Termite Exit Holes in Drywall, Sheetrock or Ceilings

Due to their elusive qualities and behavior, termites are one such pest that sometimes completely passes the attention of a homeowner. It is hard to know if the wood in your home is being devoured by termites simply because they primarily live inside of the wood and rarely venture outside of it. One way to spot termite activity is to look for small holes in wood, sheetrock, drywood, and even ceilings, which is the result of termites eating through the wood and extracting its cellulose.

What are termite exit holes?

Termite exit holes come from the active eating of wood and paper products and structures where cellulose is extracted. Termites create exit holes for the reproductive termites within the colony to occasionally exit.

Exit holes actually come from two termite behaviors – the extraction of cellulose from the wood and paper of structures and the need to create an exit from the colony for reproductive termites. Termite exit holes are caused by termites annual reproductive flight. Every year mature termite colonies develop a special caste of termites called winged reproductives or “alates”.

These alates normally reach maturity in spring. The colonies then wait for a suitably humid day, often a very hot day with an afternoon thunderstorm to release all their alates through exit holes. The exit holes are typically located high in trees, although sometimes they are located inside your house.

When this happens, your home can be inundated with thousands of flying termites; sometimes this is the first indication that your home could be infested by termites. Locating these holes can assist in identifying the location of a termite infestation. After the extermination of the colony, repairing the holes involves scraping the upper, infested wooden surface away with a chisel.

The scraped site needs sanding to create a smooth surface; then, strengthen the site with wood fillers. Polish again to ensure that the fillers remain secured in their position. Wood fillers and finishing products come with easy-to-follow instructions that can make the process doable even if you are not well-versed in home repairs and construction.

termite damage in sheetrock
Termite damage in sheetrock.

What Do Termite Exit Holes Look Like?

Termite exit holes are generally small and all three types of termites (Subterranean, Drywood and Dampwood) have colony members that swarm. Resembling flying ants, the sole purpose of swarming termites is to find new worksites and reproduce at those sites to form new colonies. Most swarmers exit through an opening in the mud tunnel while others such as Drywood swarmers create exit holes that are about 1/8 inch in diameter and may impact your drywall if termites have infested the framing.

These holes can be difficult to detect, however, since soon after use – the holes are repaired by nymph termites with a concrete-like mixture consisting of feces. You have to act quick or become lucky to spot these exit holes. Exit holes can generally be found in wood, drywall, the ceiling, and furniture.

Do Termites Eat Though Drywalls?

Termite exit holes in drywall are usually from tunneling to reach other more attractive substances for food and colonization. Actually, termites really don't like to eat through drywall; they do, however, love the paper and glue that covers the drywall board – especially if it gets damp from some sort of flooding. When the wall becomes wet, the paper soaks up water and invites them in; they will burrow between your painted wall surface and the drywall as they eat their way across your walls.

Finding Exit Holes In Drywalls

You can see termite exit holes across the drywall if you look very closely; they simply look like holes from about 1/16″ to 1/8″ across. Starting from the exit holes, you can use a device such as a scraper to rip the painted or plastered part away and follow along the same paths the termites did, giving you an exposed view of the termite tunnels and how much damage to the drywall was actually done. Once all the damage is exposed, you'll have a very good idea of what needs to be replaced.

termite damage in ceilings
Termite damage in ceilings.

Drywood Termite Exit Holes in Ceilings

Termite exit holes in ceilings are most likely caused by drywood termites. Although termites generally prefer to stay on the ground level, they will branch out to the ceiling via tunnels that lead them to more ample food sources once they have exhausted the structures below. You can usually spot termite exit holes in the ceiling in a number of ways, the most obvious being the appearance of tiny holes.

To make sure the holes are from termites, you can also inspect the ceiling for signs of tunnels leading up from the ground to the ceiling, which allows the termites to freely crawl to their destination. Additionally, you can inspect the ground below for termites droppings either as small pellets or frass, which resembles sawdust. Check any wood either on or around and even leading up to the ceiling for damage–but termites in the ceiling is usually rare and means that your home is likely undergoing a severe infestation.

Termite Exit Holes in Furniture

Termite exit holes in furniture also follow the same patterns. To rule out other burrowing insects, you can check the inside of the furniture by drilling a hole and using a flashlight. The sign of frass on or near the furniture is a sure sign of drywood termites, which are the species most likely to infest furniture.

Related Termite Exit Hole Questions

How to Look for Termite Exit Holes Using a Flashlight

Due to their small size, it can be difficult to see termite exit holes with the naked eye. This is made even more difficult since workers will usually work fast to plug the holes after the alates have left the colony. A flashlight will usually do the job when trying to inspect for exit holes.

At night, or in rooms with no light obscuring the beam of the flashlight, you can inspect wood, walls, ceilings, floors, and furniture for exit holes. The holes will be less than an inch and to ensure that the holes are from termites, inspect surrounding areas for tunnels and frass. A flashlight makes a handy tool for finding the holes and is the best bet when determining if you have termites by holes alone.

Do Termites Make Tiny Holes in Drywall, or is it Something Else?

Termites do make tiny holes in drywood and other structures, but sometimes it doesn’t necessarily mean that the holes are from termites. Beetles, such as the wood borer beetle, also make holes through wood, although drywall would likely not be their preferred structure to burrow through. If the holes you are seeing are relatively large and bigger than an inch, it could be beetles or some other type of burrowing insect; inspection of the structure would help to rule this out.

In Summary

Termites have many different ways of leaving signs that they have infested structures within your home. These signs are usually the only signs available to ensure that termites are present. Exit holes are small holes in wood, drywall, sheetrock and any structure that contains cellulose which termites feed on.

If you find objects or structures that have these tiny holes, it is important to inspect the surrounding area for other signs that verify termite activity, such as frass, pellet droppings, or mud tunnels surrounding the structure. These holes are made by the termites to make a barrier to the outside world where alates can exit the nest to reproduce.

Termites exit holes can be found on ceilings and floors in addition to structures, and the usage of a flashlight can help to ensure that the holes in question are actually of termites, which once verified, can lead you to begin the proper treatment options to eradicate them from the inside of your home.

Related: Tips for killing termites in your property

Leave a Comment