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There exists around 45 termite species that dwell within the United States. Most of these species are native to the country, but a significant minority are non-native species that have managed to establish an invasive presence within the country. The most notable invasive termite species in the US, the Formosan subterranean termite, only exists in states along the Gulf Coast and California, but colonies have also been found within Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina. When it comes to the northeast US, the eastern subterranean termite dominates the region. States like New York and Pennsylvania have been found to contain other termite species on occasion, mainly drywood species. But finding any termite species other than the eastern subterranean termite is exceptionally rare in northeast states, and when other non-native termite species are found in the region, they are almost always eradicated quickly and permanently.

Massachusetts sees a high degree of termite pest activity despite its northern location and the fact that only one species, the eastern subterranean termite, has been found within the state for the past several years. Unlike drywood and most dampwood termite species, subterranean termites require frequent contact with soil in order to access water and nutrients. Mud tubes are built by subterranean termites in order to provide them with a straight path between structural wood in a home and nutrient-rich soil. However, researchers and pest controllers have found that eastern subterranean termites have developed a method that allows them to remain within a home for long periods without ever having to physically access soil.

Since subterranean termites are soft-bodied insects, dry air causes them to dessicate and die, making their mud tubes a literal life-saver. However, theoretically, if an eastern subterranean termite colony were to gain access to a moisture-rich home, their need to visit the soil becomes unnecessary. In order to increase moisture levels within a home, eastern subterranean termites sometimes build straight shelter tubes from infested lumber beneath floorboards. These tubes point downward toward soil beneath a crawlspace. The moisture in the soil rises up through the mud tubes and dissipates within the infestation area in a home. By resorting to this architectural trick, eastern subterranean termites can avoid the hassle of traveling back and forth between soil and structural wood, as the mud tube design makes a termite’s internal environment sufficiently moist.

Have you ever found mud tubes hanging down from a piece of structural wood?