“Subterranean termites are the real miners of the termite world” – an entomologist stated recently and it may help you to understand this family of termites a little better.
Terry from the #TermiteTroop is a great representation, don’t you think?
If you have heard a) mention about termites underground, b) news about termites infesting homes from the ground up, c) seen typical mud tubes around the foundations of your home, then there can only be one culprit – the Subterranean termite.
Of course there are many species within this family of termites, each of which pose different levels of risk to your home.
Unless you are pro-actively monitoring and inspecting your home, and areas in your garden, you will continue to be in the dark until a real problem occurs.
Why You Should Care about Termites
There are 3 main reasons:
You want a home that is safe for you and all your family.
You value your home from an emotional point of view – memories made and time invested.
You value your home financially too – if you ever think of selling, an unknown termite problem can make things difficult.
See our home guide to identify areas of your home at risk for termites.
How To Check for Termites under Your House?
If they are so hard to detect, how can you possibly tell there is a problem?
Well, the clearest sign are mud tubes. You can monitor for these in your basement or on internal / external walls and foundations.
Even if you don’t see any mud tubes, it does not mean you do not have termites. Subterranean termites are able to use cracks and voids in concrete and foundation walls in their search for a food source.
What are Mud Tubes?
Subterranean termites build shelter tubes to travel to and from a food source. This is to avoid being seen by predators and to maintain a suitably moist environment. But this is a dead giveaway for us humans!
Subterranean termites are sensitive to drying out, so the tunnels help maintain a suitable environment for them to survive. This also means they are more active after rain and in wet seasons, when they make more exploratory ventures to look for food.
These tubes are about the width of a pen and are usually found on exterior and interior walls leading up to the entry points of the building. Just break open a tube and you may see the termite workers and soldiers scurrying to and from the food source to feed the colony, a sure sign of an active infestation. If you leave the broken tunnel alone, the termites will quickly seal it up again so they don’t dry out, and then carry on feeding on your house.
They need to encapsulate soil around them to keep themselves moist. They are in real danger of drying out and dying if exposed to air or daylight above ground.
There are four types of tube:
Working tubes: built along surfaces to connect the nest to wood food sources.
Exploratory and migratory tubes: these rise from the soil but do not connect to any wooden structure.
Drop tubes: built from infested wood back down into the soil.
Swarm tubes: these are for the flying kings and queens to emerge from the ground during the mating season.
Gross fact alert: These tunnels are made from a mixture of soil and termites’ own excrement!
Subterranean termites do not usually build their nests in the wood of buildings. They use the tunnels to transport food out of your house to the colony in the ground outside. However, if there is a source of moisture, such as from a leaky roof or pipe work, they can establish a colony inside your home.
Put simply, moisture is the Subterranean termites best friend!
Ever heard about termites under the sink?
It could mean you have Formosan subterranean termites. This species of Subterraneans need less moisture than others, hence they can build a nest above ground – yet still close to a source of moisture.
How serious can termite damage be?
Well, pretty bad depending on the invading species. It can range from light, cosmetic damage to severe problems that could even lead to the collapse of a floor or ceiling!