Termite Frass Indentification – An Often Overlooked Sign Of Termites

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Finding termite excrement on a window sill can make even the most steely-eyed homeowner nervous—more than a bit worried.

If you've happen to find termite droppings in your home, there are likely many unknowns now racing through your head…

Small Termite Frass Pile

Inspecting for termite frass or termite droppings is one of the signs of termites that you can identify without the help of an exterminator.

  1. Finding termite excrement on a window sill will make even the most steely-eyed homeowner upset and a bit worried. If this has happened to you, there are probably many unknowns now racing through your head…
  • How long has my house been infested with termites?
  • How much damage has been done?
  • How do I get rid of these pests?
  • How can I keep this from ever happening again?

Before you make your blood pressure rise too much… take a deep breath and learn what you are looking at and what it can teach you. Termite droppings are one of the telltale signs of termite presence in a home. However, many homeowners overlook this vital clue of a hidden infestation. But you don’t have too if you keep reading.

Finding Termite Frass Can Actually Save Your House

Many of you probably have no clue what “frass” is or why knowing what it is and what it looks like can save your house. Well, don’t worry here’s the scoop. It is simply the proper word for termite excrement or droppings.

Depending at what stage of an infestation you spot frass, it can be one of the signs of termites that can lead to an early discovery of an infestation. While discovering an infestation is never good news, finding one early could help save you from significant damage to your home.

Some of you may have seen these droppings before and not even realized what you were looking at. In fact, people often confuse termite droppings for sawdust. An understandable mistake when you glance at the picture below. However, upon closer examination and once you know what you are looking for it is easy to distinguish termite droppings from sawdusts.

What's the Difference Between Termite Frass and Sawdust?

Typically, a homeowner who sees termite poop for the first time will confuse it with sawdust and clean it up and discard it without thinking twice.

We want to prevent that from happening, because you could be overlooking a serious problem!

The biggest difference between a pile of termite excrement and saw dust is the shape. If you sight is not the greatest you may need a magnifying glass to tell the difference but termite droppings will be granular pellets often varying in color.

Some may be a darker coffee color while others may be a lighter color. Saw dust on the other hand will look more like tiny shavings and slivers rather than the 6-sided granular shape of droppings. Additionally saw dust tends to be mostly the same color.

Think you may have found termite droppings in your home? – Just fill out the info below and free quotes for professional termite services!

Check out this link to see a great comparison between drywood termite frass and carpenter ant frass which closely resembles sawdust. You can see the drywood frass pellets look almost like a deflated football or an oblong pea under magnification.

If you find termite dropping in your home, I would recommend getting a professional inspection as soon as possible. 

Termite Frass
Inspecting for termite frass or termite droppings is one of the signs of termites that you can identify without the help of an exterminator.

Drywood termite droppings are often referred to as drywood frass. This frass is the result of the tiny wood colored pellets that termites knock loose from their tiny pin sized holes as they burrow deeper into the lumber in your home.

Termites typically remain undetected to humans and their natural predators by burrowing inside wood rather than eating at wood from the outside in.

This offers them some natural concealment and protection from animals that would eat them up if found in plain sight. All of this makes it quite difficult to spot termites unless you really know what you are looking for.

Thankfully termites like good housekeeping within their colonies. Why is this good news to us? Well, they will sometimes eat a hole through the outside of the wood to push out their pile of fecal pellets which is often the only visual sign that you may lead you to notice their presence.

If you find anything that resembles pellets of wood-like material you should compare it to the photos and videos in this article. Termite frass is usually a sign of drywood termite infestation.

If they are pooping, then they are eating, and you should either do an initial inspection yourself or hire a professional to assess how far the termite infestation has spread, what damage has been done, and what the next steps should be taken, in terms of treatment.

Seems like a lot to take care of? Don’t worry, most pest control professionals will perform an inspection for free with no strings attached. If you find one that does not offer a free termite inspection I would steer clear of them.

Found some potential excrement, but still unsure if it is frass?

Here are some additional signs of termites that you should look out for. If you find two or more signs then the chances that you have an infestation are much greater. Discarded termite wings are another often overlooked clue of termite presence. When termites reach an adult stage they grow wings and eventually shed them. When the termites are in their flying stage of adulthood they are often referred to as swarmers. After the swarmers land in their intended destination, they shed their wings. If their intended destination was somewhere within your home or structure then those wings should be visible somewhere.

Of course, these wings are small but if you know what you are looking for it is possible to detect them. They will be found in pairs of identical wings. Check on wooden floors, window sills, and spider webs in your house. If you have found frass and wings in an area you can do a quick test with a screwdriver to get a general idea if you have a problem area.

Take the end of the screwdriver (Phillips or standard) and tap along the wood around the area the wings or dropping were found. If the termites are inside the wood and have been eating away the cellulose for a considerable amount of time… there will be a hollow type of noise when you tap over the previously infested areas.

This sound will sound different from the sound of solid wood being tapped on. Again this is only a quick field test but when accompanied with other signs of termites, it is probably time to get a professional inspection done to assess the damage and then recommend treatment options.

This unlucky homeowner found drywood termite frass on their back porch

Where Should I Look For Termite Poop?

Many times, people notice termite frass sitting on a window sill or other locations where they are blatantly out of place because in such places frass catches your eyes. 

Unfortunately, if frass is kicked out of a termite burrow in the ceiling or some other place, it can fall unto the floor (wooden or carpet) where it is unlikely to ever be detected. This is especially true for homeowners who have know clue what frass looks like.

But now you know what termite droppings look like, so you can be more confident in spotting this often ignored sign of termites sooner. Pay particular attention to these areas since finding termite droppings here is quite common:

  1. Window and door sills
  2. In and around wooden porches

If you ever find anything that looks like saw dust stop and take a closer look. Do NOT sweep or vacuum up anything that might be termite poop.

Stop and ask yourself, “Why would there be saw dust here?” before you go into cleaning mode. If you quickly discard it you may be throwing away valuable clues.

At the very least, put it in a plastic zip lock baggy and you can always take it to a pest control professional at a later time. Also keep note of where you found it and it would not hurt to snap a picture with your smart phone. You can usually email the photo to a termite control professional and as long as the resolution in the photograph is high enough they should be able to distinguish saw dust from termite droppings.

Do Subterranean Termites Leave Behind Droppings?

The equivalent of drywood frass for subterranean termites is what is known as mud tubes. Subterranean termites droppings are quite a bit different in appearance since their food of choice is different. As the name suggests, drywood termites prefer… well, dry wood. Consequently their poop is dry and often looks like tiny coffee pellets or is sometimes confused for sand or sawdust.

Subterranean termites on the other hand prefer wood that is already under the earth. They use mud to help them create their colony-home and their fecal matter is a liquid form. Thankfully termites are simple and predictable creatures. This makes it easier for us as homeowners to understand them, deter, detect, and defeat them.

Some Termite 101

Termites are tiny insects that feed on cellulose. They play an important role in nature by helping speed along the decaying process of fallen trees to bring about room for new life. This useful role however, can cause a home to crumble before it’s time as well. Termites are very similar in appearance to ants except that termites only have 2 body parts where ants have three. This is the key difference between the two.

Fun Fact about Termite Poop – One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Magnesium Supplement?

Believe it or Not… Some African tribes actually utilize termite poop as a dietary supplement because of it’s high magnesium content.

Additional Resources to Learn about Termite Frass

  1. Comparison between Carpenter Ant and Termite Frass - Utah State University
  2. Great article describing different wood-boring insects' frass - Clemson University
  3. Pest Board of California - Page 39 shows photos of Drywood Termite Frass
  4. Structural Pest Control - Control of Wood Destroying Pests by Nevada State Department of Agriculture


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