Where In Soil Are Subterranean Termites Typically Located, And How Do They Locate Above-Ground Structural Wood Within Homes?

Where In Soil Are Subterranean Termites Typically Located, And How Do They Locate Above-Ground Structural Wood Within Homes?

More than 50 termite species have been documented in the United States, and around a dozen of these species are considered structural pests. With the exception of Alaska, termite pests can be found in every US state, and they inflict well over two billion dollars in structural damage annually in the US alone, making them the most economically significant household pests, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. Waco and most other urban areas of central Texas are located within a geographic region where termite pest activity is categorized as “moderate to heavy.”

Several termite species can be found in central Texas including the most destructive species in the country. Dampwood termites are rare and insignificant as structural pests in Texas, while drywood termites are relatively common and damaging throughout most of the state. However, the only termites that homeowners in central Texas should be mindful of are subterranean termites, especially eastern subterranean termites, but the highly destructive and invasive Formosan subterranean termite species is slowly becoming more common in the region.

Just as their name suggests, subterranean termites dwell below the ground where workers tunnel through soil in search of food in the form of wood. Experts have traditionally assumed that subterranean termite workers forage randomly in the soil where they occasionally encounter homes by chance. Today, it is understood that subterranean termites search for food in a far more efficient manner, as workers slowly move away from the colony in a radial pattern in order to locate as many food sources as possible.

While workers are able to sense chemical cues emitted from wood, they cannot detect structural wood in homes from long distances because the ground soil acts as a barrier. However, workers often forage along below-ground objects like foundation walls, plumbing, and cables, which can lead them directly to structures. When foundation walls are encountered, workers usually travel upwards through mud tubes that penetrate foundation cracks as narrow as 1/64 of an inch wide in order to access structural wood. Mud tubes are as wide or wider than a typical pencil, and they are light brown to brown in color. Finding mud tubes running vertically along foundation walls is how infestations are usually discovered.

Have you ever found mud tubes on your foundation walls?