When you see termite droppings from the ceiling, you can be sure that the infestation is already severe and there is a risk of your home damage. It is practically impossible to notice adults at an early stage because they tend to hide inside the wooden parts.
Usually, termites’ poop (frass, pellets) is your only chance to detect their presence. Once the infestation becomes significant, you are at risk of the ceiling collapsing on your head and injuring you and your family members. Therefore, you should react immediately and eliminate these menaces from your home.
|Subterranean workers||0.12 to 0.37 inches (3 – 9.5 mm)||Pale cream|
|Subterranean soldiers||0.12 inches (3 mm)||Creamy-white|
|Subterranean swarmers||0.25 to 0.50 inches (6.3 – 12.7 mm)||Solid black|
|Drywood soldiers||0.37 to 0.50 inches (9.5 – 12.7 mm)||Cream-white to light brown|
|Drywood swarmers||0.50 inches (12.7 mm)||Red or brown|
|Dampwood soldiers||0.50 to 0.75 inches (12.7 – 19 mm)||Light brown to red-brown|
|Dampwood swarmers||0.75 to 1 inch (19 – 25.4 mm)||Light to dark brown|
You can recognize 45 termite species living in the US. They are divided into three primary groups and numerous sub-species, including:
1. Subterranean termites
Subterranean termites use their saw-toothed jaws to build distinctive tunnels (mud tubes) through the soil without a break, causing immeasurable damage. They build nests underground and rarely leave visible droppings.
This type typically lives in foundational wood, compost piles, and soil in every State except Alaska. Colonies with 100,000 to 1 million insects undermine the houses’ foundations and damage their structures until a total collapse.
You can recognize three castes, including:
- Swarmers (Alates) are dark-brown to black insects with two pairs of equally long wings. Their length is approximately 0.25 to 0.50 inches (6.3 – 12.7 mm).
- Soldiers are 0.12 inches (3 mm) long creamy-white colony protectors with brownish heads. They have large jaws but not wings.
- Workers are about 0.12 to 0.37 inches (3 – 9.5 mm) long cream termites without wings.
- Arid-land subterranean termites
- Eastern subterranean termites
- Dark southeastern subterranean termites
- Western subterranean termites
- Desert subterranean termites
2. Drywood termites
Drywood termites typically don’t have workers, but juveniles (false workers) gather food, care for the queen, and enlarge the nest.
Colonies of about 2,500 members live in dry wood and often occupy large areas without moisture, like attics and eaves. Their droppings are small and hard to notice. It is possible to recognize two insect castes:
- Swarmers are red or brown creatures with two sets of wings. Their average length is 0.50 inches (12.7 mm).
- Soldiers are cream-white to light-brown insects with large mouthparts. They are about 0.37 to 0.50 inches (9.5 – 12.7 mm) long.
- Southeastern Drywood termites
- Western Drywood termites
- Desert Drywood termites
3. Dampwood termites
Dampwood termites are large insects common throughout the US. They live in wood in sizable colonies of about 4,000 insects. Since they don’t have workers, you can differentiate two forms:
- Swarmers are light to dark brown flying termites typically 0.75 to 1 inch (19 – 25.4 mm) long, including wing length.
- Soldiers are 0.50 to 0.75 inches (12.7 – 19 mm) long light brown to red-brown insects.
Immature termites are approximately 0.79 inches (20 mm) in length. They work in the colony because this termite species doesn’t have workers.
- Florida Dampwood termites
- Nevada Dampwood termites
- Desert Dampwood termites
- Pacific Dampwood termites
4. Other termite types
- Conehead termites
- Desert termites
Termite Droppings from the Ceiling
Termite droppings (frass) look like sawdust piles, wood shavings, or pellets since these insects create tunnels through wood and feed on it, consuming cellulose. Wood weakens and crumbles away over time resulting in severe damage to houses.
Be aware that holes in the wood have limited space, so Alates drill holes and leave from current nests to invade new places at some point. They aim to make space for newborn termites and start a new colony.
Sometimes, detecting termites in the house is impossible, but the poop underneath the ceiling, roof, or window sill is a sure sign of their presence. You can notice oval, dark brown to black frass with curved edges, resembling black pepper underneath these wooden structures.
Termites throw out their poop to free up space. Since droppings can’t disappear over time, it is impossible to determine their age or how long insects are in your home. However, they are always near the nest, so you will know where to look for adults once you spot their excretions.
Typical places to look for termite infestation after spotting droppings are:
- Wooden porches
- Between wooden floorboards
- Under carpeting
- Wall corners
However, you can sometimes notice poop hanging from the ceiling as proof that Drywood termites have infested the highest points of your home. When looking above the frass pile, you can see tiny holes about 0.04 inches (1 mm) in diameter for kicking feces out.
Even though seeing droppings on the ceiling is disgusting, they are harmless for humans and animals, non-toxic, and don’t carry diseases. However, they can cause allergic reactions in sensitive people.
Other Signs of Ceiling Damage by Termites
Besides spotting termite droppings from the ceiling, you can recognize a few other signs that you deal with an infestation.
1. Cracks on the ceiling lumber
Once termites infest wood, they make holes inside, making it weak and misaligned from the initial position.
Such changes damage ceiling lumber, causing pulpy-edged cracks in wooden beams and sagging areas on your ceiling. Besides, damaged wood sounds hollow when knocking or tapping it, which is a sign of termite invasion.
2. Damp ceiling
The next sign of an infestation is a ceiling looking damp and discolored, similar to a surface damaged by excessive moisture.
Additionally, there are bubbles in the lumber and peels of paint from the wall. These changes are probably connected to the wood moisture that breaks off after becoming hollow and termites’ tendency to keep their colony moist.
3. Wobbly roof shingles
You can expect termites to cause the roof shingle instability over time, making it loosen. It is a result of damaged sub-roof wood.
4. Tiny pinholes on the ceiling wood
When looking carefully, you can notice hard-to-detect tiny pinholes filled with sawdust on the structural lumber. They are the place for ejecting frass and the exit for Swarmers to leave the current nest.
5. Mud tubes on the ceiling and walls
Termite infestation on the ceiling is always followed by pencil-width mud tubes or tunnels in the lumber and walls just under the roof. They are paths for insects to reach new wood sources and protect their bodies from air dryness.
The tricky part is that their presence proves you have termites in your home. Unfortunately, their absence doesn’t mean your home is termite-free.
6. Sounds from the ceiling
When the termite infestation is vast, you will hear a sound from the ceiling. This clicking noise comes from a faint head-banging sound they make while chewing through the wood.
If you knock on the wall, the sound will increase because soldiers signaling danger shake their bodies and bang their heads against the wood to warn others.
7. Seeing live termites
Swarmers are flying termites that leave their nests to find a new convenient place to invade. They abandon pinholes in late spring, and you can spot them swarming and flying around. Noticing them inside your home is a sign of a significant active infestation.
The only way to distinguish them from flying ants is by checking their wings. Termites have two pairs of long wings of the same size that cover the entire abdomen. On the other hand, winged ants have front wings longer than back ones.
8. Dead Swarmers and broken wings on the floor
Swarmers live only for a few hours and must find a new place to nest during that period. You can spot dead insects near a newly chosen location beside a bunch of scattered broken wings as a sign the process is finished.
9. Termites in ceiling drywall
Besides wood, termites can invade ceiling drywalls (sheetrock) because they eat cellulose from paperboard’s thick sheets enclosing plaster panels. Since drywalls are thin and weak, they will quickly break after the invasion.
Ways to Get Rid of Termites in the Ceiling
When it comes to termites, prevention is everything. Once they enter home carpentry, you can do little to protect your home. In most cases, it comes down to calling a professional to fix the problem before these predatory insects devastate the building.
As soon as you notice droppings on the ceiling, it is necessary to take action to stop the infestation and prevent termites from spreading to the roof.
1. Seal pinholes and cracks in the ceiling
Sealing visible pinholes and wall cracks can stop frass from appearing on the ceiling. Use a silicon-based sealant that is strong enough, so termites can’t chew it through.
2. Fix water leakages
Give your best to reduce the humidity level around your house by fixing water leakages near the foundation. That way, you will reduce moisture and Subterranean termites’ survival ability.
3. Clean the gutters
Cleaning the gutters is an excellent way to allow a better water flow, reducing the moisture level. Otherwise, waterlogging will dampen your roof and the wood in the sub-roof, attracting termites. Such conditions will make it easier for them to destroy wooden beams.
4. Install window screens
Drywood termites swarm in the late summer and early autumn so that you can see flying bugs swarm near your home. It is time to install window screens with the fine mesh and prevent Alates from choosing your property as a new home.
5. Choose the right place for mulch
Mulch and wood chips are excellent solutions to eliminate weeds in your garden, but they are also a real delicacy for Subterranean termites. Therefore, never place regular mulch near external walls and the house foundation to prevent insects from destroying your home.
6. Spot treatment
Drill holes in termite-infested finished and painted wood and fill them to cope with these annoying insects. The best option is to make a hole every 10 inches (25.4 cm) until feeling resistance when hitting the nest. Then, fill the space with termiticide and close made holes with wood patches or putty.
7. Essential oils
Spraying neem or orange oil near termites’ nests will inhibit their ability to lay eggs, reducing their number over time. Add ten drops of chosen oil and a teaspoon of dish soap into two cups of water, shake the mixture, and spray it over infested wood.
8. Boric acid
Boric acid dehydrates termite bodies and reduces the activity of their nervous system. Apply it evenly over cracks in the ceiling, floor, and along walls, and let it kill the bugs. Be aware that most insecticides include this highly effective chemical as the prime ingredient.
9. Diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth kills termites after penetrating and dehydrating their exoskeleton. It will be enough to sprinkle the powder throughout affected areas until it drives termites out of the nest.
10. Cardboard trap
Making a DIY cardboard trap means wetting two cardboard pieces and stacking them one over the other. Place it near the infested place and let cellulose attract termites. Once insects get stuck between layers, burn the cardboard.
It is an efficient method, but there is no guarantee that all insects have left the previous nest. Since they quickly reproduce, the entire action becomes pointless if some females have survived.
11. Call pest control professionals
The only official method to prevent termite infestation is to call pest control professionals. Set aside $50 to $300 annually and let them prevent invasion and help you protect your home.
Once you face termite presence, these professionals will inspect the house and identify signs of termite infestation, possible damage, and the termite species. Finally, they will analyze the damage extent and make a plan for treatment with foam, fumigation, liquid, chemicals, or bait, depending on the situation.
Seeing termite droppings from the ceiling is disgusting but can be highly helpful. It is sometimes the only sign these harmful insects have infested your home, requiring immediate reaction and professional help. If you overlook their presence, you risk a ceiling collapse and irreparable damage to your home.