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.