What Do Termite Droppings Look Like?

brown colored termite droppings on a surface

Termites are destructive pests that feed on wood, costing homeowners thousands of dollars in damages if left unchecked. It’s important to be able to identify the warning signs of a termite infestation so you can avoid the worst-case scenario. One way to do that is to identify their droppings, which vary in color and may look like coffee grounds, sand, or pepper from afar. 

We’ll delve into further detail in this article, explaining how to distinguish termite droppings from the droppings of other pests. We’ll also cover other signs of a termite infestation and what to do if you think you have a termite problem in your home. Let’s get started.

How to Identify Termite Droppings

When termites burrow through wood, they eat and digest the wood pulp, which of course, eventually ends up being tiny pellets of termite poop also known as “frass” (the formal term for insect droppings). Termites push their droppings out of their exit holes to keep the tunnels and nests clear, creating small piles of feces that look like miniature ant mounds. 

Depending on what type of wood the termites are eating, their droppings can be either black, brown, or gray. If you aren’t looking closely, you’d probably mistake the termite frass for sawdust, coffee grounds, seeds, sand, or ground pepper. The best way to tell is to use a magnifying glass.

Why are Termite Droppings Important?

The presence of drywood termite droppings in your home is a serious indicator that you have a termite infestation— specifically a drywood termite infestation. Other types of termites don’t tend to leave visible frass.

Subterranean termites use their droppings to construct their mud tunnels, making them a part of the nest. Dampwood termite droppings are sometimes used to seal their tunnels and galleries, sticking to the sides or falling to the bottom depending on if they’re damp or dry. 

Because of this, you can’t really identify subterranean termites or dampwood termites by their droppings, since they leave no visible termite pellets.

Termite Droppings vs. Ant Droppings

indoor termite droppings on floor
Photo Credit: lisatop / Canva Pro / License

Both termites and carpenter ants can damage the wood in your home, and since they’re both winged insects, you might be wondering how to tell which one you’re dealing with.

You can tell the difference between termite and carpenter ant frass by the contents, shape, size, and color. 

Termite FrassCarpenter Ant Frass
ContentsWood or sawdustWood, dirt, insect carcasses
ShapeSix-sided, concave, and oval-shapedSimilar shape to wood chips
SizeUniform, 1mmVaried sizes
ColorVarying brown, gray, and blackLight tan
LocationScattered around the nestIn the opening of the nest

Termite Droppings vs. Insect Droppings

Let’s go a step further by exploring the differences between termite droppings vs. cricket droppings and droppings left by cockroaches.

Termite FrassCricket FrassCockroach Frass
ContentsWood or sawdustPlant matter and dead insectsGarbage, carrion, and sewage
ShapeSix-sided, concave, and oval-shapedRound, similar to poppy seedsCylindrical fecal pellets with rounded edges 
SizeUniform, 1mmLess than 1mmVaried sizes
ColorVarying brown, gray, and blackBlackBlack or brown
LocationScattered around the nestScattered around in multiple placesInside of drawers and cabinets, corners of rooms, on shelves, etc.

Termite Eggs vs. Droppings

termite with termite eggs
Termite droppings
Photo Credit: mofles / Canva Pro / License

Termite eggs are pale, clear, shiny, oval-shaped capsules. They are very tiny and resemble rice formed into a large cluster. 

You probably will never see termite eggs unless you uproot and destroy the nest, since the queen will keep the eggs protected deep inside the colony, usually inside mud tubes or wooden galleries. If you’re finding eggs, the nest is close and you probably have a severe infestation on your hands.

What to Do if You Find Termite Droppings

If you find drywood termite frass in your home, you may be tempted to clean up the mess immediately, but you shouldn’t do that. You will need the droppings as evidence to show your termite control pro so they can assess the situation. The first thing you should do is call a local termite control pro

After the termite inspection, you can clean up termite frass with a paper towel and your disinfectant of choice. You should wear gloves and a face mask for extra protection against skin or respiratory irritation. If you’d rather not get your hands dirty, you can suck them up with a vacuum.

Keep in mind that a good pest control company will do the clean-up for you.

Other Signs of Termites

damaged wood with termites
Photo Credit: frank600 / Canva Pro / License

Termite colonies can live inside your home for a long time without being detected until they do significant damage. To keep termite damage to a minimum, it’s important to catch signs of termite activity as soon as possible.

  • Sagging or discolored drywall
  • Peeling paint
  • Hollow places in the wood
  • Small pinholes in drywall
  • Buckling or loose floorboards
  • Loose tiles
  • Crumbling, damaged wood
  • Maze-like patterns in furniture, floor boards or walls
  • Piles of discarded termite wings
  • Mud tubes

FAQ About Termite Droppings

How Do I Tell If Termite Droppings are Old or New?

Fresh termite frass is shiny and dark brown or black while older termite frass is dusty and light brown or gray depending on the species and what wood they’ve consumed.

Even if you’re only finding old droppings, that doesn’t necessarily mean the termites have moved on. You should still contact a termite control pro to assess the situation.

Are Termite Droppings Dangerous?

No, they’re not. Termites only eat natural materials like cellulose, so there isn’t anything harmful in the droppings. However, you might get an allergic reaction to the skin from touching them or asthma and other respiratory issues.

What are the Most Common Places to Find Termite Droppings?

Here are the places where termite frass is most often discovered:

  • Attics
  • Basements
  • Crawlspaces
  • Floorboards
  • Porches
  • Under the carpet
  • Windowsills

Hire a Pro

If you’re finding droppings from termites, or other insects, don’t wait! Let Pest Gnome connect you with local pest control pro today for termite or other pest issues.

Main Image Credit: RandallJSylvia / Canva Pro / License

Editorial Contributors

  • Lydian Pine

    Lydian Pine


    Lydian Pine is a creative writer and studio artist whose work first debuted in a short story anthology. She graduated from the University of North Texas in 2020 and enjoys video games, theatre, and swimming. Lately, she has started to study entomology as a hobby.

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  • Sarah Bahr

    Sarah Bahr


    Sarah is a writer who has previously worked in the lawn care industry. In her spare time, she likes to garden, create mosquito traps out of five-gallon buckets, and use chickens for pest control in the backyard.

    Learn more