Getting the Scoop on Termite Poop
Termite droppings, also called “frass” is one of the most important and distinctive signs of a termite colony infestation. Being able to recognize and knowing how to identify termite droppings around your house and property can be an effective tool in discovering termite presence before a colony is able to inflict serious damage on your house.
While many types of animal and insect excrement can be considered potentially harmful and toxic, there is little danger to the public from termite poop per se. Termite droppings have, in fact been recognized to be rich in magnesium, and certain African tribes have been known historically to use termite dung as a dietary supplement. Because termites in a natural state are an important part of the natural process of decomposition, the high magnesium in termite spoor would ideally be returned to the soil, enriching the earth and anything grown in it. However, for the homeowner facing a termite infestation, the relatively benign nature of their droppings is not a consideration.
Subterranean vs. Drywood Termite Droppings
The general appearance of termite droppings or frass depends on the species involved. Subterranean termites (which release the greatest number of swarmers produce the biggest colonies and arguably inflict the greatest amount of property damage) produce a liquid form of poop. This liquid is often used by the subterranean termite with an admixture of dirt, debris and saliva in the construction of distinctive mud tubes that this underground species constructs to move through open spaces before boring into the food source. Subterranean species also construct nests from their droppings or use their poop based “cement” to heal breaches in nests established deep within wood sources. Because of the fluid nature of their poop and their extensive use of droppings as part of their nest construction activities, discrete piles or mounds of subterranean termite droppings are not likely to be found and their absence cannot be used to discount the likelihood of an infestation.
What Do Termite Droppings Look Like?
Drywood and dampwood termites may be recognized by their droppings which are generally found in the form of pellets. These pellets often resemble coffee grounds though they may also mimic the appearance of sawdust or sand. The termite droppings color among these species varies depending on the type of wood/other cellulose food source, ranging from beige to dark brown. Sometimes fecal pellets can be black in color.
Drywood and dampwood termite poop may be found in mounds or in trails. The drywood species also uses their pellets as defensive obstructions, to seal colony galleries against intruders. When found in mounds, a visual scan of the vicinity will often reveal the presence of a “kick hole”, an opening in the nest specifically for the purpose of ejecting unwanted pellets from the galleries and passageways of the nest.
Drywood and damp wood termite droppings are similar in appearance. They are hard, shaped similarly to grains of rice and are less than 1/25th of an inch long. The ends of the pellets tend to be rounded and their configuration is roughly hexagonal (six sided) with depressions in each side which result from pressure exerted in the termite gut on expulsion to conserve moisture in the termite digestive system.
Where Can Termite Poop Be Found?
Termite frass mounds are not always easy to spot. Very often the mounds of poop accumulate in places in the house which are not regularly visited, such as basements, crawlspaces, and in isolated corners of seldom used rooms or storage areas. They may appear along window sills, or behind furniture and appliances which are seldom moved about. Frass may also be covered over by carpeting when termites have infested floorboards or subflooring.
How often an area is swept out or vacuumed will impact discovery of termite dropping evidence as well, it is entirely possible that an infestation is occurring in structures within an often occupied room, but that frequent routine keeping will disperse the evidence of the infestation before accumulations likely to gain notice by occupants. In cases such as this, as frustrating and sad as it might seem, good housekeeping habits are not necessarily our allies in detecting a termite infestation!
Drywood termite species are infamous for building colony nests in the sub-roofs and eaves of dwellings, and they may also infest the wood between floors and ceilings in multi-floored homes. Inspection of attic areas, especially around joists and joins is therefore advisable. In certain extreme cases of ceiling nests, termite droppings might also be found on living space surfaces including counters and bedding, as kick holes are created in ceilings and the termite poop kicked out to fall into the room below.
But How Do I Know For Sure?
There are other species of burrowing pests such as carpenter ants which also produce fecal mounds and sawdust like accumulations of debris. In order to know if that suspicious mound of what appears to be termite droppings IS truly that, it will most likely be necessary to call in the services of a termite extermination service inspector.
When evidence of any type of insect or other pest invasion is noted, it is actually an excellent idea to call in the pest control specialists, who receive special training in identifying and classifying the fecal evidence that all living organisms leave in their wake. Carpenter ants and other pests are no less hazardous to the structural integrity of homes if left unchecked, although termites rightly hold the honor of inflicting more economically impactful property damage than any other insect or nuisance species. When any evidence of termite sign is noted, the first action a responsible homeowner should take is to call in an expert to do an inspection and formulate a plan of action for colony extermination.
Termite Droppings Photos
Because a picture truly speaks louder and more clearly than thousands of words, homeowners wishing to be vigilant against termite infestation should acquaint themselves with termite dropping images to compare to any evidence found on their property. Familiarization with the type of termite dropping associated with the species posing the greatest risk in a homeowner’s area is an important tool in preventing widespread and destructive infestation of the biggest investment any one of us can make: our homes.