How Do Termites Spread? 4 Things Termites Use to Move through Your Home

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Termites are always on the lookout for new food.

They can forage for about 150 feet around their colony just to look for wood. With a bit of bad luck, they land inside your house and infest it.

Once they’ve started invading, termites spread and find ways to travel in and out of your home, often times without you even knowing about it. So before you speculate, check your house.

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Subterranean termites built a mud tube at the base of a house to infest some parts of it. CC Image courtesy of NY State IPM Program at Cornell University on Flickr

Termites spread through mud tubes

We’ve all seen them. Mud tubes are the best indicators of subterranean termite infestation. These small tunnels are made from soil, wood and frass. They stick to walls, trees – just about anywhere the termites need to go.

These termites spread while building tubes that carry the right environment for them. The tubes maintain an ample humidity and temperature for travelling. They also protect termites from outside forces. You can think of them as a network of subway tunnels. Termites use them to travel to designated stops without being seen from above.

For us, they look the same. But Terminix tells us otherwise. There are actually three kinds of termite tubes:

  • Working Tubes. Paths that connect the nest and the wood/ food source
  • Exploratory Tubes. Paths that only extend from the soil; they’re used for foraging new places to get food
  • Drop Tubes. Paths from the wood that gets the termites back into the soil

Tubes can be tucked away in inconspicuous places or can be blatantly seen in a corner. To see if it’s is still being used, knock off a few small pieces of at the center, and leave it there. Come back a couple of days later and check if it’s been fixed.

If it hasn’t been mended, then it’s been abandoned by a colony. Whatever the case, if you do see tubes, use termite treatments immediately.

Termites spread through galleries

Drywood termites do things a little differently. Instead of tubes, they hide themselves in the wood that they infest, and they chew through the grain to make galleries. These galleries are still tunnels, but they’re housed inside wood.

Drywood termites spread when the wood they’re inhabiting are connected, just like the pillars in your attic. Sometimes, they’re so well hidden. You won’t notice anything different on the outside. You won’t know about them until the wood starts to soften and degrade.

Termites spread through cracks on the walls

Termites can’t chew their through solid concrete, but they can squeeze through anywhere they can fit in. It only takes one crack on your wall to let termites spread into your house.

Cracks usually happen when two pieces of concrete are slapped together or when a concrete is molded to accommodate plumbing. The best remedy for this is to fill cracked walls with the right seals.

Termites spread through moisture-to-wall contact

According to Termites.com, one of the most common danger zones is the earth-to-wood or moisture-to-wall contact. This is when the soil is too close to a vulnerable spot in your house, like when untreated lumber that’s part of the house is staked into the ground.

Foraging termites can find out about this. And that wood can serve as a bridge between the soil and your house.

To avoid this, only use treated lumber for your house. You can also put up baits and barriers to stop them from entering.

So termites travel through mud tubes, galleries, cracks on the walls and through moisture-to-wall contact. They have a lot ways to get inside and spread in your house.

But the good thing is that everything we’ve mentioned here is avoidable. Now that you know how they move around, you can close in one them with little precautions like applying seals and getting rid of untreated wood that’s close to the soil.

You can find more termite-repelling tips here.