Bug Blog

If It Wasn’t For Fecal Pellets, Drywood Termite Infestations Would Completely Destroy Houses

Arizona is home to 18 documented termite species, and all three groups of termites, which are known as subterranean, drywood, and dampwood termites, can be found within the state. While the arid-land subterranean termite is, without a doubt, the most destructive termite species in Arizona, the dark western drywood termite is easily the most destructive type of drywood termite species in the state. In addition to the arid-land subterranean termite, the desert subterranean termite species is another soil-dwelling termite pest of major economic significance in Arizona. The manner in which these two subterranean termite species infest homes is markedly different from the manner in which drywood termite species infest homes.

Subterranean termites constantly inhabit and search for cellulose-rich wood and dead plant-matter by tunneling beneath the ground surface, as making contact with the outside air causes the insects to dessicate and die. Understandably, modern homes are built with a cement or stone foundation that keeps structural wood from making direct contact with soil, and this is done solely to prevent subterranean termites from making direct contact with a home’s timber-frame. Unfortunately, subterranean termites still manage to access structural wood by building a ladder-like mud tube that connects their soil habitat directly to a home’s timber-frame. This protruding mud tube is built by workers with soil, saliva and their own feces, and the clear presence of these mud tubes along a home’s foundation gives homeowners enough time to have the termites eradicated before they cause serious structural damage.

Drywood termite colonies, on the other hand, do not dwell within soil; instead, these termite species maintain a constant presence within the wood logs, stumps and dead trees that they consume. Drywood termites infest houses when tiny reproductive swamers (alates) emerge from existing colonies where they eventually slide into small cracks on the surface of a house’s structural and cosmetic wood sources. Therefore, there is no good way to either prevent, or inspect a home for a drywood termite infestation, as these termites do not leave behind mud tubes, and they are able to infest homes by entering tiny wooden pores that could be located anywhere on a house, including door-frames, window sills, attic openings and even beneath shingles. However, unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites can neither dispose of their feces in soil nor can they use their feces to build mud tubes. As you may be able to guess, drywood termite infestations can be detected by the presence of discarded drywood termite fecal pellets called “frass.” These fecal pellets are discarded through exit holes on the surface of infested lumber. The hexagon-shaped fecal pellets eventually pile up into a mound located directly below the compromised structural wood source, alerting pest control professionals of the precise location of an active drywood termite infestation.


Have you ever encountered termite frass within your home?