Termites | Posted: May 26, 2023

What Are Termite Mud Tubes?

During a termite inspection of your home, pest control professionals will look for signs of termites in and around your property to determine whether or not there is a current infestation. Some of these signs of termites include wood damage, “shelving,” winged termite swarmers, termite fecal matter (known as frass), and more. Some of the most telling and significant indicators of a termite infestation are mud tubes.

If you see what looks like veins of mud running up the walls or even across the ceiling of your home, it’s likely you have an active or recently active termite infestation. But what are mud tubes, and what are they for?

Below, we’ll explain what mud tubes are, what purposes they serve, and what to do if you see these brown tunnels creeping up your walls.


How Termites Build Mud Tubes

Termite mud tubes, also known as termite shelter tubes, are made of soil, wood particles, termite saliva, and other organic materials.

Construction of mud tubes usually begins when subterranean termites — the most common type of termites that build these tubes — locate a food source above ground. They create the tubes from the soil or other available materials, using their saliva as a binding agent. Termite mud tubes are typically about the width of a pencil, and their length can vary depending on the distance between the termite colony and the food source.

Mud tubes typically run along surfaces, like walls, ceilings, subfloors, joists, or along a home’s foundation, but termites can build mud tubes anywhere. Advanced mud tubes can even span open air, especially in basements and crawl spaces, as termite workers build stalagmite-style pillars of mud tubes called “drop tubes” to connect dirt basement floors to wood structures above.


Why Termites Need Mud Tubes

Termites build mud tubes as a means of protecting themselves from predators and the elements. The tubes serve as covered passageways that shield the termites from light, temperature extremes, rain, and wind.

Termite tubes also protect workers from numerous predators. Being small, defenseless, and found in large colonies, termites make for an easy meal for many predators in the United States. Termites are eaten by (and can attract) other insects — including spiders, wasps, centipedes, cockroaches, crickets, and dragonflies — as well as birds and some small mammals.

Mud tubes also help termites navigate over non-wooden surfaces, such as concrete or brick, on their way to consume cellulose found in human homes in the form of wood, paper, carpet, fabric, cardboard, and more. Mud tubes are usually broken down into three different categories.

Exploratory Mud Tubes

If you see networks of thin tubes crossing non-wood surfaces and heading in many directions, you’re likely looking at “exploratory tubes,” or tubes used by termites in search of food. Basement walls, concrete foundations, and other structures touching the ground are hot spots where you’ll find these tunnel-like structures.

example of a thin, fragile termite mud tube

Drop Tubes

Sometimes, you may see exploratory tubes dangling from the ceiling. These drop tubes help termites navigate from one wood source to another or can even be used for the pests to get back underground.

termite drop tube dangling from celing

Working Mud Tubes

“Working tubes” are larger and sturdier than exploratory tubes, and act as a sort of termite interstate for transporting large numbers of worker termites and food from its source to the termites’ nest.

thick worker termite tube

Swarm Mud Tubes

During swarming season, termites need shelter for as long as they can get it before leaving the colony to reproduce. Workers will create mounds with termite tunnels inside extending away from their main colony to form a protected road toward a new home.

termite swarm mud tube structure with tunnels

Got Mud Tubes?

If you spot termite mud tunnels, you likely have an active termite infestation. It may be tempting to remove the mud tubes yourself, but destroying mud tubes will not affect the nest and may drive termites to build new tubes in harder-to-find and harder-to-treat areas of your home.

DIY pest control solutions are available at most home improvement stores, but can be expensive and come with a number of drawbacks. Store-bought termite sprays can be toxic to children, pets, and local wildlife, and are generally less effective than professional services.

To properly treat a termite infestation and prevent new infestations from forming, you need professional help. Professional pest control companies have access to tools and chemicals not available in home improvement stores, and trained and certified pest control experts know where to look and what to do to eliminate an infestation completely.

Dodson Pest Control Will Find the Source and Fix the Problem

If you already have mud tubes on or around your home, you may be facing significant structural damage to your home if the infestation is not appropriately and quickly treated. Dodson Pest Control technicians are highly familiar with various wood-destroying pests.

Our trained termite control professionals will perform a thorough inspection, looking for signs of termite damage and termite activity. Then, we will build a customized termite control plan with pesticides tailored to your 

particular needs. Liquid insecticide can then be applied to the soil beneath concrete floors and/or along the entire perimeter of your property’s foundation to treat for termites and provide a protective barrier. The product is safe for children and pets, both interior and exterior, but will effectively kill termites.

If you need help with a termite infestation, or want to find out what’s eating your home, contact Dodson Pest Control today for a free inspection.

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