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All three groups of termites known as subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites can be found in the US, but subterranean termites are by far the most common, as they are responsible for around 80 percent of all termite-related structural damages reported annually in the country. Several subterranean termite pest species inhabit the US, but only one species, the eastern subterranean termite, can be found in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the eastern subterranean termite is the most destructive of all termite species in the US, but there are several ways in which homeowners can protect their property from these pests.

All termite species are dependent on moisture to some degree, but subterranean termites will rapidly dessicate and die if they are removed from their moist soil habitat. Merely being exposed to still outside air will cause the internal bodily fluids of subterranean termites to rapidly evaporate, and foraging workers must travel along moisture gradients in soil to survive. Many subterranean termite infestations start when workers gain direct access to structural wood that are in direct contact with the soil. Federal and state residential building codes require homes to be constructed so that all substructural wood are elevated at least 18 inches from the ground surface. This requirement is one of several laws that aim to make homes resistant to subterranean termite infestations. While these laws have certainly reduced subterranean termite infestation rates, they have not made new homes immune to termite attack.

In order to access above-ground structural wood at the base of timber-framed homes, workers construct mud tubes out of a mixture of soil, feces, saliva, and bits of wood. This mixture hardens as it dries, allowing air tight mud tubes to remain upright as they are being constructed. These mud tubes eventually reach high enough to connect directly to substructural wood, allowing workers to travel back and forth between moist soil and infested wood while avoiding exposure to outside air. These mud tubes are often found vertically situated on exterior foundation walls where the tubes penetrate narrow cracks to make contact with interior substructural wood.

Have you ever found mud tubes on any foundation wall?