contact with outside objects, usually to assess whether or not an object makes a good entry point into wood, or in order to reach wood located behind other construction materials. These mud tubes are often found in crawl spaces and they are built in haste, making them structurally weak compared to working tubes. “Drop tubes” are like reverse working tubes, as they lead to the ground soil from infested wood. Drop tubes are lighter in color than working tubes because they naturally contain more wood fiber, and they are frequently found in crawl spaces and from the ceilings of heavily infested structures. “Swarming tubes” are tubes that protrude outward from ground nests, allowing reproductive alates to swarm out of a colony. These mud tubes are found in warm places, like furnaces located beneath ground floors, and only in highly infested structures.
Have you ever found any type of termite mud tube on your property?