Finding termite frass on your window sill or bed can be unsettling to even the most veteran homeowner—or at least it should.
Many homeowners, however, do not know what termite droppings look like nor what finding termite excrement in your home might mean about potential termite damage in your home.
We will address most questions you might have about termite pellets below, but if you have a question that is not answered, please ask it in the comment section at the end of this article and we will respond to you soon.
If you know you found termite frass in your home or outside your house around the foundation, you should contact a termite professional. You can answer a few questions here and get free, no obligation estimates from several companies.
Finding termite excrement on a window sill, porch, or elsewhere means you have (or had) termite activity. If you find termite droppings in or around your home, you need to figure out several questions:
- How can I tell the difference between termite frass vs ant frass?
- (Assuming you found termite droppings) How can I identify what type of termite droppings they are?
- How long has my house been infested with termites?
- How much damage have termites caused in your building?
- How do I get rid of these termites?
- How can I keep termites from damaging my property in the future?
Before your blood pressure rises too much, take a deep breath and learn more about what termite droppings in your home mean and what we can learn from finding them.
Termite droppings are a telltale sign of termite presence in a home, however, many homeowners overlook this vital clue of a hidden termite infestation. But you can spot termite dropping fairly easily if you know what to look for. If you have a specific question about termite droppings, check the table of contents below to skip to a certain section.
Identifying Termite Poop
In this section, we’ll help you figure out how to identify termite droppings accurately. Termite poop can look similar to sawdust, wood shavings, and a few other types of insect droppings, but we’ll help you learn to distinguish the differences.
What does termite frass look like?
Termite frass is another name for termite droppings or excrement and is often confused with sawdust because of its similar appearance. Termite frass piles also look somewhat like piles of salt and pepper or like coffee grounds to other homeowners. This can be confusing. To add to the confusion, usually, when you find termite poop, you won’t see termites around.
Thankfully, though, once you know what to look for, inspecting for termite droppings is an easy way for homeowners to find signs of termite activity (without the help of a termite professional).
Why do I see termite droppings but no termites?
Termite fecal matter is a reliable sign of drywood termites because drywood termites periodically clean out their tunnels by pushing out their fecal matter, leaving small frass piles of black, brown, or sand-colored pellets. Drywood termites, however, tend to stay in the protection of their tunnels, which is why you see their frass but no termites.
Does termite poop look like sand?
A termite frass pile can look like sand, depending on what type of wood the termites recently ate. If the wood was a lighter color, frass piles will look a bit like sand. But, if you look at frass carefully, the pellets have an oblong shape whereas grains of sand have more spherical shapes.
Do termite droppings look like coffee grounds?
Termite droppings can look a bit like coffee grounds when the termites recently ate darker woods, however, you can see the difference if you look closely—termite frass pellets are oblong-shaped whereas coffee grounds have jagged, irregular shaped.
Okay, so you now know that termite-dropping piles can look like sawdust, salt, and pepper, sand, or coffee ground piles. Here are some more details about the appearance of termite poop.
Termite Droppings Size
Drywood termite frass pellets are approximately one millimeter (0.04 inches) in length and pellet shaped.
Termite Dropping Shape
Termite droppings have six concave sides that are typically not visible without a magnifying glass. Subterranean termites do not leave behind the little pellets that drywood termites do, instead using their droppings to form mud tubes, often found along foundations.
Termite Dropping Color
Termite droppings’ colors depend on the type of wood that termites recently consumed. You can find termite pellets that are nearly white, beige, slightly red, dark brown, or even black.
An experienced termite control professional can use the color of termite droppings as a clue to hypothesize where the termite infestation is located (by guessing what type of wood they were eating). Because termite professionals can use these clues to help diagnose where the termite infestation is, it is usually best to leave piles of termite poop where you found them. If you need to clean them up before the termite professional arrives, at least snap a few detailed photos of them and show the termite pro where the droppings were located.
Is Termite Poop Hard?
Termite droppings are normally gritty and hard. They might, however, be a bit softer than normal if they’re fresh.
Do termites leave piles of frass behind?
Yes. When a termite tunnel becomes too filled with termite droppings, termites make “kick out” holes to conduct spring cleaning. They push out their frass through these kick-out holes, leaving a small pile.
Finding little piles of termite droppings is reliable evidence that there is a termite infestation in some lumber near the frass pile (usually in wood above or adjacent to the grass pile). It is not a welcome sight for property owners, but the saving grace is that finding a frass pile informs us there is likely an active termite infestation, and you can implement termite control measures before the termites create additional damage.
How do you get rid of termite frass?
You can sweep up or vacuum termite frass to get rid of it. If possible, it’s a good idea to leave the termite droppings where you found them to have a termite professional look at them. A professional can use termite droppings to clue them to where a termite infestation is likely to be.
If you feel that you need to get rid of them before the termite inspector comes, try to sweep the suspected termite pellets into a plastic bag so that you can show them to a termite inspector later on for verification.
It is also a good idea to take a photo of where you found the frass pile to show the termite inspector later or to email to them. Additionally, remember where you cleaned up frass mounds if you did. If you find another frass pile in the same location a week or two later, there is
Finding Termite Frass Can Actually Save Your House
Most homeowners have no clue what “frass” is or why knowing what it is and what it looks like can save your house. Termite frass is simply the proper word for termite excrement or termite droppings.
Depending on the stage of a termite infestation, spotting frass 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 prevent significant damage to your home.
People often find termite droppings before without realizing what they are looking at, often confusing termite droppings for sawdust. This is an understandable mistake, however, once you know what you are looking for it is easy to distinguish termite droppings from sawdust.
What’s the Difference Between Termite Frass and Sawdust?
When you see termite poop for the first time, you are likely to confuse it for sawdust. Many people vacuum or sweep piles of termite droppings up, discarding 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 sawdust is the shape of termite frass. If your site is not the best, you may need a magnifying glass to tell the difference, but termite droppings are slightly granular pellets, often varying in color.
Some termite droppings are 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 typical 6-sided granular shape of termite frass. Additionally, sawdust 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!
This guide compares drywood termite frass and carpenter ant frass. Carpenter ant frass closely resembles sawdust, whereas you can see that drywood frass pellets look almost like a deflated football or an oblong pea under magnification.
If you find termite dropping or carpenter ant frass in your home, I would recommend booking a professional pest inspection as soon as possible because either insect can damage your home if left untreated.
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. Drywood 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. When termites accumulate droppings in their tunnels, they eventually push them out to conduct some housekeeping. Hopefully, you notice their droppings if and when they do this.
Termites typically remain undetected to humans and their predators by burrowing inside wood rather than eating at wood from the outside in.
This offers termites 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 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 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 of termites, then you likely have an active termite infestation. Discarded termite wings are another often overlooked clue of termite presence.
When termites reach the 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 at 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 by other signs of termites, it is probably time to get a professional inspection done to assess the damage and then recommend treatment options.
Where Should I Look for Termite Droppings?
You can find termite frass anywhere, but many times, people notice termite frass sitting on a window sill or other locations blatantly out of place. This is because piles of termite droppings in such places catches the eye.
Unfortunately, if frass is kicked out of a termite burrow in the ceiling or some other place, it can fall onto the floor (wooden or carpet) where the droppings are unlikely to be detected.
This is especially true for homeowners who have no 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 than most people.
Pay particular attention to these areas since finding termite droppings here is quite common:
- Window and door sills
- In and around wooden porches
If you ever find anything that looks like sawdust 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 smartphone. 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.
Termite frass on the floor
Termite droppings on the wood floor
Termite droppings on the tile floor
Termite droppings on the carpet
Termite frass on the window sill
Termite feces on the porch
Termite droppings on bed
If you find termite droppings on your bed, there is a good chance that the termites are in your ceiling. Termites in ceilings will often make a small kick-out hole and push their pellets out (and down onto whatever lies below, in this case, your bed).
But, you can also get termites in your bed frame (assuming you have a wooden bed frame). Termites can even eat cotton sheets or hemp sheets because they contain cellulose.
If you find termite droppings on your bed, it is possible that you either have termites in your bedframe or in your ceiling.
If you find termite droppings on your bed but find no termites when inspecting the bedframe, it is likely that they’re up your ceiling. If termites are in your bed frame, you should be able to spot a few termites crawling around on or around the frame if you visually inspect carefully.
Termite droppings under the bed
Termite frass under your bed indicates that you have termite activity above the floor but under your bed.
Most likely, they are in your bed frame (assuming you have a wooden bed frame and pushed their pellets from the portion of your bed frame that supports your mattress down unto the floor.
How to get rid of termites in your bed?
If you have termites in your bed or other wooden furniture, get a full home termite inspection to ensure they have not spread.
However, you can get rid of termites in your bed or furniture by performing a spot termite treatment. To spot treat furniture for termites, drill small holes approximately every 10-inches in the termite-infested furniture.
You then inject termiticide in the holes and patch the holes with wood putty or glue. Eventually, termites will encounter or feed on the termiticide (depending on the type of insecticide) exterminating the termites inside your furniture.
It is best to have a professional spot treatment but if you do your own termite spot treatment, ensure you also inspect your entire home to make sure termites didn’t spread to other areas.
Can termites spread from furniture?
If you find termites in your furniture, get a complete termite home inspection done because Formosan and Drywood termites can easily spread from furniture to other areas in your home. Keep this in mind when buying used wooden furniture because you could accidentally bring termites into your home.
Below is a video of termite frass inside a nightstand. Luckily the homeowner noticed the termites and their feces and did not simply clean up the droppings without realizing he had a problem.
Termite droppings on wall
Drywood termite droppings won’t adhere to a wall but if you think you see termite droppings on your wall, you may be looking at termite mud tubes. You can learn more about termite mud tubes here, but they are tunnels that subterranean termites build to protect themselves while they traverse exposed areas (like walls or foundations).
Sometimes subterranean termite mud tubes will have little pellets (termite frass) mixed in with them.
Termite feces on the ceiling?
Do Subterranean Termites Leave Behind Droppings?
The equivalent of drywood frass for subterranean termites are mud tubes. Subterranean termite droppings are quite a bit different in appearance since their food differs from drywood termites’ food.
As their name suggests, drywood termites prefer dry wood. Consequently, their poop is dry and ends up looking like tiny coffee pellets (or sand or sawdust).
Subterranean Termite Frass
Subterranean termites on the other hand prefer decomposing wood that is already under the earth. They use mud to help them create their colony home and their fecal matter is more a liquid form.
You can often find subterranean termite tubes along house foundations, and sometimes up walls.
Black Termite Frass
Termite frass can be black. Black termite droppings do not hold any special significance other than that the termites who produced them consumed a darker-colored wood.
Termite droppings on the ceiling
If you ever find a strange tube hanging from your ceiling, you might think that you’ve found termite poop hanging from the ceiling.
You have more likely found a subterranean termite tube, however. Finding a termite tube hanging from your ceiling is, unfortunately, a reliable signal that you have subterranean termites in your ceiling.
As with frass, it is best to leave termite tubes intact until an experienced termite inspector can take a look because they can gather clues from it.
After a termite pro takes a look, though, you can knock these tubes down and vacuum or sweep them up.
Termite droppings but no termites?
If you find a pile of termite dropping but no termites, do not assume that there are no termites around.
It’s likely that termite kicked out their pellets from a pinhole nearby, so look around where it seems most likely the frass pile appeared from.
If you find a small pin-sized hole in the wall or ceiling nearby, for example, it is likely you have termite activity in the wall or ceiling. If you find ‘kick out holes’ in the window frame and droppings on your window sills, you likely have termites infesting your window frame. The same holds for decks, sheds, etc.
Termite droppings & human health
Many people who find a termite dust pile (a colloquial name for termite frass) in their homes are concerned that the droppings pose a health risk.
This concern is understandable because some animal droppings, like mouse or raccoon droppings, can seriously harm humans because they spread diseases and parasites. Other bug droppings, like cockroach frass, can be a serious allergen to some people.
Though people’s concerns about termite dust health risks are understandable, you, thankfully, don’t need to worry about termite poop the same way you should about some pests’ droppings.
Are Termite Droppings a Health Hazard?
Termite droppings are not directly harmful to humans. However, finding termite droppings in your home, could mean that your home’s structural integrity is compromised. So, termite droppings can signify an indirect hazard to human health (having a wall or roof cave in is dangerous).
Is termite frass dangerous to humans?
The only known harm that termite frass can directly cause humans is skin irritation. This is rare, however, since it is uncommon for humans to accidentally come into contact with termite droppings for a prolonged period. So, you normally don’t really need to worry about termite frass hurting you directly.
Is there a termite frass allergy?
There is no strong consensus on whether termite droppings cause allergies in people (beyond contact dermatitis), but Matison et al. hypothesize that termite mud tubes might expose people to allergens. Others have hypothesized that termite droppings that find their way into ventilation systems might expose people to allergens.
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 its time as well.
Termites are very similar in appearance to ants except that termites only have 2 body parts whereas 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 its high magnesium content.
Additional Resources to Learn about Termite Frass
- Comparison between Carpenter Ant and Termite Frass – Utah State University
- Great article describing different wood-boring insects’ frass – Clemson University
- Pest Board of California – Page 39 shows photos of Drywood Termite Frass
- Structural Pest Control – Control of Wood Destroying Pests by Nevada State Department of Agriculture