///How to Identify Drywood Termite Droppings

How to Identify Drywood Termite Droppings

How to Identify Drywood Termite Pellets

Drywood termite pellets, termite droppings, or termite frass…whatever you call it you don’t want to find it in or around your house. How do you know whether that little dry pile of something you find is from drywood termites? Look at this photo comparison. Termite Pellets II Drywood termite pellets look a lot like coffee grounds mixed with sand. Magnified, termite pellets have the smooth shape of arborio rice, not the chippy shape of coffee grounds or salt and pepper. Drywood termite fecal pellets are hard, elongated and less than 1/25 inch long. They have rounded ends and six flattened or concavely depressed sides with ridges at angles between the six surfaces. Unlike other critter poo, termite pellets  are not smelly or harmful. Drywood termites derive their nutrition from cellulose in wood. Within a termite’s gut are large numbers of bacteria and single-celled animals called protozoa. The protozoa produce enzymes that digest cellulose causing the break down of wood particles to simpler compounds that termites absorb as food. Undigested particles are excreted as fecal pellets.

Termite Pellet Closeup

Magnification of drywood termite pellets.

Mounds of drywood termite fecal pellets are a tell-tell sign of a drywood termite infestation. Termite colonies eject pellets through a small “kick-out hole” in the external surface of wood from the internal termite galleries. These pellets often are found in small piles below infested wood. Because drywood termite pellets are a warning sign of termite activity, do not clean up drywood termite pellets until after your termite inspector has confirmed the identification.

Termite Pellets in Window

Mound of drywood termite pellets and dead winged termites between the panes of a double-pane window.

Other terms for drywood termite fecal pellets include drywood termite frass, drywood termite excrement, and drywood termite droppings. We recommend that homeowners order a termite inspection at the first sign of drywood termite fecal pellets. It is always recommended that real estate professionals order a termite inspection of all structures before they are listed for sale.

Reader Submitted Photos:

Readers occasionally submit photos of drywood termite dropping found in their homes. Below are some of those photos. (If you have any to contribute, please contact us!)

Scattered Termite Droppings

Termite droppings, photo submitted by James of Southern California. This termite frass fell from a cathedral ceiling and scattered on the wood floor.

UPDATE:

The wood ‘powder’ in the photo below is evidence of wood boring beetles. This is not drywood termite pellets.

wood beetles

Not drywood termite pellets, this wood powder is from wood beetles. The round hole in the wood is the beetle exit hole.

About the Author:

Garrett Thrasher is Vice President and General Manager of Thrasher Termite & Pest Control of So Cal, Inc., Chairperson of the San Diego District of the Pest Control Operators of California (PCOC), a member of the bedbugFREE network, and a member of the National Pest Management Association. Author of The Bed Bug Battle Plan: Field Tested Solutions for Bed Bug Extermination and Prevention (ISBN: 1500838209), Garrett’s solid understanding of bed bugs, their behavior, current outbreaks, and experience on camera has made him a leading contact for news and media outlets. He is also a sought after speaker on the topic of managing online reviews for positive impact. He has spoken at PestWorld and PestTech, and was featured in PCT Magazine and the PCT Podcast. Thrasher Termite & Pest Control of So Cal is accredited by QualityPro–the mark of excellence in pest management.

51 Comments

  1. […] Termite pellets do not always signal live drywood termites. Drywood termite poop, also called pellets, is often the first sign of a termite infestation; however, it may not be the […]

  2. John October 5, 2014 at 9:24 am - Reply

    Great picture comparing drywood termite frass to salt and pepper and coffee grounds. They do look somewhat similar. A lot of people are also quick to discard termite droppings because they confuse them with a pile of sawdust. Please! Before you vacuum up that pile of “saw dust” stop and think… why would there be saw dust right there? Then take a closer look and if you think it might be frass, call a professional to come to a complete termite inspection of your home.

  3. Buzz October 6, 2014 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    John: Great comment. We really need people to leave the frass where they find it so we can trace it to the source of the termite infestation. Also, if the pile of “sawdust” is not termite frass, it may be sign of carpenter ants.

  4. Dr. Mildred Allen December 10, 2014 at 6:45 am - Reply

    …or Wood-Boring Weevils… We bought a piano that was made in a foreign country…the Mahogany wood was infested with Wood-Boring Weevils… Fortunately, the piano came with a warranty, and the first one was replaced. Our home had to be inspected, and every board in the attic was sprayed for these destructive insects.

    • Buzz January 5, 2015 at 3:46 pm - Reply

      Thanks for mentioning other wood boring insects. Yes, there are carpenter ants, carpenter bees, wood boring beetles and weevils. It’s a real shame that the piano introduced wood-boring weevils into your home. Four our other readers: none of these other wood borers leave behind anything that looks like drywood termite frass. Weevil frass is a lot more powdery. Weevil and beetle activity is usually noticed as tiny holes drilled into wood furniture.

  5. Kevin March 9, 2015 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    I found a mound near an upstairs sliding door. The mound was about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter, and perfectly round and perfect dome shape – almost with no imperfections in shape. How does that happen? It appeared rather suddenly – seemingly in a day or two.

    • Buzz March 9, 2015 at 2:43 pm - Reply

      The symmetry of a pile of termite droppings is amazing. What happens is that when the termite tunnels in the wood get too full of pellets, the termites do a little housekeeping. They chew a tiny hole from one of the tunnels to the outside world. The hole is the size of a single pellet, so very small. Then the termites push the pellets out one at a time. Unless wind is present, all the pellets drop straight down and like the sand in an hourglass, make a perfect conical mound. Yes the appearance tends to be sudden. If you sweep up the pile, and it does not reappear, this is a sign that the termite tunnels are clear, not that the termites are dead. You may not see another mound of pellets until the termite chew through enough wood to clog the tunnels again.

      • Kevin March 9, 2015 at 2:55 pm - Reply

        Thanks, Buzz. Is it possible that it was pushed UP through a tiny hole in the floor rather than falling down? It appeard inside the house on a hardwood floor, about an inch from the edge of the room and right near where the wood-framed sliding door is (and I now suspect the outside threshold for that door was invested first). To fall there straight down, it would have had to come through a 5/8 inch gypsum drywall ceiling, and that seems pretty odd to me.

        • Buzz June 10, 2015 at 1:01 pm - Reply

          Yes, termites can push up too. Strong little buggers for their size.

  6. Seeing eyes March 21, 2015 at 8:22 am - Reply

    I have this type of termite in the house I’m renting. I kept finding droppings in a perfect circular mound of what I thought was dirt, wood but turned out to be dropping on my windowsill. I’d clean it off and then it would reappear. Then yesterday I decided to look at it with a magnifying glass and found the tiny hole, and a little guy pushing a pellet out of the hole…and thought I’d research as to what it could be…turns out it looks just like a termite and the debris looks just like their droppings! I had suspected termite damage on the lower level of the house – reported it to the landlord and it now looks like he has termites in the upstairs as well. With the house up for sale…and he isn’t disclosing anything wrong with it (leaking pipes, water damage, roof leaks, termite infestation, broken screen doors, and patio doors that don’t close properly…I don’t think he’s going to sell it and I CAN’T WAIT TO MOVE!

    • Buzz March 23, 2015 at 12:56 pm - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. It’s amazing that you actually caught a termite in the act of cleaning house. I’d love to see a video of that!

  7. Mary April 3, 2015 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    I found an old wood table. But I have noticed some dry like substance that resembles dry yeast as I was cleaning it. There is some wood damage but it doesn’t have any signs of live insects anywhere. Is this table safe to put in my house?

    • Buzz April 6, 2015 at 3:36 pm - Reply

      Maybe. From your description it appears you have found evidence of wood boring beetles. You’ll rarely see live beetles because it is the larvae deep in the wood that are doing the damage. The small round hole that is sign of wood beetles is an exit hole that appears after the damage is done. UC Davis has some great information on this topic. Many pieces of antique furniture (ours included) have exit holes that mean past infestation. The questions you need answered are 1) does your furniture have an active infestation and 2) if the infestation is active, how likely are the beetles infesting the table to emerge and infest other wood furniture or the wood structure of your home. Sadly, we can’t answer those questions for you.

  8. Denise June 10, 2015 at 4:28 am - Reply

    I live in a bungalow style home circa 1941 here in Southern California. As is common for the area, we’ve had ongoing problems with drywood termites. After having had the house tented several years ago periodically I find small – medium size piles of droppings as you’ve described. These are localized areas (mostly near the kitchen) requiring chemical “spot treatments” periodically. I noticed the other day there is a small amount of droppings in the back portion of a kitchen cabinet where our lesser used dishes are kept. My daughter and I have been suffering from chronic intermittent gastrointestinal problems for the last 18 months that, despite multiple medical evaluations, persist without a definitive diagnosis yet found. My question is this: could some sort of parasitic and/or bacterial illness be in the in those termite droppings found in the kitchen cabinet and if so, could it be a source of illness effecting humans ?

    Thank You for your thoughts on this matter . . .

    “Sick in Southern California”

    • Buzz June 10, 2015 at 12:57 pm - Reply

      Denise, we’re really sorry to hear about your medical issue. Regarding potential pathogens, we’ve never seen a scholarly article that mentions pathogens in drywood termite pellets. Our staff is around drywood termite pellets all the time, in fact, I have some in my desk drawer. None of us has experienced gastrointestinal problems. We’re sorry, but think you need to look elsewhere for the source of your symptoms. The fact that you are living in a circa 1941 house does raise one red flag: lead. We are by no means experts in this area; however, if you have not already, let your physician know that you live in an older home and may have been exposed to lead. Here’s a link to the

        EPA’s information for homeowners regarding the risks of lead in older homes.

      We hope you and your daughter feel better soon.

  9. Starshine July 18, 2015 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    I noticed in my attic on the supporting boards there are very tiny amber- colored pellets. They fall off of the wood if you touch them but they are crystal-like, almost like sugar crystals except amber- colored. Are these termite eggs or fecal material?

    • Buzz July 24, 2015 at 11:40 am - Reply

      This don’t sound like termite pellets and most certainly are not termite eggs. Could this substance be dried sap? If possible, email us a photo of the substance and we’ll try to identify it. Call the Silicon Valley office for the direct email address. 408-354-9944

  10. Dottie October 11, 2015 at 2:42 am - Reply

    I have been cleaning up piles of light yellowish/tan granuales on the kitchen floor where the oven and drywood cabinets meet. I clean it up and then its there again. It was first noticed back in December, but others who were at the condo in the winter did nothing about it but clean it up.

    Now, I find little granuales on the second shelf of the kitchen cabinet in the same area, but above and to the right. First, it was scattered, but now there is a pile of it, not forming a pile just in one concentrated area.

    It is the first unit on the first floor in FL by the water. In the past, there was a major carpenter ant infestation from a nearby palm tree; they were coming up the garbage disposal. Also, there was major mold damage, the last of 3 being the worst which was when a new drop ceiling was put in and new cabinets. All furniture in the LR, kitchen an dining room where lost, but they did not take out the carpet, and I feel did not remediate properly. from your pics, it doesn’t look like termite frass. Do wood beetles leave a mess like this and how can I tell from the outside which I believe in concret and not sure what is in the inside. We rent, but it is going up for sale and I want to make sure that the owners knows to disclose this problem and to fix it while we are hear as now it is getting on our dishes and cooking area. Would pics help?

    • Buzz October 19, 2015 at 1:54 pm - Reply

      Yes! Photos would help. Please include a coin in the photo so we can estimate the size of the frass granules. That said, Florida is home to more species of wood destroying insects than is California. We’ll do our best to help with identification and call in one of the reputable Florida pest control operators for help if necessary.

  11. Patti March 31, 2016 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    today I saw to rather large piles of what I believe to be frass in my basement tiled bathroom right against the commode. Would this be a normal place to find termites our house was built in 1954 we had it inspected when we bought it a couple years ago…help please…thankyou

    • Garrett April 1, 2016 at 2:53 pm - Reply

      While a tiled bathroom may seem like an unusual location to find termite frass, any location with wood can provide a habitat for termites, even wood beneath tile. Could there be any wood framing behind the floor, walls, or ceiling? Often we find extremely tidy piles of frass on the floor from a termite kick-out hole that is located in the ceiling. Termites clean out their chambers one tiny pellet at a time through a hole no larger than the tip of a pencil. When in a location without a draft, gravity piles these pellets into an almost perfect cone, in the same way sand fills an undisturbed hourglass. When in doubt, call a licensed termite inspector. Often a limited inspection such as this is no charge. If you’re located in Santa Clara County or San Diego County, Thrasher Termite & Pest Control will be happy perform a no-charge limited inspection of the area.

  12. Nelly May 1, 2016 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    I just found a mound of termite pellets…. now what do I do, and what should I expect when I call a pest control company?

    • Buzz May 6, 2016 at 11:51 am - Reply

      First, leave the pellets where you found them. This will help the termite inspector find the source of the infestation.
      99.9% of the time when a homeowner thinks they found drywood termite pellets, the homeowner is correct. A licensed termite inspector is the best person to review with you the options for drywood termite control. Because your question comes up frequently, you’ve inspired us to post more about this topic. We’ll let you know when that information goes live. Meanwhile, please follow these tips for selecting a pest control company.
      1. Use a QualityPro certified company. This widely respected certification requires pest management companies to ascribe to a comprehensive set of standards. Earned by less than 3% of companies in the United States, the QualityPro designation demonstrates a commitment to excellence and provides consumers with an easy way to identify and be confident in their selection of a quality pest management provider. You can search for a QualityPro company here: http://www.whatisqualitypro.org/
      2. Verify the company’s license with the state licensing board. We ALWAYS recommend that you verify the license of any professional who steps foot on your property. We’ve run across many business cards that say “licensed.” Remember, business card printers don’t check the truthfulness of their customers, so you need to. Check on licenses in California here: http://www.pestboard.ca.gov/license

  13. kristen July 5, 2016 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    I have a very fine clear crystal sand that keeps appearing on my shelving in the bathroom. It’s a very old shelving, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s some boring animal, but have you ever heard of a clear crystal, salt looking ash?

  14. kristen July 5, 2016 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    Kristen again.
    I have teeny tiny ants that I find randomly both in the bathroom and the kitchen. The ones in the kitchen don’t go after food… Could the ants be leaving the crystal sand behind

    • Buzz July 7, 2016 at 3:01 pm - Reply

      Ants excrete metabolic waste, analogous to urine, in the form of white urate crystals. However, without seeing the crystals or ants, we can’t make a determination of what the “crystal sand” might be.

  15. Katie September 7, 2016 at 5:47 am - Reply

    Hi! Yesterday we found a small perfect mound of what looked like very finely ground coffee grounds on our wood flooring. It appeared almost overnight! When I went to clean it up the inside of the mound had a stringy look and when touched the mound basically turned to dust. I have pictures if needed. What could this be?

    • Buzz September 12, 2016 at 4:22 pm - Reply

      That doesn’t sound like drywood termite droppings. A photo would be helpful.

  16. Julie November 21, 2016 at 5:03 am - Reply

    I recently purchased a new china cabinet. When emptying the old one, I found piles of wings and dry wood termite frass on several shelves and a large pile on the floor under the cabinet. I live in south central PA and according to what I found online, the dry wood termites are not usually found in this area of the country. I called a local pest control guy and he came out and scooped some of the stuff up and took it back to his office. He said in his 20 years he had never seen anything like it. He called the next day to confirm my assessment. I brought the cabinet back from Germany 30 years ago. We lived in CA for a couple of years and then OK. We have been in PA since 1994. Could termites live in the cabinet undetected for decades? Do I need to junk or burn the cabinet or could a winter in the garage kill the bugs? Do I need to be concerned that they could be in my house?

    • Buzz November 21, 2016 at 2:44 pm - Reply

      Well, this is concerning both for you and the state of Pennsylvania. We suggest that you immediately contact the Penn State Extension office. http://extension.psu.edu/contact. Since drywood termites are not known to be a problem in Pennsylvania, the biologists may be interested in investigating this drywood termite infestation. Regarding your cabinet, we agree that it is surprising for drywood termites to have remained undetected for so long. Is it possible? Evidently so. Prolonged periods of cold can kill drywood termites, so a trip to an unheated garage sounds like a reasonable solution for your cabinet. As for the danger to your house, the biologists at Penn State will have a more informed opinion. We’re really sorry that happy memories weren’t the only things you took with you from California! Please keep us posted with the reply from Penn State.

  17. Kyle December 14, 2016 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Think I found frass in my kitchen. Was wondering where I can email a picture to verify it.

    Couple things

    – said frass only appears for a day or two after I have been on the roof of the house.

    – it is not in a perfect mound every time it appears however the drop zone is over 6ft assuming it is coming from the ceiling.

    • Buzz January 3, 2017 at 4:03 pm - Reply

      Kyle: Sorry for the delay. Regarding the frass, it sounds like “filtering frass” from an old infestation. Check out this post: Photos are always welcome. We obscure our email address from spambots, but I’ll email it directly to you.

  18. Dana January 28, 2017 at 9:31 am - Reply

    I think I found drywood termite frass in large piles all over our basement. It is gray colored and some piles have white hollow pellets in them. I also found dirt colored granules under piles of leaves under our deck. They don’t appear to be the same as the basement but I don’t know. I haven’t seen anything in the house or attic. No wings or piles in window sills. Can I send you pictures? I am terrified our house is going to collapse.

    • Buzz January 30, 2017 at 12:29 pm - Reply

      I sent a private email address to which you can share your photos for identification. We’re happy to take a look.

  19. Dana January 28, 2017 at 9:39 am - Reply

    I forgot to add that in some piles it looks like pieces of insect remains

  20. Karen Bill February 15, 2017 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    I have an older home in Santa Maria. Small piles of sawdust on a couple of the old wooden window sills. I can email you a pic. Thank you for your help in identifying what pest it could be.

  21. James March 5, 2017 at 9:32 pm - Reply

    I have a home that was remodeled 10 years ago and this past week we started seeing in to areas sprinkling of wood like material spread around a 1 foot area. This is a part of the house that has cathedral ceilings. I have taken a couple of pictures with a coin. Would it be possible to send you the pictures for you to take a look to see what you think.

    • Buzz March 7, 2017 at 2:16 pm - Reply

      Thank you for the photos. Looks like drywood termite droppings to us.

  22. James April 21, 2017 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    A termite company has found that I do have drywood termites in several areas of the house. My house is a two story with a Tile roof so I am concerned about the damage that will occur to the roof if the standard fumigation tenting is utilized. One termite company has stated that because my home has a stucco exterior and that the eves are also enclosed that they could use the “Tape and Seal” method instead of tenting. That is of interest to me since it will reduce the chances of damage to the tile roof but I am concerned about the effectiveness of that process. Do you have any data on the effectiveness of “Tape & Seal”. Is that a recommended option?

    Any advice would be appreciated.

  23. Paul April 26, 2017 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    We are in California and have found piles that I worry are from termites. But the piles we have are a much darker, blacker color than your photos online. We have seen these along the base of our front windows and now along the edge of our bathtub where there are cracks in the grout. Any thoughts?

    • Buzz August 18, 2017 at 11:17 am - Reply

      Drywood termite pellets come in a variety of colors. Some piles are almost all blond. Some are almost all dark. Pay more attention to the shape than the color. If the shape matches our photos, you have drywood termites.

  24. Joseph Scarborough May 28, 2017 at 8:33 am - Reply

    Is it unusual to see the frass in one area for a week or so, then show up somewhere else (10 feet away) later? It’s not concentrated but spread over an area a few feet square. Like a comment above, I live in Santa Maria also.

    • Buzz August 18, 2017 at 11:29 am - Reply

      No, not unusual. The termites are clearing their galleries of debris. Once one is clear, they’ll move along.

  25. Judy Hinkle August 24, 2017 at 7:50 am - Reply

    I am not sure what is in my house now. I find different types of piles on wood window ledges. My home is 2 story and was built in 1972.I live in Yukon Oklahoma and am not sure who I need to check this out. Please advise me of a company that I can trust to do s good job and that are reasonable priced. Thank you for your help.

  26. Trisha September 13, 2017 at 8:05 am - Reply

    Hi – I found these little pellets on my kitchen counter. There were in a different area on the counter a few weeks ago when we first moved into our apartment but I didn’t think anything of them and cleaned them. When I saw them again today, I realized I should document and figure out if this is a coincidence or a problem I need to look into.

    Also – might not be related but worth a mention – there were ants coming out of the outlet on the same counter the other day.

    Is there somewhere I can send a picture for help identifying? Thanks!!

  27. Reva Rohe November 11, 2017 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    Are dry wood termites in logs? I have logs that have been cut for the fireplace in my side yard. My yard man moved them closer to my home for ease in getting them for the fire. I noticed holes in all the logs and droppings all around the logs and under the bark. The droppings are sort of “pepper size” with some other red looking droppings about the same size. I am scared to death it is dry wood termites. Would they still be in the logs that have been outside for about two years? And, would they still be alive?

    • Buzz November 13, 2017 at 12:37 pm - Reply

      Yes! Drywood termites are found in logs and fences and all variety of dead wood. They are nature’s decomposers, we just don’t want drywood termites decomposing our homes! If any of the termites in your logs are alive, they won’t be after you use the firewood. 🙂 As long as the wood pile is three feet from your house, you don’t need to worry about the drywood termites in the logs crawling into your house; however, if the wood is piled against your house, you really should have it moved, again. Not only will the logs harbor drywood termites, they are a food source for subterranean termites. So, keep the logs away from the house until you are ready to use them for firewood.

  28. […] How to Identify Drywood Termite Droppings […]

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