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Frass and Foes: Investigating the Telltale Signs of Drywood Termite Infestations

In the sunny and subtropical state of Florida, where warmth and humidity create an ideal environment for a variety of pests, one of the most notorious and damaging invaders is the drywood termite (Cryptotermes spp.). These silent destroyers are a common cause of concern for homeowners, as they thrive within the very structures we call home. In this essay, we will delve into the intricacies of drywood termites in Florida, focusing on their distinctive frass, its composition, and its significance when found around windows and doors.

The Intricacies of Drywood Termites:

Drywood termites are a unique species of termites that differ from their subterranean counterparts in terms of habitat and behavior. Unlike subterranean termites, which nest underground and require moist environments, drywood termites establish their colonies within the wood they consume, thriving in the relatively drier conditions of Florida’s homes and structures. These insects are often referred to as “silent destroyers” due to their secretive nature and the gradual, unnoticed damage they inflict on wooden structures over time.

Frass: A Telltale Sign of Drywood Termites:

Frass is a key indicator of drywood termite activity. Frass refers to the debris or excrement left behind by termites as they feed on wood. Unlike subterranean termites, which create mud tubes and tunnels, drywood termites do not construct such elaborate structures. Instead, they expel their fecal matter through small kick-out holes in the wood they infest. This expelled frass accumulates below these holes, often indicating the presence of an infestation.

Composition of Frass:

The frass produced by drywood termites is comprised of partially digested wood fibers, termite excrement, and other waste materials. The appearance of frass can vary depending on factors such as the type of wood being consumed and the specific termite species. It is often described as granular, pellet-like, or sand-like in texture. The color of frass can range from light to dark, depending on the color of the ingested wood. The accumulation of frass around infested areas is a clear sign that termites are actively feeding and nesting within the wood.

Significance of Finding Frass around Windows and Doors:

Discovering frass around windows and doors can be particularly concerning for homeowners. These areas are common entry points for drywood termites, as they are attracted to sources of light and the warmth that seeps through these openings. If frass is found near windows and doors, it suggests that termites are likely infesting the surrounding wood, potentially compromising the structural integrity of the home. Furthermore, frass accumulation around these entry points indicates that the infestation is mature and has been ongoing for a significant period.

Color of the frass

Drywood termite frass, the pellet-like debris left behind by these insects, can vary in color due to several factors, including the type of wood they are consuming, the age of the colony, and the diet of the termites. Here’s why drywood termite frass can exhibit different colors:

  1. Wood Source: Drywood termites feed on the wood they infest, and the color of the frass can be influenced by the type of wood they are consuming. Different types of wood have distinct colors and grain patterns, which can impact the appearance of the frass. For example, frass from termites feeding on lighter-colored wood might be paler in color, while frass from darker wood could have a darker hue.
  2. Age of the Colony: As a termite colony ages and matures, the color of the frass it produces can change. Young colonies might produce frass that is lighter in color, while older colonies might generate frass that is darker due to the accumulation of waste materials over time.
  3. Diet and Nutrients: The termites’ diet can also influence the color of their frass. Termites require certain nutrients to digest cellulose in wood, and variations in their diet can impact the composition and color of their waste. For instance, termites that have been feeding on wood treated with chemicals might produce frass with a different color.
  4. Moisture Content: The moisture content of the wood being consumed can affect the color of the frass. Drywood termites prefer relatively dry wood, but if the wood they are infesting has varying levels of moisture, it can influence the appearance of the frass.
  5. Fecal Pellet Formation: Drywood termites form frass into small pellets before expelling them from their galleries. The formation process can compact the frass, affecting its color. The composition of the pellets and the manner in which they are formed can contribute to color variations.

As we can see, drywood termites pose a significant threat to homeowners in Florida, where their presence can lead to hidden destruction within the very structures we rely on for shelter. The frass they leave behind, a distinctive mixture of digested wood and waste materials, serves as an unmistakable sign of their presence. Finding frass around windows and doors is particularly alarming, as it implies that termites are actively infesting and damaging these vulnerable entry points. To mitigate the risks associated with drywood termite infestations, homeowners should remain vigilant, seek professional inspection and treatment, and take preventive measures to safeguard their homes against these silent destroyers.

Swarming Termites

Homeowners in Florida are most likely to witness drywood termite swarming during warm and humid months, typically in the spring or summer. Swarming is a critical phase in the reproductive cycle of termites, during which winged reproductive individuals, known as “alates” or “swarmers,” emerge from established colonies in search of new nesting sites to establish new colonies.

What is Swarming?

Swarming is a phenomenon where a large number of winged termites, the alates, leave their existing colony in a synchronized effort to find mates and establish new colonies. This event usually takes place during daylight hours, often in the morning or late afternoon, and is triggered by specific environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, and light.

Why Do Drywood Termites Swarm?

Swarming serves several important purposes for the drywood termite population. It allows for genetic diversity among colonies, which can improve the overall fitness and resilience of the termite population. Swarming also ensures the spread of the species to new areas, as the alates are carried by wind currents to different locations where they can establish colonies and continue the termite life cycle.

Alates: What are they ?

Drywood termites that participate in swarming are called “swarmers” or “alates.” These individuals are reproductive forms, distinct from the worker and soldier termites responsible for feeding and defending the colony. Swarmers have wings and are equipped to fly short distances to find suitable sites for establishing new colonies.

Number of Swarmers:

The number of drywood termite swarmers that emerge at once can vary widely based on the size and health of the existing colony, as well as environmental factors. In some cases, a colony may produce only a few dozen swarmers, while larger and more established colonies can release hundreds or even thousands of swarmers during a single swarming event.

During swarming, the air can become filled with flying termites, creating an unsettling sight for homeowners. After a brief period of flight, the swarmers will shed their wings and seek out crevices, cracks, or other openings to establish new colonies within wooden structures.

If a homeowner in Florida sees drywood termite frass or a drywood termite swarm, it’s important to take prompt and appropriate action to address the potential termite infestation. Here’s what they should do

  1. Drywood Termite Frass:

If you notice frass, which is the distinctive pellet-like debris left behind by drywood termites, it could be an indication of termite activity. Here’s what to do:

  • Do Not Disturb: Avoid disturbing or cleaning up the frass, as it can provide important clues for pest professionals during inspections.
  • Inspect Further: Carefully inspect the area around the frass for other signs of termite activity, such as tiny holes in wood surfaces or hollow-sounding wood.
  • Consult a Professional: Contact a reputable pest control company or termite inspector to assess the situation. They can determine the extent of the infestation and recommend appropriate treatment options.
  • Avoid DIY Solutions: Attempting to address a termite infestation on your own may not effectively eliminate the problem. Professional expertise is crucial for proper identification and treatment.
  1. Drywood Termite Swarm:

If you observe a swarm of winged termites, it’s a clear sign of a reproductive event. Here’s what you should do:

  • Identify the Source: Try to locate the source of the swarm, which could be a nearby structure or a tree. Pay attention to where the swarmers are emerging from.
  • Avoid Disturbance: Do not disturb the swarmers or try to eliminate them yourself. This can make it harder for pest professionals to assess the situation later.
  • Seek Professional Help: Contact a qualified pest control company that specializes in termite control. They can inspect the area, identify the extent of the infestation, and recommend appropriate treatment.
  • Collect Sample if Possible: If you can safely do so, collect a few swarmers in a container for identification by the pest control professional. This can help confirm the termite species and guide treatment decisions.


In both cases, it’s essential to avoid panicking and to rely on professional expertise. Drywood termites can cause significant damage to structures if left unchecked. Professional termite inspectors and pest control experts have the knowledge, tools, and treatments needed to effectively address termite infestations and prevent further damage.

Regular termite inspections and preventive measures can also help reduce the risk of infestations. Working with a reputable pest control company is a crucial step in ensuring your home’s protection against the threat of drywood termites.


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