As a homeowner who wants to protect your investment, you’re probably aware of the damage that termites can cause, and you may want to watch carefully for signs of a termite infestation. But is that tiny gray-brown structure clinging to your foundation a termite cocoon or mud tube? People may confuse mud tubes and cocoons.
Termites do not make cocoons. Although mud tubes and cocoons both protect their insect inhabitants, they aren’t the same thing. Let’s take a closer look at cocoons and mud tubes.
What Is a Cocoon?
Insects that undergo complete metamorphosis — a life cycle that begins with the egg and then moves through the larval stage — spin silk cocoons to protect the pupa during this development stage in which the insect transitions into the mature adult stage. Butterflies, wasps, beetles and fleas all go through a pupa stage. And cocoons are a way that some insects protect themselves while going through metamorphosis in the pupa stage. It’s made of silk, which the last larval instar creates around itself as a start to the pupa cycle. Fleas, and some species of moths and butterflies, create a cocoon.
Unlike these other insects, termites do not undergo a complete metamorphosis. This means that termite cocoons do not exist. Termite metamorphosis is incomplete. Instead, the termite life cycle consists of three stages: egg, nymph, and adult.
What Is a Mud Tube?
People can sometimes confuse a termite mud tube with a cocoon. Subterranean termites produce mud tubes. Mud tubes are flattened, pencil-sized, earth-colored tunnels that protect subterranean termites from predators, temperature extremes and dry conditions when they’re traveling between their underground nests and the wood they eat.
Subterranean termites need to maintain certain temperature and humidity levels in their immediate environment in order to survive. Made of saliva and fecal matter (which may contain wood), mud tubes block out cool, dry air, creating an optimal habitat for these destructive pests. These mud tubes often have high humidity. You may see mud tubes anywhere the ground meets your house (i.e., around your foundation) or around another possible food source (wooden structure or tree).
If you spot these mud tubes, or anything that resembles them, you should contact a termite control professional immediately. Mud tubes are one of the top signs of a termite infestation and it's important to treat the infestation before extensive damage is done to your home.
What to Do If You Have a Termite Infestation?
Though mud tubes are a common sign of termite activity, not all termites create these tunnels. Drywood termites, for example, do not need to stay in direct contact with soil, nor do they require as much moisture as subterranean termites. Instead, drywood termites live inside of the wood that they infest.
Termite infestations can cause thousands of dollars of damage to your home. Although there are some steps you can take to help prevent termite damage (such as removing firewood that’s touching your home and eliminating leaks), your home may have experienced damage prior to you owning it, or you may live in a climate attractive to termites. Early detection and prompt treatment of termite infestations are critical to helping prevent extensive — and expensive — damage. If you suspect your home has been invaded by termites, contact Terminix® today to schedule a free inspection.
Even if you don’t currently have termite activity, it’s a good idea to contact a termite control professional. Since termites feast 24/7, Terminix has plans that can help protect you from the cost of future termite infestations.