Termites are a big problem and can cause significant structural damage to your home, but it's hard to know you have a termite problem unless you physically see the pesky pests. They don't leave any "slug tracks" and most of the damage they do is in the walls or under the floor where you can't see it. Even their poop looks like sawdust, so how do you tell the difference?
What are the differences between termite droppings and sawdust?Termite droppings and sawdust look very similar, but what differentiates them is their shape. Sawdust looks more like splinters, splinters, and wood shavings. On the other hand, termite droppings are oval and hexagonal, although you can only tell them apart clearly under a microscope.
For this article, we've compiled everything we can think of about termite droppings, including what they look like, how to tell them apart from sawdust, and what to do if you find them in your home. Hopefully the article will help you identify and solve your termite problem before it becomes unmanageable.
Table of Contents
What does termite droppings look like?
What termite poop looks like depends on what type of termite you have. If you haveDry wood termites, their poop looks remarkably similar to sawdust, which is why it's so hard to tell the two apart. You may even have spotted termite dust in the house and not recognized it for what it was.
If you look at them up close, the pellets are sand-like rather than sawdust-like, and if you look at them under a microscope, they're oval, have six sides with rounded ends, and are about a millimeter (0.04 in) long.
On the other hand,underground termiteshave liquid feces which they use to construct their mud tubes. Downpipes, exploration pipes and working pipes are thethree typesof mud tubes used by termites.
Some pest control agencies include a fourth type, known as swarm burrows, among the various cultivars, but not all recognize this fourth type. You can see the mud tubes, but it's unlikely you'll ever see the droppings of an underground termite itself.
What color is termite droppings? | Termite droppings color
Putting aside the feces used to create underground termite slime tubes, we focus solely on the droppings of dry wood termites.
Dry wood termite droppings typically range in color from light brown to almost black, and the color depends entirely on the type of wood the termites are eating. If they eat darker woods, you will find black termite droppings. If they eat lighter wood, the droppings will also be light.
Do termites leave sawdust behind?
People often wonder, "Do termites leave dust behind?" Others mistakenly refer to termite droppings as "termite sawdust." Termites don't actually leave sawdust, and these piles of "termite sawdust" are more accurately described as piles of termite droppings.
The droppings look very much like sawdust to the naked eye, when in reality they are more sand-like than sawdust-like. However, if you look at them under a microscope, it is obvious that their shape is different from the shape of sawdust. Still, one of the signs of termites is seeing unexplained piles that look like sand or sawdust.
Rossameise vs. Termitenkot
Because both look like piles of sawdust, it can be difficult to tell ant droppings from termite droppings at first glance. However, upon closer inspection, the differences are obvious.
Termite droppings are small, hexagonal, oval shaped excrement pellets.carpenter ants, however,don't eat wood. Instead, they chew through it to dig and build nests, which is the sawdust they leave behindindeedsawdust from the wood, which they chewed but did not eat.
What other insects produce sawdust?
Aside from carpenter ants, the only other insects that produce sawdust are carpenter bees and wood-boring beetles.carpenter beesburrow into wood to lay their eggs, creating sawdust in the process.Wood-boring beetlesgenerally hatch in wooden furniture and other wooded areas, feed on the wood as larvae, and chew their way out as adults.
Visual differences between termite excrement (frass) and sawdust
Because the color of a termite's droppings depends on the color of the wood it ate, color isn't the best way to tell the difference between a termite pile and a sawdust pile. Instead, you should look at the shape of each pellet within the stack. Sawdust looks like splinters, splinters and wood shavings. Termite droppings are oval and six-sided.
Termite Eggs or Feces: How to Distinguish
Unless you dig underground or look inside your walls, you're unlikely to ever come across termite eggs, since termites don't deposit them anywhere humans can easily see them.
So if you notice piles of something in your house, it's almost certainly poop and not eggs. When you walk over the eggs, they usually look like tiny clusters of white powder. Under the microscope they look like translucent white and brown capsules.
Types of termite droppings (frass) or pellets
Termite droppings come in two different forms, depending on which species of termite is excreting it.
Drywood termites produce termite pellets, which are the small, sand/sawdust-like droppings you may see piled on the ground. These pellets are commonly known as "frass". You can find termite droppings inside your home, outside your home, in the walls, or anywhere else where termites live and feed.
Subterranean termite droppings
Subterranean or wet termite pellets are actually not pellets at all. Instead, these termites produce a type of liquid feces that they then use to build their mud burrows. So if you're looking for evidence of underground termites in your home, you won't find them in pellets. However, you can spot the mud tubes if you start looking under your floors.
Is termite droppings a health hazard?
Two questions we get asked regularly are, "Can termite droppings make you sick?" and "Is termite droppings dangerous?" In and of itself, termite poop isn't that dangerous. However, it points to a much larger problem that could be attacking the underlying structure of your home, and that's dangerous.
As for the feces itself, unless you're allergic to it or have asthma, you're probably not at risk of coming into contact with it. However, because it's small and dusty, it can trigger asthma attacks, and allergic reactions can always cause problems, no matter how "safe" a substance is; If you are allergic to it, it will make you sick. But aside from those two things, termite poop is more of a nuisance than a real danger.
What to do if you find termite droppings?
Termites are no joke, and if left untreated, they can destroy your home much faster than you can imagine. so if youDiscover termite droppings in your home, the best thing you can do is wait to clean up the poop and call a professional pest control company to examine it right away.
Of course, there are products that you can buy and use yourself, includingBioAdvanced Termite KillerandSpectracide Termite Detection and Killing Stakes, both of which are easy to use. However, we believe it is best to let professionals solve termite problems.
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How to clean termite droppings
If you're dealing with dry wood termite pellets, they're pretty easy to clean up. If you can't find them in an awkward, hard-to-reach place, you can usually sweep or vacuum them without too much trouble.
As we mentioned earlier, termite droppings aren't usually a health risk, but it's still pretty gross to have in the house. For this reason, after removing the feces, you should thoroughly clean the area with a good multi-purpose cleaner. We like to useMrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface Cleaner SprayorLysol multi-purpose cleaning spray.
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The mud tubes created by underground termites are a bit more difficult to clean than the droppings left by dry wood termites. Luckily, if you call a professional pest control company, they usually take care of the mud tubes as part of the package for cleaning and ridding your home of termites.
Termites may be tiny, but they are agiganticProblem. If you don't deal with them, they can do a lot of damage. So if you start noticing piles of what looks like sawdust around your house, don't ignore it. These junk piles can indicate a problem that needs immediate attention.
Call a professional before cleaning the piles (or mud pipes). Examining termite droppings can give you a lot of information about the type of termite you have. Since termite poop is not dangerous, there is no harm in doing the cleaning after the consultation.
List of Sources
Gouge, D. H., Olson, C., Baker, P. (2009).Drywood termites.Genossenschaftserweiterung, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, The University of Arizona.
Chan, W. H., Koehler, P. G., Tucker, C. L. (2016).Subterranean Termites.Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida.
Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. (2009).Wood-destroying pest control.
United States Department of Environmental Protection. (2021).Termites: how to identify and control them.
What's the difference between termite droppings and carpenter ant droppings? ›
Carpenter ants: Unlike drywood termite droppings, which consist solely of fecal matter, ant droppings look like soft, fibrous pieces of wood and fecal matter loosely compacted together. Ant frass consists of wood particles, feces, tiny pieces of dirt, and sometimes, parts of dead ants.Do termite droppings look like sawdust? ›
Because drywood termites consume dry wood (true to their name), frass excreted by drywood termites is dry and pellet shaped. When in piles, the frass can look like sawdust or sand. The color can vary from light beige to black, depending on the kind of wood the termites are consuming.What can be mistaken for termite droppings? ›
Termite Droppings vs Sawdust
Although both look alike, their shape is what makes them different. Termite droppings will be 6-sided (hexagonal), granular pellets, often varying in color. On the other hand, sawdust will look more like tiny shavings and shiny slivers, compared to the granular shape of termite droppings.
Drywood termite droppings are oval-shape and look like grains of sand, ground pepper, or sawdust. Drywood termite frass color will change based on the type of wood the termite eats. Homeowners should expect the dry frass to be as small as a millimeter, with six concave sides.What does sawdust from carpenter ants look like? ›
Carpenter ant sawdust looks more or less like regular sawdust, except that it appears in small piles where no woodworking has been done. Termites, unlike carpenter ants, consume wood for nutrition. As such, they do not leave behind piles of sawdust after making tunnels.Why do I see termite droppings but no termites? ›
As drywood termites chew through the wood, they create tiny holes that serve as openings to the outside. They kick their droppings out through these holes to make more room within. This is why you might never see the termites themselves, but you may see their piles of droppings.Do termites leave little piles of sawdust? ›
Termites do not produce sawdust; however, drywood termites and dampwood termites produce pellets that look similar to sawdust, but are actually termite's feces.What do dry termite droppings look like? ›
Drywood termite pellets are tiny, oval-shaped capsules with six concave sides and rounded ends. These pellets, which are about 1 millimeter in length, can form small mounds beneath kick out holes. The mounds may look like small piles of salt or pepper.How do you identify drywood termite droppings? ›
Drywood termite droppings or 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.What do active termite droppings look like? ›
Termite droppings typically have the following characteristics: 1mm pellets – often look like piles of salt or pepper. Black, brown, and grey in color depending on the wood eaten by termites. Pellets will be pushed out of 'exit holes' in the nest to create pile-ups.
What looks like termite frass? ›
What do termite droppings look like? Most frass is very small, about one millimeter long, and can look like sawdust or wood shavings. While the frass can be in obvious places like in wood beams in a basement, the frass can also appear in higher floors like the kitchen or in door entryways.How do you identify a pest by its droppings? ›
- Rodent droppings are a good indicator of the pest in your house. Rat droppings are shiny black and 1/2 - 3/4 of an inch long, whereas mice droppings are small and smooth with pointed ends.
- Chew marks are another telltale sign to distinguish your rodent.
Since the frass is pretty dry, you can typically vacuum or sweep it up. Then, give the area a once-over with an all-purpose cleaner for good measure. Once an exterminator works on your home, keep your eyes out for additional frass. Clean the area regularly so that you can easily tell if more frass appears.What droppings look like black rice? ›
Bat droppings, also called guano, are slightly smaller than rat droppings and are similar to a long, black grain of rice. These droppings will be found in large quantities under where a bat sleeps or sits.What are the little black bugs that look like coffee grounds? ›
There are also false chinch bugs that are 1/8 of an inch long and are a brownish gray color. They have an X on their backs, but if you're looking at them at your home they will just look like a bunch of coffee grounds. Chinch bugs do not fly. So you will see them climbing on the walls and things, but not flying around.What do wood mites look like? ›
Wood mites are tiny white bugs that look like fleas. They're mostly harmless outdoors but are definitely a pest if they make their way indoors.What kind of ants leave piles of sawdust? ›
Sawdust - As nests become established in wood, carpenter ants often leave behind a trail of sawdust. Damaged wood - Carpenter ants tunnel through wood to create their nests, creating "galleries" in wood, which have a clean, smooth, sandpapered appearance.What small ants leave sawdust? ›
Contrary to popular belief, carpenter ants do not eat wood like termites do. They are actually excavating their way through the wood, leaving all kinds of sawdust behind. Sawdust trails can be a tell-tale sign that you may have a carpenter ant infestation.Is it normal to see a few termites in your house? ›
Seeing termite swarmers inside a house or building is a telltale sign of an active termite infestation. Termites have a caste system that consists of workers, soldiers, and swarmers. Termite swarmers, also known as alates, are the reproductive members of a termite colony.Why do I suddenly have termites? ›
Why Do Termites Swarm? Termites swarm after their original colony has reached a certain capacity level and is ready to expand. For most colonies, this happens once a year. Hundreds or even thousands of swarmers, called alates, are produced with the sole purpose of reproduction and expansion.
Do termites just walk around the house? ›
Winged Things – Since termites eat wood from the inside out and stay hidden in the wood they infest (and the soil in the earth), you'll never see one casually walking around.What kind of bug looks like sawdust? ›
The insect most likely to leave what look like sawdust piles is the carpenter ant (see Sawdust Piles Could Mean Carpenter Ants).What do dry wood termites look like? ›
What Do Drywood Termites Look Like? The size of drywood termites range, depending on their age, from 1/4 inch to 1 inch long. Adult drywood termites have a thicker, oval-shaped waist, short legs and straight antennae with equal length wings. They are usually cream-white to light brown in color and have six legs.What does a pile of sawdust mean? ›
The sawdust could be from one of three things: It could be actual sawdust from construction of the cabinets or repairs that has since sifted out of the cabinets if they've been moved or banged around. Or, the sawdust could be from either carpenter ants (or sometimes other ants), or powderpost beetles.What does an active termite infestation look like? ›
As the termites consume wood, they burrow mazes of tunnels and chambers within walls and furniture. The pests leave small piles of feces that resemble pellets where they have eaten or nested. Drywood termites also cause sagging floors, walls, and ceilings and may leave behind areas which appear to be water damaged.How do you tell if termites are active in your house? ›
Signs of an active termite infestation include:
Mud tubes around the foundation and extending across floor joists and support beams. Live bugs in soil, rotting wood, or elsewhere on your property. Termite swarmers or their discarded wings inside the house.
- Swarmers flying in autumn.
- Wings broken off near windows.
- Finding pellets like course sawdust near window sills or sliding glass doors.
- Blistering of exterior paint's surface.
- Wood damage.
One of the biggest differences between carpenter ants and termites is the way they create tunnels and galleries. Carpenter ants create tunnels and galleries that are very neat, smooth and have a finished appearance. Termite galleries and tunnels will have a rough and even ragged feel and will be caked with mud.Is termite frass the same as carpenter ant frass? ›
Carpenter ant frass contains debris from wood, carpenter ant droppings or fecal matter, soil and gravel, and insect parts and carcasses. On the other hand, termite frass doesn't contain insect parts; it's usually just made of termite droppings or fecal matter and particles of digested wood or sawdust material.What does carpenter ants frass look like? ›
Piles of wood shavings - Frass is the term for the wood particles that carpenter ants discard around their nests. It looks like finely ground up sawdust. The ants will leave frass deposits in small mounds at the entrances to their nests.
How do I know if I have termites or ants? ›
Termites have front wings and hind wings that are the same length, and are twice as long as their body. Ants have shorter wings overall, and their front wings are longer than their hind wings. Antennae: Termites have straight antennae, while ants have bent antennae.What is the best way to identify termite damage? ›
Papery or hollow sounding timber - Termites usually consume woods from the inside out, leaving a thin veneer of timber or paint. So when you knock or tap on an area that has termite damages, it will sound hollow or papery due to parts (or all) of the timber having been eaten away.What bug looks like a termite? ›
The insects most commonly confused for termites are flying ants. The most common species of ants to take flight around your house are carpenter ants, but they're by no means the only ones. Other would-be imposters include moisture ants, black garden ants and pavement ants.What does drywood termite droppings look like? ›
Drywood termite pellets are tiny, oval-shaped capsules with six concave sides and rounded ends. These pellets, which are about 1 millimeter in length, can form small mounds beneath kick out holes. The mounds may look like small piles of salt or pepper.Is termite frass hard? ›
Drywood termite droppings or 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.What does frass feel like? ›
If they're eating a darker wood like red oak, the frass may be the color of coffee grounds. Frass looks like tiny pellets; if you look at them closely, you will notice that they are six-sided. Frass is dry to the touch, and some people do mistake it for sawdust or dirt.What kind of bugs leave sawdust? ›
Sawdust Producing Pests
Some insects that produce sawdust are: Carpenter ants. Carpenter bees. Wood boring beetles.
Generally, all termite feces are small, measuring about 0.04 inches long. They are light beige to black, depending on the kind of wood the termites eat. Additionally, termite excrement is oval-shaped with six concave sides. Termite excreta usually forms tiny mounds that look like small piles of dirt or sawdust.Do carpenter ants leave piles of sawdust? ›
Sawdust - As nests become established in wood, carpenter ants often leave behind a trail of sawdust. Damaged wood - Carpenter ants tunnel through wood to create their nests, creating "galleries" in wood, which have a clean, smooth, sandpapered appearance.