Do termites stay in the wall

Do termites stay in the wall?

I feel a need to double check this. I found a couple mud tubes going into a wall along with some minor damage to some paneling inside. I removed the paneling, sprayed some termite killer in there and scraped off the mud tubes.

My belief is that termites always return to the nest through those tubes. If I remove the tubes, what happens to those left in the wall that may not have been killed? Do they attempt to return home or do I need to worry about them living in the wall for an extended period of time?

Note that I have put bait traps in the ground and sprayed the wall on the outside, too.

2 Answers 2

First, let’s assume it is subterranean termites. because your post seems to indicate so. The obvious thing I deduce from your desription is that you are not finding termites in those tubes. hence your curiosity about what happens without the tubes. Point 1. Remember that the female worker termites–the one’s eating your house–are blind and must have scent trails to find their way back to the colony. Remove those trails and you remove not only their hideaway avenues, you remove trail home for the most part. (But don’t let yourself take comfort in that.) Point 2, termites are strictly a colonial organism–no termite exists and lives for itself; so termites living in the wall and dining your house away for their own pleasure is not a concern.

It is dubious at best what the effectiveness of spot application will be in the long run; and not feasible to think that you can get to them inside the wall cavities. Individual animals you see are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg; it’s the hordes you never see (until swarm) that bring down a house quite quickly.

In most states if not all there is very little you can do but a start would be to inspect and remove any contact between house wood and soil. Next, moisture encourages infestation and invasion so check for sound roof condition, guttering, and any rain paths to the foundation, mud sill, crawl space, etc. Perimeter tiling or drain piping, or water shed ground sloping, to carry water away from the house is another suggestion.

Ultimately, you will need licensed termite eradication to either inject a barrier or kill the colony with an effective baiting system–most diy systems are not. Barriers work by preventing any temite from getting into the house–because once inside no systemic treatment has been found to be effective. Baiting systems that work, kill the colony by exploiting known termite foraging habits.

One problem with termite infestations–when you see tunnels, or swarms, or specimens (and sometimes ants in large concentration) you know you already have a significant infestation. Another vexing thing about termites is that the longer they have been in your walls, carpet, books and such the faster their rate of destruction. it’s never too early to call in the pro’s; and time used hoping to avoid the treatment expense by self help is as often as not time spent to the termites’–not your own and not your house’s–advantage.


What are the most common signs of termites?

Because so much of the damage caused by termites is within the inner walls of a structure, it can be difficult to know if you have a termite problem. However, there are three warning signs to help you determine if you have a termite problem.


Winged termites are often the first sign of a subterranean termite infestation. Swarming termites are attracted to light and are often found near windows, doors, vents and light fixtures. Experiencing a termite swarm is the #1 sign that your property has a termite problem. Worker termites are small, light-colored insects that move quickly when exposed to light. They are also the family members that cause the most damage to a structure. Even if you havenโ€™t seen signs of termites, check windows, heating vents, doors, sinks and bathtubs for dead termites or termite wings.

Mud tubes provide shelter for termites and have a muddy, flattened appearance approximately the width of a drinking straw. Look for mud tubes along cracks, beneath flooring, around baseboards, on pipes, piers, chimneys, behind siding, plumbing and other fixtures. Mud tubes may also extend over concrete foundations and other exposed surfaces.

Another way to check for termites is to tap wood along the walls, baseboards and windowsills every few inches with a screwdriver handle. Damaged wood will sound hollow and, if the area is extremely damaged, the handle may break the woodโ€™s surface. If the area is active, you may see worker termites inside. Dark areas or blisters in wood flooring are an indicator of a subterranean termite infestation. Because subterranean termites are preventable, it is a good idea to have your property regularly inspected by a trained specialist.

How much damage can termites really do?

Termites cause an estimated $5 billion in property damages and repair costs annually. In fact, termites damage more homes than fires, floods and tornadoes. More than 4 million homes in the United States are at risk of infestation this year.

How do I know if I have winged ants or swarming termites?

Winged termites have pigmented bodies with broad waists and two pair of wings that are equal in size and shape. Subterranean termite swarmers have bodies about one-quarter of an inch in length. The swarmers quickly shed their wings after a brief flight. Winged ants have pinched waists and two pair of wings that differ in size and shape (front pair is much larger). Flying ants shed their wings like termites. Termite wings are all the same size. Collect a few and call Terminix to have them identified if you want to be sure.

Termite workers are pale, soft-bodied insects about one-quarter of an inch or less in length. They appear to have a head and body because their thorax is broadly joined to their abdomen. Their antennae are straight.

Termites are mistakenly called white ants, but are not ant-like in appearance. Ants are usually heavily pigmented and have three distinct body regions: head, thorax and abdomen. Ants also have a very narrow or pinched โ€œwaist,โ€ and their antennae are “elbowed.”

Winged termites, also known as swarmers, have pigmented bodies with broad waists and two pair of wings that are equal in size and shape. Subterranean termite swarmers have bodies about one-quarter of an inch in length. The swarmers quickly shed their wings after a brief flight. Winged ants, on the other hand, have pinched waists and two pair of wings that differ in size and shape (front are much larger).

How can I tell if pest excrement is from termites or other insects?

Drywood termites produce small bun-shaped excrement. This often accumulates on surfaces directly below infested areas. Evidence of activity can include small โ€œpin holesโ€ in the surface of the infested area and the droppings accumulating below. Swarmers might also be observed. The adult reproductives swarm to start new infestations in other areas of the structure. This usually occurs between early summer and late fall depending on where you live.

There is mud tunnel on the drywall of my exterior wall. Should I be worried about termites?

Mud tunnels are one of the top indicators of subterranean termite activity. Contact your local Terminix branch as soon as possible.

Do termites really eat wood?

Yes, termites really eat wood. In nature, termites play a useful role helping wood be recycled to the soil as humus, an organic material that provides nutrients for plants and increases the ability of soil to retain water.

Using bacteria, protozoa and microbes that live inside their stomachs, termites are able to digest cellulose, the main constituent of wood. They are extremely well organized and persistent in their search for new food sources. Contrary to what one might think, they will eat anything containing cellulose โ€“ wallpaper, books, boxes, carpet backing, drywall and even furniture.

Can termites make their way through concrete?

Termites cannot go through solid concrete, but they can get through a crack only 1/32 nd of an inch wide. Openings this size or bigger often occur where two pieces of concrete abut โ€“ like when poured separately โ€“ and around plumbing penetrations through the concrete or where the concrete has cracked.

How long do termites live?

A worker termite may live from one to two years. A queen termite may live for decades.

Why do winged termites lose their wings?

Swarmers use their wings to fly a short distance from their nest. They then break off their wings and never fly again, burrowing themselves in the soil to spend the remainder of their lives building a new colony.

What will termites do after they swarm?

Subterranean termite swarmers attempt to pair with a swarmer of the opposite sex within their colony. They must locate a suitable habitat to establish a new colony of their own. They need moist soil, preferably in direct contact with wood, in order to survive. The termites that swarm inside a structure and cannot get out will quickly die from lack of available moisture. The termite colony that produced the swarmers will continue to be active after the swarm has taken place.

How do termites get ins >

Termites donโ€™t need much room to squeeze inside your home or business. In fact, they can enter a structure through a space as small as 1/32 nd of an inch.

Subterranean termites usually enter a building from the soil along its foundation or through cracks in the slab, expansion joints, weep holes, voids in brick or block and around plumbing. Decks, porches and other wood structures in direct contact with the ground are also easy access ramps for termites.

While most subterranean termite infestations can be traced to a colony living in soil outside the structure, some infestations begin above the ground. This occurs when a termite king and queen begin a new nest within a structure or when foraging termite workers become isolated and cannot return to the parent colony. Such conditions are most common in high-moisture areas. Structures with flat roofs or chronic leaks can also be at risk because the structure can retain enough moisture for a termite colony to establish itself. Constant moisture allows a termite colony to survive even without a connection to the soil. In such cases, the structural moisture problems may be as damaging to the home as the termite activity.

Common construction practices can also contribute to termite problems by providing termites admittance into a structure or creating ideal damp conditions for colonization. Some examples of these practices include wood-to-soil contact, form boards not being removed after construction is completed, wood refuse buried under the slab, improper drainage and stucco below grade.

Spreading mulch over the soil adjacent to a structure’s foundation can also provide an inroad for termites to creep into a building.

Does the builder of a new home usually protect it against termites?

There are only a few states that require soil pretreatment for control of subterranean termites during construction. It is usually the mortgage lender that requires this, especially in termite-prone areas.

I have an old tree stump infested with termites. Should I have it treated?

You donโ€™t need to treat the stump, but you may want to give your home termite protection. In areas of the country where termites are common, it is not unusual to find them in the ground, in tree stumps or in debris near a structure. If your home has not been treated to control or prevent termite entry, you should maintain a close watch for termites and have a Terminix specialist inspect and implement a termite control program.

Subterranean termites nest in the ground and forage for food (cellulose or wood) over areas up to one-half of an acre or more in size. There is a high probability that if they are detected close to your home, they will eventually infest it โ€“ if they have not done so already. Treating the stump will not have any great impact on the colony or its continued search for new food sources. Contact your local Terminix branch for an inspection and to find out your control options.

Preventative action makes good sense in any termite-prone area, and you should also consider having Terminix implement a termite control program before you notice an infestation.

Remove all wood debris from around your home, especially after new construction and remodeling. This includes wood form boards along foundations, tree stumps and roots, as well as firewood stacked near the house.

Since termites need moisture to survive, grade the soil around your foundation so it carries water away from the house. Keep gutters and downspouts in good repair.

Will subterranean termite swarmers infest my house, furniture, closets, etc.?

Subterranean termite swarmers are looking for moist soil in close proximity to wood in order to start a new colony. The likelihood of these conditions existing inside your home is very low, so unless the swarmers get outdoors, they will not survive.

There are homes with termites in my neighborhood. How can I protect my house?

Termites forage year-round and they spread most commonly underground. If your home is currently termite-free, it could become infested by termites that are active nearby. A preventative termite control program will help avoid termite infestation. Contact your local Terminix branch for additional information about termite biology, habits and treatment options.

I live in a stucco home. Should I be concerned with termites?

Termite problems are common in stucco homes. Usually this is because the stucco exterior finish extends beneath the soil level around the outside of the structure. This creates a small space between the foundation and the stucco finish, permitting termite entry that is completely hidden from view.

Another situation involves the โ€œsyntheticโ€ stucco finishes that have a base layer of rigid foam board. This type also often extends beneath the soil level, and once the termites access the foam, they can move anywhere around the structure. This type of exterior finish is also prone to moisture intrusion, which will help support the termites once they get in.

How do I get r >

More than likely, a home infested with drywood termites will require tent fumigation. Tent fumigation involves covering your home with tarps and introducing a fumigant gas to penetrate all infested wood. It is the most effective method of controlling drywood termite infestations.

How can I prevent a termite infestation?

Terminix will get to subterranean termites before they get to you. The Bait Barrier Plan establishes an advanced treatment perimeter around your home and provides annual monitoring to check for termite activity. A second option, the Subterranean Termite Coverage Plan, offers an annual professional Termite Inspection and free treatments if termites are discovered. Both plans are backed by an ongoing guarantee protecting against any costs from future treatments or damage repairs.

My house does not have termites โ€“ should I still get a termite treatment?

Yes. Without an effective prevention program, like our Bait Barrier Plan, your home is open to termite damage, which could remain unnoticed until it becomes a serious problem.

The Terminix Bait Barrier Plan is designed to eliminate termites and their colonies.

Keep in mind that just because you donโ€™t see termites does not mean your property is safe from infestation. Subterranean termites live in colonies that can house hundreds of thousands of termites. They work 24 hours a day and are often difficult to detect since 80 percent of the wood they eat is hidden within the structure.

How long does it take to eliminate or control a termite colony with bait?

Individual termites can be affected within a few days after consuming the bait, but it may take several months before an entire colony is controlled or eliminated. This varies depending on the time of year, geography, the number of termites in the colony, the number of colonies infesting the structure and the species of termite.

How do I control termites and avo >

There are many effective options based on the type of termites found at your home. Terminix recommends a Termite Inspection in order to determine the best method and treatment plan. Liquid treatments use applications to the soil at potential entry points into the structure. As the termites forage for food sources, they come into contact with the treatment area if they try to enter the structure.

Soil treatments are intended to control termites for extended periods of time, although they may be breached because of physical disturbance of the treatment zone (landscaping activities, construction, erosion), tree roots growing through the treatment zone and natural degradation of the termiticide, among others. For these reasons, most termite control treatments are available with renewable guarantees.

I’m writing this because I couldn’t find an existing website that directly addresses the termite questions people ask on

First — go here to see if you have termites or ants? If you have ants, go to Other Bugs, bugs, bugs.

If you have termites you very probably have subterranean termites. There are other kinds but, they’re not nearly as common in the US. You’ll have to check the links at the end of the page to learn about other kinds. This discussion applies only to subterranean termites. This page may help you tell which kind of termite you have, but it d >

Subterranean termites live in underground colonies (nests), that may be 5 to 10 feet below the surface. They’re only about 1/8 inch long yet, the workers forage hundreds of feet, traveling underground, surfacing periodically, searching for food (wood) to feed the colony. If they find the wood your house is built of they can do a lot of damage.

Subterranean termites MUST have constant access to water. If they dry out, they die. Above ground, they maintain mud tunnels or tubes to the ground, which they keep wet with water from the ground.


One of the two most common ways termites are detected is seeing these pencil sized mud tubes. If you find one of these tubes and it’s dry, it’s probably inactive. In any case, check it by scraping away a 1-2 inch segment in the m >

Occasionally, a colony can live above ground, in your house. This is unusual, because it requires a very wet area for them to get enough water to keep the tubes wet. An area wet enough to sustain a colony, will probably be noticeably wet (mildewed or water stained wall, etc.), though, I understand the less common, Formosan termites, can survive on less water than ordinary subterraneans.

The other way they are detected is swarming. In early spring or summer, depending on the breed, an established colony (

5+ years old) produces a jillion winged variants able to reproduce and spread the species. If the colony has invaded your house, hundreds, even thousands of these little critters may swarm out of your walls and cover a room or two. Trust me, it’ll get your attention. It’s usually over as quickly as it starts, lasting probably an hour to a few hours. These swarmers won’t hurt you. They die quickly and you can vacuum them up. This eerie event may repeat in a few days or about a week. If they swarm ins >

Without one of these two signs, it’s hard for anybody, including a professional, to tell if you have termites until it’s very obvious. They eat (hollow out) channels, called galleries, ins >

Termites colonies are hard to destroy. The most common method of combating subterranean termites is a barrier method. This amounts to poisoning the soil adjacent to all places they can enter the house. The termites cannot go through this poisoned soil to enter the house, thus it forms a barrier to entry. Because the treatment is sort of expensive, people who discover one mud tube are often tempted to have that one area spot treated. This is almost always a mistake. The colony is always there, constantly foraging over remarkable distances. The colony attacking your house may actually be located beneath the house across the street. If one area/zone is blocked they will soon fine the way around it–entering the house through any untreated soil. Spot treatment only makes sense when there has been an effective whole house treatment and the termites have found a breach in this otherwise effective barrier. To protect ground and surface waters, the older effective termitic >

Disclaimer: From here on it’s mostly my opinions, and I ain’t gonna argue about ‘um! ๐Ÿ™‚

Who Should Do It?

A whole house treatment must be done by a professional. If you have a slab the big problem is entry points through the slab from underneath–cracks, plumbing penetrations, expansion joints, etc. They can squeeze through cracks as small as 1/64 inch. The colony may be beneath your house, and workers from any colony will forage underneath it, searching endlessly for any penetration. Treating this area requires that a knowledgeable person drill through the slab and pressure-inject the poison into key areas.

Orkin and Terminix charge more (sometimes a lot more) and probably won’t do any better job than a competent local independent. But, if things really go wrong, their warranty response is likely to be MUCH better. Pest control, particularly termite control–like politics and used cars–has historically been a shady business, so you should take care when selecting a local, independent termiter. Some of the links I give at the end of this article try to help gu >

With a whole house treatment you should get a unconditional 1-year guarantee against reinfestation. You may also be asked to sign-up for an annual maintenance contract. Annual maintenance ordinarily means you pay a fixed annual fee for the company to treat any spots of re-entry and to come out once a year to inspect for signs of such a re-entry. Years ago, because the chemicals were so effective, this annual maintenance agreement was mostly a ripoff–worse than service contracts for electronic gadgets today. But, with the less effective termitic >

Here’s what I do

I have a monolithic slab, which prov >

I find an independent with a good reputation and a low price (you can bargain with an independent). I contract with him for the whole house treatment. I make it part of the contract that the initial guarantee extends past the next swarming season that’s at least 3 months away. That is, he might have to give a 15 month initial warranty. Then I get an option to accept the annual maintenance contract at the end of the initial warranty, with the option to continue it on a year-to-year basis. There’s no reason you should have to contract for the maintenance before it is to begin. If serious problems develop in the year I take up my option to extend the warranty, if not, I begin my own treatment.

In Texas an individual can buy the same chemicals professionals use. I’ve not seen professional use termiticides at home centers like Home Depot. Look in the yellow pages under ‘Pest Control Supplies’ or ‘Pest Control Equipment & Supplies.’ I have been told in some states they are only sold to licensed exterminators. These are the principal termiticides use by pest control operators, Dragnetยฎ FT, Premise (a little newer), Termidor (even newer) and Tribute (I’ve never known anyone to use Tribute.) Termidor claims to also have a colony killing effect.

One may work better than another in some parts of the country or with different kinds of soil. I’m not sure whether this is true or an old exterminators’ tale. I selected mine by asking Terminix and Orkin what they use. If I were having it today I’d choose Termidor. The positive reports for it continue to mount up.

From what I’ve been able to learn, inaccessible areas, like under the slab, are not likely to have their protection disrupted, so if they are good for longer, and they’ll probably continue to hold for the life of the stuff. Areas exposed to gardening, rain, sunlight, animals, etc are less secure, but easy to self-treat. I check the slab for mud tubes quarterly. If any appear, I saturate them with wasp & hornet spray (any pestic >

Of Colony Killers, Baits & Sentricon
Written in 2000

Recently baits and colony kill methods have been introduced. The colony killers are based on a slow acting agent that, in some cases, contaminated termites carry back and contaminate the colony. One, called Bio-Blast, infects the creatures with a communicable and deadly fungus that only affects insects. It’s applied by opening up areas were termites are active and dusting it on as many live insects as possible. This infects the exposed critters with the fungus. When these return to the colony they infect others, who in turn infect others, etc. The biggest problem appears to be finding enough termites to dust to make it effective.

FirstLine is a bait station that treats a single mud tube.

The colony killer method currently doing by far the most advertising is Sentricon. The active agent is an insect growth regulator. It stops the termites’ molting process, so they are unable to grow, and they slowly die. (Click here for details on how this works.)

This method is about 10 years old. It’s not yet an established technique–that is, it hasn’t been proven over time on a large scale. Access to the method, and thus the price, is controlled by the company that produces it by only selling it to their franchised licensees. Partly or mostly because of this anti-competitive marketing method, it’s much more expensive than traditional barrier methods.

If it works, it can take a long time to eliminate the termites. Here’s how It works: First, several stations (chambers) containing pieces of wood are buried in your yard. The stations are checked periodically (monthly?) looking for hits (termite activity). If activity is found, the termites are captured and put in a bait module containing the growth regulator. The module is then put in the chamber in place of the wood. The termites are expected to eat their way out of the module, carry the poison food back to the colony leaving markers that lead more workers to the module, etc.

Your initial contract is for two years because, as they will explain to you, it may take this long for it to work. In spite of its high cost, as of November ’97, there is no guarantee it will work. Some individual licensees will agree to give you a traditional whole house barrier treatment if no bait station gets a hit in the 2 years. As of the above date, a single hit on a single station is considered success, whether you still have termites or not. Annual maintenance contracts are proportionally more expensive too.

Much of the cost is the MANY trips they must make to your house to check and service the stations. This is a product that clearly lends itself to easy do-it-yourself, but you can’t buy it.

So; it’s slow, it’s expensive and it’s not guaranteed to work. In short, I wouldn’t do the Sentricon method, unless you’ve tried everything else, and you’re at your wits end. A newer product/company named Exterra claims to be a direct Sentricon competitor (same chemical/bait-station method). I called the company and asked if they were more or less expensive than Sentricon. They claimed not to know anything about Sentricon pricing. You can judge for yourself if you want to do business with a company that starts out telling you they don’t know how their price compares with their only competitor.

Some Do-It-Yourself baits have sprung up in the last year or so. They want you to think they’re a cheap way to get the Sentricon method. They’re NOT. FMC Corp. and Spectrum Corp. are promoting Firstline TM and Spectrac >


An article I read compares the two methods as follows:

Advantages of barrier systems:

  • less costly – as low as 1/3 the cost
  • faster action
  • less complicated to use
  • longer track record of success

Advantages of bait systems:

  • destroy entire colony
  • safer
  • uses less chemicals
  • more environmentally friendly
  • long-lived protection (barrier systems need reapplication)
  • fewer household disruptions like drilling in floors and walls, etc

Other Termite Links

The best single page for the homeowner , brought to you by The University of Kentucky

Yet another termite page –, from the University of Missouri.

Australia’s Dr Don’s Termite Page — Find instructions for a homemade colony killer bait box among other termite facts. They also have lot’s of termites, down under.

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