What do termite droppings (AKA frass, poop, fecal pellets) look like?

When you see small brown and tan piles of dry material, about the consistency of course coffee grounds, suspect drywood termites. (Subterranean termites do not leave such droppings and aren’t discussed here.) See the photo attached. We also have a lot of photos on the Thrasher Termite & Pest Control website. Sometimes drywood termite droppings are dark, sometimes, almost white. The color depends on the wood the termites are eating.

I swept up the droppings and they didn’t come back. Are the termites gone?

Unfortunately not. When the tunnels or galleries that the termites live in get too cluttered, they perform housekeeping and that is why you see the fecal pellets. Once the galleries are clear, the termites will continue to eat in the direction of the wood grain. It may take a while for dropping to accumulate inside the wood again, and often a new pile of dropping will appear at a distance from the first pile.

Can you hear termites chewing? (My neighbor said she can!)

Some people DO hear termites chewing. Or they hear soldier termites clacking to warn the colony about danger. Mostly though, termites are silent eaters. No one in our office has hearing good enough to hear termites “in the wild.” We keep a small colony of termites in a Plexiglas observation enclosure for educational purposes. Sometimes, when the office is really, really quite, we can hear them.

What are the alternatives to fumigation for drywood termites?

The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program answered this best, so we’ll quote them here:

“All drywood termite control methods can be categorized as either whole structure or localized. A whole-structure treatment is defined as the simultaneous treatment of all infestations, accessible and inaccessible, in a structure. Localized or spot treatment is more restrictive and is often applied to a single board or small group of boards. Homeowners are advised to understand the distinction between whole-structure and localized treatments when deciding which method to select, because all treatment methods are not equal. Whole-structure treatments have an advantage over localized treatments in that they should eliminate all infestations, even hidden ones. With the uncertainty of current detection methods, particularly when drywall or other wall coverings conceal infestations, there is always some doubt as to the extent of drywood termite colony boundaries and the number of colonies within homes. Consequently, one can never be sure all infestations have been treated when applying localized treatments.”

Now, a recommendation from Thrasher Termite & Pest Control:

If you suspect drywood termites, have your home inspected by a licensed inspector. You can check the license status of any company or inspector through the state department of consumer affairs. Go to https://search.dca.ca.gov/ and under “Boards and Bureaus” select “Structural Pest Control Board.” Our license is PR5009.

almost white drywood termite pellets

The almost white pellets produced by these drywood termites are a result of the wood they were eating: new, very light-colored maple and plywood kitchen cabinets.

very plump, well fed drywood termites excreted typical tan and brown pellets.

These very plump, well fed drywood termites excreted typical tan and brown pellets. Drywood termites do a lot of damage to new wood with it’s high, but not wet, moisture content. Be especially vigilant looking for termite activity in additions to your house, or new wood trim.

Note the almost pill shaped drywood termite pellets in this enlarged photo? If you rub this dry matter between your fingers, it feels smooth, not gritty.

drywood termite pellets by vent

Drywood termite pellets at exterior of house.