What Termite Tubes Mean for Your Home (It’s Usually NOT Good!)

FAQs

Termite tubes are telltale signs of subterranean termite activity. Subterranean termites make their way into your home from below ground, moving up your foundation until they reach wood material they can eat.

From the point where they leave the ground until they reach the wood portion of your home, subterranean termites will usually create a protective mud-like tunnel to shield them from light as well as predators.

They look like mud but are actually made up of a mixture of termite feces, saliva, and soil.

There are three main types of tubes termite makes:

  1. Working Tubes
  2. Exploratory Tubes
  3. Drop Tubes

What Do Termite Tubes Look Like?

Termite tubes look like pencil-width-sized tubes of mud spreading in irregular patterns from the soil upward toward the wooden portions of a building. Here is a picture to give you an idea of what they look like…

And a video for even better identification of mud tubes…

Why Do Termites Make Mud Tubes?

Subterranean termites (the termite species that makes mud tubes) build their nest in the soil relatively close to their food source (cellulose material).

Where Should I Look For Tubes Around My House?

What Should I do If I Find Termite Mud Tunnels Around My Home?

If you find termite mud tunnels on or near your home you should really contact a termite professional. Termite infestations are very difficult to treat yourself, but do a bit of diagnosis on your own.

You can remove a portion of the tunnel and see if there are still termites inside. If you see some termites moving back and forth in there or scrambling to begin repairing the tunnel, you likely have an active infestation. If you check back in a few days and the tunnel is repaired then it is likely the termite colony is quite strong.

If you break open the tubes and the mud is dry and crumbles away then the termites have likely abandoned those specific tubes. However, that does not mean that they did not already establish other routes into your home.

So either way, finding old termite mud tubes or active tubes, it is still a good idea to call a termite exterminator to come take a closer look. They have tools, techniques, and the experience to find termites even within the wood of walls, rafter, floors, and other places that would be nearly impossible for you to find.

Also keep in mind that just because you do not see any mud tunnels on the exterior of a building does not mean termites are not present. Termites often find paths to wooden portions of a house via cracks or small holes in foundations, brick or exteriors, concrete stairs, or patios. They are also known to make their way from the ground under a porch or patio or deck to the lumber above.

If I Remove the Tubes From my Foundation Will the Termites Leave?

Removing termite tubes from your foundation may slow down their entry and exit from your home, but it will not likely stop them. More than likely, they’ll just build new ones.

There’s nothing wrong with breaking a section of termite tubes open to see if there are any termites crawling inside, but I wouldn’t recommend tearing all the tubes down because they can be a useful for a termite control professional in diagnosing the entry points into your home or business.

How Can I Make Termites Leave My Home and Stop Making Termite Tubes?

That’s a tricky question. It depends on the species of termite, how established the infestation is, what type of building you’re dealing with, and many other factors.

On a very basic level though, there are spot treatments (least extensive) and fumigations or heat tenting (very extensive treatment). Other methods of termite treatment like termite baiting,traps, barriers, etc. are more preventative strategies. 

Further Termite Tube Resource

  1. SubterraneanTermites—Their Prevention and Control in Buildings – USDA
  2. Evidence Of Termite Activity – myTermiteTreatmentCosts.com
  3. Termites! How’d They Get In? – University of Georgia

8 thoughts on “What Termite Tubes Mean for Your Home (It’s Usually NOT Good!)”

  1. Yesterday, I found a termite tube about 1.5 foot long and 1/2 inch thick bumpy in my boiler room external wall, which has a chimney outside wall connected to it. There is a fine crack like a hairline on the wall and the termite tube is running on that crack. Should i break it or spray it? I bought some spray today. It is a small one tube and my house is newly built, 12-15 yrs old brick house.

    Reply
    • Nargis, It appears to me that you have subterranean termites that may have found there way into your home through that tiny crack in your chimney. It does not take much of a crack for termites to be able to squeeze through into your home. Here’s what I would suggest. First break away a small section of the termite tube about 6 inches off the ground. Now observe for any termites passing through. If the tube is very active, they should appear rather quickly to begin repairing it. If the tube is not that active you may not see any termites immediately. In this case leave it for a few days then come back and see if you observe any repair of the little section you broke away. If there is repair then the termites are actively using this termite tube to enter your home from the soil below or near your foundation. Another think to take note of, does the dirt from the tube seem dry or somewhat damp like mud? If it is damp it is likely new. What the termites are interested in is the cellulose in the wood inside your home. Here’s the problem, without additional tools and experience that good pest professionals have, it can be hard to accurately assess if termites have entered the lumber in your home already or were just attempting to. Of course if you new they were not in the wood in your home, you could just destroy the tunnel, but he termites will keep attempting to build a new tunnel. I would recommend filling out some simple info here, and you can get several free quotes for termite control professionals. It’s always important to get several quotes so you can compare and make a good decision. But here’s what I would do, when these companies call or email you ask them if they can conduct a free termite inspection. Most termite companies will conduct termite inspections for free (do not use one that does not) and then you can know for sure if the termites entered your home or not and they will give you recommendations of the best route for exterminating them.

      Reply
  2. John, thanks a million sharing this information with us. I have been finding termite tubes going from my yard up my foundation for the past 3 months or so.

    Every time I find the mud tubes I scrape them away. Frustrated because they kept coming back, I did some research via Google and found mytermitetreatmentcosts.com

    Glad I did, now I know I need an inspection. I’ll let you all know what I find out, hoping it’s not bad news.

    Reply
    • Molly, please do come back and let us know what the termite inspection turns up. Hopefully they have not established an colony in or near your home and if they did you caught it in the early stages. If they had just started making their tubes up your foundation around 3 months ago, chances are good that you do not have a huge termite problem. Termites take a while to establish a colony in your home, most of them are not a fast spreading pest so hopefully you do not have too big of a problem.

      Reply
  3. Hi I recently got a termite inspection and was told I didn’t have termites. There is like spots that appear like mud on my concrete wall but the inpector said it’s like cement something forgotnwhat word he used. He didn’t look into every crack or even took a look at my windows. He said I didn’t have termites and that my windows where rotting because of the water. He was suppose to check the floors but I forgot because we jumped to other conversations. I still feel like I may have them. He didnt test the spots on the concrete wall inside my basement wall. He’s been doing this work for 26 years. Should I trust his word. I’m still paranoid

    Reply
    • Ali, it sounds like he did not do a very thorough inspection. If you are still concerned about it, I would call around to some other termite companies and explain to them that you want a thorough termite inspection done and ask them what methods they use. Companies that use thermal cameras / imaging can literally see in your walls (the heat that large amount of termites create). Additionally, there is acoustic testing that helps identify termite activity in hidden areas of your home. I would go with a company that has either thermal, acoustic, or both capabilities to conduct an inspection. Call around or you can fill out some information here explaining your problem and you will receive three or more free price quotes. Termite inspections are often conducted for free. Did the person who checked your home charge you? If so how much if you do not mind sharing. If he has been in business for 26 years it seems a bit surprising that he did not seem to inspect your home carefully.

      Reply
  4. Wow, I never heard of termite tubes! I’ve seen them on my house before though! I thought they were wasps or something. I definitely need to ask a local pest control about these.

    Reply
  5. I’m glad you pointed out that simply destroying the mud tubes will slow down the termites but won’t end the infestation. I noticed some tubes that looked like termite tunnels while I was doing some gardening yesterday. Thanks for helping me see why hiring a professional termite exterminator would be the best way to fix the problem!

    Reply

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