Can You Hear Termites in the Wall? Expert Tips on Detection

Termites are a common concern for homeowners, as they can cause significant structural damage if left unchecked. These wood-destroying insects may leave you wondering whether you can actually hear them within your walls.

Although termites are small and typically silent, some homeowners have reported hearing clicking or tapping sounds coming from their walls. This noise is often attributed to the termites communicating with each other, or to the sound of them eating away at the wood. However, it’s important to note that these sounds are not always perceptible and should not be relied upon as the sole indicator of a termite infestation.

To properly identify a termite issue, it’s crucial to look for other signs, such as discarded wings, mud tubes, or visible damage to wooden structures. Additionally, it’s wise to consult with a professional exterminator for an accurate assessment and treatment options.

Identifying Termite Sounds in Walls

Tapping and Clicking Noises

Termites create tapping and clicking noises as they chew through wood or tunnel through it. Soldier termites, in particular, create these sounds by banging their heads against the tunnels to warn others of potential threats. Examples of these noises include:

  • Soft, repetitive tapping
  • Faint clicking that increases in intensity as the termite colony grows

These noises are often difficult to hear and require close attention or a stethoscope to detect.

Rustling and Buzzing Sounds

Termites may also produce rustling and buzzing sounds. These sounds are mainly created by the movement of worker termites as they forage for food and other resources. Some examples are:

  • A slight rustling, similar to crumpling paper
  • A faint buzzing, akin to the sound of wings fluttering

Comparing termite sounds:

Sound Cause Characteristics
Tapping & Clicking Chewing and head-banging Soft, repetitive tapping; faint clicking
Rustling & Buzzing Movement and wing vibrations Slight rustling like crumpled paper; faint buzzing
  • Termites create various sounds in walls
  • Tapping, clicking, rustling, buzzing are common termite sounds
  • Soldier termites create tapping and clicking sounds
  • Worker termites create rustling and buzzing noises

In summary, termites create different sounds, such as tapping, clicking, rustling, and buzzing as they move through walls and wood structures. To identify a termite infestation, listen for these sounds and pay attention to any potential warning signs.

Signs of Termite Infestation

Visible Signs in Walls

Termites can cause visible signs of infestation in walls, such as:

  • Narrow, sunken winding lines: These can be found in wallpaper, paint, or other surfaces1.
  • Pinholes in drywall: These are tiny openings created by termites, which they later reseal2.

Hollow Sounding Wooden Structures

Termites feed on wood, compromising the structural integrity of wooden structures. When tapped, termite-infested wood produces a hollow sound due to the internal damage3.

Mud Tubes

Subterranean termites construct mud tubes to maintain moisture while traveling between the soil and their food source4. These tubes can be found on

  • Crawl space piers
  • Utility penetrations
  • Foundation walls and slabs5

Droppings

Drywood termites create small, temporary openings called “kick-out” holes6. They use these holes to push out fecal pellets, about 1/16″ long2, which can be a sign of infestation.

Termite Inspection and Control

Professional Termite Inspection

A professional termite inspection is vital for homeowners to detect early signs of termite infestations. Inspectors usually check various areas, such as floors, ceilings, and foundations, for signs of termites, using tools like a stethoscope to listen for the munching sounds of soldier termites and termite colonies. They often inspect crawl spaces, attics, and crevices in the home, looking for signs like buckling wood, discolored drywall, or damaged wallpaper.

Some common species to look out for include:

  • Subterranean termites
  • Drywood termites
  • Formosan termites

Termite Damage Repair and Prevention

After an inspection has detected termite activity, it’s essential to address any structural damage caused by these pests. Repairing damaged floors, walls, and ceilings can help prevent further damage. Preventative measures like installing termite-resistant materials, sealing cracks, and treating the soil near the foundation play a crucial role in stopping termite invasions.

Here are some effective prevention methods:

  • Applying termite baits
  • Installing mesh barriers
  • Treating wood with repellents

Choosing the Right Pest Control Company

To address a termite problem efficiently, selecting the right pest control company is critical. Some companies offer free termite inspection services, like Terminix. Before choosing a company, ensure it is registered and in good standing with the Structural Pest Control Board. Comparing treatment plans offered by different companies and considering factors like experience, warranties, and customer reviews can help make an informed decision.

Company Treatment Plan Warranty Customer Reviews
Company A Termite baits, repellents, and barriers 1-year warranty 4.5 stars
Company B Chemical treatments and baits 2-year warranty 4.2 stars

Keep in mind, it’s essential to differentiate between termites and carpenter ants, as the treatment methods can vary.

Understanding Termites and Their Behavior

Termite Species and Their Differences

There are various termite species, each with unique characteristics:

  • Subterranean termites: These termites live below ground and are the most common type causing significant structural damage in the United States.
  • Drywood termites: Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites do not require contact with the soil and can live inside the wood they infest.
  • Dampwood termites: These termites prefer wood with high moisture content and are less common in homes.
Subterranean Termites Drywood Termites Dampwood Termites
Location Below ground Inside wood Wet wood
Structural Damage Potential High Moderate Low
Dependence on Soil Contact Yes No No

Termite Life Cycle and Colony Structure

Termites have a well-defined life cycle consisting of three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. These stages develop to form different castes within the colony:

  • Workers: Responsible for foraging, feeding, and caring for the colony.
  • Soldiers: Defend the colony from predators.
  • Reproductives (alates): Winged termites that swarm to form new colonies.

A typical termite colony includes:

  • Queen: The primary egg-laying female who can live for many years.
  • King: Helps the queen reproduce and maintain the colony.
  • Workers, soldiers, and reproductives: Thousands of individuals that maintain the colony’s functions.

Termite behavior can vary by species, but all termites consume wood by using their mouths to break down cellulose. When they infest homes, they damage walls, beams, and even trim or paneling. Unlike other pests, termites are not noticeable at first, as they work within the wood. In some cases, you might hear subtle termite noises like faint rustling or tapping sounds. However, these sounds are often difficult to detect, and most homeowners discover termite infestations when they see physical signs of wall damage.

While some DIY methods can reduce termite presence, the best approach is to consult pest control experts for effective treatment and prevention measures.

Footnotes

  1. https://extension.msstate.edu/content/signs-termite-infestation

  2. https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/drywood-termites/ 2

  3. https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/termites-how-identify-and-control-them

  4. https://extensionentomology.tamu.edu/publications/subterranean-termites/

  5. https://basc.pnnl.gov/resource-guides/termite-resistant-foundations-and-walls

  6. https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/termites-how-identify-and-control-them

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Termites swarming in Beverly Hills

 

Subject: unidentified bugs
Location: Beverly Hills, CA
November 22, 2016 2:04 pm
Hi, I thought I know common household pests, but this one baffled me. There a thousands of them around inside and outside, and I think it’s mating season for them. I’m in southern California and we just had more than in one day than I can remember. The yard is still damp from it and it’s covered with these little buggers. Please help.
Thank you.
Signature: AO

Termites
Termites

Dear AO,
These are Termites.  Termites frequently swarm on a sunny day after a rain.  We observed Termites swarming in Mount Washington the same day you saw them in Beverly Hills.

Thank you so much for your quick reply. I thought swarming termite had wings. These just crawl around. Happy thanksgiving.
A

Hi again AO,
Swarming Termites do have wings which the shed after mating.  If you have been seeing so many Termites, there should also be piles of wings nearby.

Letter 2 – Termite

 

Subject: ID help
Location: Los Angeles, CA
September 11, 2012 12:51 pm
Hello! I found this creature crawling out of a hole in a piece of wood in my backyard in Los Angeles, CA. I am located about 4 miles from the Pacific Ocean. I thought it might be a Rove Beetle of some kind, but someone pointed out that it appears to have 13 segments in its antennae, and that is too many for a Rove Beetle. I wish I had more shots from other angles, but unfortunately I do not. Any help would be appreciated 🙂
Signature: gatorlink

Termite

Dear gatorlink,
This looks very similar to a Termite image, also from Los Angeles, that we just posted and it also resembles this Termite image from BugGuide.  We are having problems identifying the exact species, but it makes sense that the conditions for this species to swarm in Los Angeles right now might be ideal.

Thanks so much for the help. I think this may be a Western Drywood Termite. I hope that’s the only individual I find, or else I might have a big problem!

Letter 3 – Termite

 

Subject: ear wig without pincers
Location: Portland Oregon usa
December 2, 2013 7:32 am
This morning I found a bug crawling very slowly near my child’s night light. It looked like an earwig at first but then I noticed it had no pincers. What is this thing? We live in Portland Oregon and my husband brings in firewood from outside so I wonder if this is where it came from.
In the picture He’s kinda squished (I squished him) wonder if he was walking so slow because he lost pincers?
Signature: Jessica

Termite
Termite

Hi Jessica,
This is a Termite, and because of the red head, we believe it is a Pacific Coast Dampwood Termite,
Zootermopsis angusticollis, which is pictured on BugGuide.  We believe it is highly likely it arrived with the firewood.

Letter 4 – Termite

 

Bug that flies
May 23, 2010
These bugs fly, but i see wings all over the house, window sill and all. Seems as the bug dies the wings disconnect or something. They are very small bodies. I think they are coming from
the baseboards. The house is carpets, and the baseboards are lined with carpets so i guess the bugs crawl out from under.  My dad said it happends once a year but i even saw one on my beadspread adn the other had no wings it is was moving like a booger with feet.
I have seen piles of something maybe wood, but its stacked in little
piles and I vacuum and they always reappear. sux. Are they termites or somthign else? My dad says they aren’t but i don’t thinki he knows. Im in a really old building. I have a $25 battery spray bottle of termite killer, help please
Adam
Fort lauderdale FL

Termite

Dear Adam,
This is a Termite Alate, the winged reproductive form.  Based on your letter, it sounds like you have a well established colony or colonies in your home.  The presence of the winged Alates each year is evidence that new colonies may be forming in your home.  We doubt that your battery spray bottle will eradicate the colony.

Letter 5 – Termite

 

Subject: Bug in toilet??
Location: Toilet in Louisiana
April 13, 2017 8:45 pm
Hello please help me identify this bug that was in my toilet bowl! Thank you!!!
Signature: Sakura

Termite

Dear Sakura,
This looks to us like a Termite.

Letter 6 – Termite

 

Subject:  Unidentified bug Los Angeles
Geographic location of the bug:  Inside home Los Angeles CA
Date: 09/29/2017
Time: 02:32 PM EDT
I cant seem to identify this bug.  I saw  crawling on my couch
How you want your letter signed:  Kat

Termite

Dear Kat,
This is a Termite, probably an alate that has lost its wings.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Termites swarming in Beverly Hills

 

Subject: unidentified bugs
Location: Beverly Hills, CA
November 22, 2016 2:04 pm
Hi, I thought I know common household pests, but this one baffled me. There a thousands of them around inside and outside, and I think it’s mating season for them. I’m in southern California and we just had more than in one day than I can remember. The yard is still damp from it and it’s covered with these little buggers. Please help.
Thank you.
Signature: AO

Termites
Termites

Dear AO,
These are Termites.  Termites frequently swarm on a sunny day after a rain.  We observed Termites swarming in Mount Washington the same day you saw them in Beverly Hills.

Thank you so much for your quick reply. I thought swarming termite had wings. These just crawl around. Happy thanksgiving.
A

Hi again AO,
Swarming Termites do have wings which the shed after mating.  If you have been seeing so many Termites, there should also be piles of wings nearby.

Letter 2 – Termite

 

Subject: ID help
Location: Los Angeles, CA
September 11, 2012 12:51 pm
Hello! I found this creature crawling out of a hole in a piece of wood in my backyard in Los Angeles, CA. I am located about 4 miles from the Pacific Ocean. I thought it might be a Rove Beetle of some kind, but someone pointed out that it appears to have 13 segments in its antennae, and that is too many for a Rove Beetle. I wish I had more shots from other angles, but unfortunately I do not. Any help would be appreciated 🙂
Signature: gatorlink

Termite

Dear gatorlink,
This looks very similar to a Termite image, also from Los Angeles, that we just posted and it also resembles this Termite image from BugGuide.  We are having problems identifying the exact species, but it makes sense that the conditions for this species to swarm in Los Angeles right now might be ideal.

Thanks so much for the help. I think this may be a Western Drywood Termite. I hope that’s the only individual I find, or else I might have a big problem!

Letter 3 – Termite

 

Subject: ear wig without pincers
Location: Portland Oregon usa
December 2, 2013 7:32 am
This morning I found a bug crawling very slowly near my child’s night light. It looked like an earwig at first but then I noticed it had no pincers. What is this thing? We live in Portland Oregon and my husband brings in firewood from outside so I wonder if this is where it came from.
In the picture He’s kinda squished (I squished him) wonder if he was walking so slow because he lost pincers?
Signature: Jessica

Termite
Termite

Hi Jessica,
This is a Termite, and because of the red head, we believe it is a Pacific Coast Dampwood Termite,
Zootermopsis angusticollis, which is pictured on BugGuide.  We believe it is highly likely it arrived with the firewood.

Letter 4 – Termite

 

Bug that flies
May 23, 2010
These bugs fly, but i see wings all over the house, window sill and all. Seems as the bug dies the wings disconnect or something. They are very small bodies. I think they are coming from
the baseboards. The house is carpets, and the baseboards are lined with carpets so i guess the bugs crawl out from under.  My dad said it happends once a year but i even saw one on my beadspread adn the other had no wings it is was moving like a booger with feet.
I have seen piles of something maybe wood, but its stacked in little
piles and I vacuum and they always reappear. sux. Are they termites or somthign else? My dad says they aren’t but i don’t thinki he knows. Im in a really old building. I have a $25 battery spray bottle of termite killer, help please
Adam
Fort lauderdale FL

Termite

Dear Adam,
This is a Termite Alate, the winged reproductive form.  Based on your letter, it sounds like you have a well established colony or colonies in your home.  The presence of the winged Alates each year is evidence that new colonies may be forming in your home.  We doubt that your battery spray bottle will eradicate the colony.

Letter 5 – Termite

 

Subject: Bug in toilet??
Location: Toilet in Louisiana
April 13, 2017 8:45 pm
Hello please help me identify this bug that was in my toilet bowl! Thank you!!!
Signature: Sakura

Termite

Dear Sakura,
This looks to us like a Termite.

Letter 6 – Termite

 

Subject:  Unidentified bug Los Angeles
Geographic location of the bug:  Inside home Los Angeles CA
Date: 09/29/2017
Time: 02:32 PM EDT
I cant seem to identify this bug.  I saw  crawling on my couch
How you want your letter signed:  Kat

Termite

Dear Kat,
This is a Termite, probably an alate that has lost its wings.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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