Termites are considered Arizona’s number one insect pests of economic importance, as the state is home to several termite species that inflict more property damage annually than any other pest species. Nearly 20 termite species can be found in Arizona, including subterranean, drywood and dampwood species. Like in all other regions of the US, subterranean termites are the most destructive group of termites in the southwest, but drywood termites cause an unusually high amount of property damage in the region as well due to their ability to thrive in exceptionally hot and dry environments.
The arid land subterranean termite and the desert subterranean termite are the two most commonly encountered and economically damaging termite species in Arizona. When it comes to drywood termites, the dark western drywood termite and the light western drywood termite are the two most destructive drywood termite species in Arizona, and dampwood termites are not considered economically significant pests in the state. As many homeowners are already aware, drywood termite infestations are more difficult to detect in homes than subterranean termite infestations, as only ground-dwelling subterranean termites leave behind conspicuous mud tubes that indicate their presence within a home.
Mud tubes are constructed by subterranean termite workers in order to provide the termites with protection from the dry outside air while traveling between indoor wood sources and the ground soil where they hydrate. Mud tubes are usually located on the foundations of homes, and while they alert homeowners of a termite presence before serious damage can be inflicted by the insect pests, they are not useful for identifying the species of termite pest infesting a home. However, this is not necessarily the case when it comes to Arizona’s unique subterranean termite species.
Desert subterranean termites are known for constructing a number of different types of mud tubes to access various areas of structural wood within a home, while arid land subterranean termites prefer to infest the most moisture-saturated structural wood sources that they can find. By colonizing moist wood, arid land subterranean termites can hydrate while consuming wood, thus reducing their need to construct mud tubes that lead into the soil. Finding an abundance of mud tubes in a variety of locations in, and on a home is the first indication that desert subterranean termites are infesting the structure.
Unlike arid land subterranean termites, desert subterranean termites often construct “drop tubes,” which are mud tubes that hang from ceilings. Desert subterranean termite mud tubes are relatively strong, small, circular and nearly airtight, while arid land subterranean termite mud tubes are more shoddily constructed. Western subterranean termite workers spread their fecal matter over the internal walls of their mud tubes, which acts like a cement upon drying. This fecal matter is yellow in color, and it gives desert subterranean mud tubes a charactiersally light color, while arid land subterranean mud tubes are brown and break apart easily.
Have you ever spotted mud tubes hanging from a ceiling?