View Full Version : Termites in cedar?

12-08-2007, 06:18 PM
I wouldn't have thought it - seems like the smell would put them off like moths, but maybe it's just an old wives tale??? :confused:

Not Sarah obviously, but a client's boat. Seems confined to a couple of closets and cabinets on one side? The droppings are uniformly dark - unlike the sandy brown specks I've seen in houses that were infested, but I figure the color of the droppings is based on what they're chewing through....either the cedar or whatever is behind the closet facings.

12-08-2007, 07:10 PM
It may not be all cedar... Could be pine or cheaper wood...
Just like any thing else, a box made from crappy wood, with a pretty or expensive facing.
That what ticked me off these days... You pay big bucks for a piece of furniture, stating it solid oak, and few years down road, pretty tiger striped oak veneers began to peels away revealing pressed glue and sawdust:eek:

So under that cedar facing could be very cheap wood, or man made wood by-products that is getting attacked by suspecting insects.

Eastern Red Cedar (aromatic) the famous red and white striped wood.. Is highly resistant to decay and attack by insects, including termites.... And does repel moths and fleas..

Western Red Cedar isn't aromatic like Eastern Cedar.. Used in deckings, sidings, shingles, and other outdoor product, does not repel moths, and sometime attacked by insects..

Bob Smalser
12-08-2007, 07:34 PM
Excavate until identifiable critters are found before drawing conclusions. Termites live in underground colonies and commute back and forth to their wood food source, they don't live in wood. I spose it's possible, but the bilge'd have to be pretty dirty for them to confuse it with topsoil.

Subterranean termites occur throughout the
temperate and tropical regions of the world and cause
the majority of damage to wood in use (Moore 1979;
Anonymous 1997). They live in the soil in colonies
which can number up to 1 million workers and
soldiers. In nature, their role as decomposers of dead
and fallen trees is a valuable one. However, termites
also consume wood in service, and so there is great
interest and concern over their threat to wooden
buildings and structures.

The dark southern subterranean termite,
Reticulitermes virginicus (Banks), and eastern
subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar),
are two of the five principal subterranean termite
species in the U.S., causing 95% of the termite
damage to wooden structures (Forschler and Lewis
1997). They do not build distinct nests but instead
have dispersed colonies underground with a
collection of feeding sites (Ballard 1997).
Subterranean termites forage for food as far as 250
feet from their colony. To lessen the effect of air
currents and reduce attack from ants, these termites
build mud tubes between the soil and food sources.

The death rate of termites consuming Western Red Cedar varies with fiber source and the species of termites from 100% in several days to 40% in several weeks. Termites prefer food sources other than Western Red Cedar, however in the absence of alternative food sources, some termites will attack Western Red Cedar. It is best to consult local experts on their experience with Cedar’s resistance to the species of termite that inhabits the region. In the absence of local knowledge it is recommended that preventative treatments be made to insure consistent resistance to attack in areas that are prone termite attacks.

12-08-2007, 08:00 PM
Wow Bob,
I merely forgotten about termites are underground critters..
So, Marge's case may not be termites issue...

I got a 6" dia Eastern red cedar log lying by the shed out back, been there for 3 years, and still solid.. I kinda wonder why am I saving the log for? But it is still servicable, or to be use in something.. It is pretty inside of it.. striped like a peppermint stick...

12-08-2007, 08:02 PM
Unfortunately Bob, our most common pest here is the dry wood termite. We have the subterranean flavor too, but the dry wood ones keep the tenting folks in business.

This is on the western dry wood termite, but it's the first thing that popped up in Google when I was checking my memory on the types of termites.

From the University of Ca - Agriculture and Natural Resources program:

The western drywood termite, Incisitermes minor, is California's second most important termite pest after the western subterranean termite. It is a native insect that has been here millions of years, mostly attacking trees along river washes and arroyos. In California drywood termites are most prevalent in southern California and the Central Valley but also can be found infesting wood along the coast, in bay areas south of San Francisco, and in the southern California desert. For more information on the biology and distinguishing characteristics of this and other termite species common in California, see Pest Notes: Termites, listed in References.

Because of the difficulty in detecting drywood termites and determining the extent of the damage done, do-it-yourself treatments are not recommended; consult a pest control professional. Over-the-counter products with drywood termites on the label for do-it-yourself enthusiasts do not exist. Except for wood removal, homeowners should seek help from pest control professionals. This publication is intended to provide homeowners with sufficient background information so that they can better discuss treatment options with pest control professionals; it is not intended as a treatment guide.

Drywood termites are secretive insects and are difficult to detect. They live deep inside wood and, except during periods when they swarm or when repair work is being done on infested homes, they are seldom seen. Colonies are small (usually fewer than 1,000 individuals), can be widely dispersed, and take years to mature. While a homeowner may initially detect the presence of termites when they swarm or if fecal pellets are discovered, inspecting for drywood termites and determining the extent of an infestation require experience.

During a visual inspection for drywood termites, inspectors look for feeding damage, shed wings, termite fecal pellets, and kickout holes, which are small holes the size of BB shot through which termites push fecal pellets out of the wood. Fecal pellets, hexagonal in shape, are diagnostic for drywood termites. However, whether the infestation is currently active or what the extent of the infestation is cannot be determined from pellets alone. Cleaning up the fecal pellets around a kickout hole and checking a few days later to see if new pellets have appeared can help to determine if an infestation is active. (Building vibrations/movements may cause some pellets to appear.) If an active infestation of drywood termites is found in your structure, you should have it treated.

From the years of managing rickety old rental properties, I remember (now) the trick of finding the kickout hole and watching for new droppings.

It's an 80' aluminum yacht, and while knowing even less about aluminum yacht construction than I do wood yacht construction :rolleyes:, obviously the beautiful interior joinery (including the eastern red cedar closets) is tabbed to the hull with something, and if it's dry wood termites they're probably in that.


The fecal pellets produced by drywood termites are elongate with rounded ends and have six flattened or roundly depressed surfaces separated by six longitudinal ridges.
Illustration by D. Kidd.

Guess I'll take my magnifying glass with me tomorrow...



I suspect the droppings are coming from the gaps in the trim around the top of the closet and not necessarily a kickout hole as discussed in the above article.

Bob Smalser
12-08-2007, 08:27 PM
That's definitely Eastern Red Cedar, which is resistant. Start with the sapwood and any non-cedar trim, but find the critters before deciding on treatment. The references state dry wood termite colonies are relatively small.

I'd rip out any and all infested wood before fumigating, on which I'd consult a local exterminator. The good news is there is a good market for ERC, and it's both available and inexpensive.

And apparently the western dry wood termite is also common in Florida. This article has some interesting ideas for spot treatments:


12-08-2007, 10:33 PM
Could be beetles. I see some of these guys where I live.


Tom Lathrop
12-08-2007, 10:55 PM
As Bob said, it's definitely eastern red incense cedar. Carpenter bees make black droppings and don't much care what wood it is. They happily chew nice 1/2" holes in treated pine. If it's them, the holes will be in the underside of an overhead timber.

12-08-2007, 11:00 PM
Ain't that a bugger... Insects cannot stay where they belong, out in forest or brush piles...
Bad enough there is computer bugs..

Bob Smalser
12-08-2007, 11:29 PM
Typical carpenter ant damage involves large, obvious holes and tunnels with frass or fine sawdust falling from them. Ants don't eat wood, they just nest in it. They would need a food source nearby, and one of their favorite foods is....termites. ;)

Bill Lowe
12-09-2007, 01:44 AM
Could it be water bugs?

Paul Girouard
12-09-2007, 01:49 AM
The holes look like powder post beetle holes , wonder if that stock was AD or KD? The holes look to small for ants or termites at least the ones we have in the PNW.

12-09-2007, 05:22 AM
Sorry Paul - those aren't holes, they're the droppings. (I don't do iPhone photos as good as Joe... ;))

12-09-2007, 10:53 AM
Kinda looks like Miller moth droppings to me. Have you seen any 1/4" x 1/16" football shaped cocoons in the tight corners, crevases, or nooks and crannies?
(And as far as I know Cedar doesn't keep moths away. The reason that cedar chests are fairly effective is that they tend to seal fairly tight, so moths don't get in in the first place. But they do smell better than those camphor moth flakes!)

Paul Girouard
12-09-2007, 11:01 AM
Sorry Paul - those aren't holes, they're the droppings. (I don't do iPhone photos as good as Joe... ;))

Holy $hit , well not really holy , I'm not a excrement expert like Lefty he seems to know his poop:D

Edited to add , if Lefty is right I / we won't be able to say " He( Lefty) doesn't know $hit!" any more.:D

Jay Greer
12-09-2007, 02:09 PM
Dry wood termites will infect wooden boats. I have had this happen several times during colony migrations. Termites will fly, land on a new wooden surface, shed their wings and burrow into the wood in pairs to start a new colony. If you can catch them in the beginning of a migration, they can be delt with before any major damage has occured. I, once, even had them in an ash spreader as well as red cedar mast wedges. Always the cure has been to completely tent the boats and fumigate. The gas used was "Vicane". It is guaranteed to be non toxic to humans once the gas is spent and the boat is aired out. If you want to try another method, you can tent the boat or object and gas with commercial CO2. Carbon Dioxide gas will kill critters by robbing the air of oxygen. If you have a small object or boat, placing it in a freeze locker for several days will kill the critters as well.
That is what I did with my spreader.

12-09-2007, 03:37 PM
The other trick, that we used when coming or going from cockroach infested areas, was to tape all openings in the boat shut......bring in a small load of dry ice, of course open as many floor panels etc as you can.....the dry ice evaporates and displaces the oxygen.....leave the boat for a couple three days and repeat if necessary.

Dan McCosh
12-09-2007, 04:48 PM
Somehow, the vision of someone crawling on their knees with a magnifying glass, looking at termite poop.....

12-09-2007, 05:48 PM
Somehow, the vision of someone crawling on their knees with a magnifying glass, looking at termite poop.....

Give me a little credit ;) :p

I took a roll of scotch tape and picked up a couple of samples. :D All the better to attach to the memos going to the captain and project manager. :D

Lefty - sorry I missed your call, I think I was folded up sideways cleaning the underside of the engine room steps... :( Or maybe I was windexing the bizziolinth portlight glass... :rolleyes: At any rate, I wasn't feeling real chatty...

I've seen no evidence of cocoons. Whatever it is, it's between the interior cabinets and the hull. And it's not just the starboard side. Pretty much anyplace the overhead trim is loose enough to let the droppings fall...

12-09-2007, 09:23 PM
I bet it's millers.....The grubs are little tiny whitish dealies about 3/16" long and 1/16" wide. The moths look kinda like hulled sunflower seeds. They nest behind stuff.....the tighter the fit, the better, it seems.

12-10-2007, 07:02 PM
Greetings all,
First post. I couldn't find and intro thread so I'll just jump in here. Have you determined what the critters are yet? Take a pinch of droppings between finger and thumb and roll them around. Do they feel like hard little marbles with out turning to dust? Take something with some weight like a brick/ paving stone with a smooth surface and place on top of the droppings then slide it around. Does it move as if on rollers with out turning the droppings to dust? Finally, have you found any wings? Check here for a picture of the wings.
No, I'm not an exterminator, but I did manage a marina in S Florida in the mid 80's to early 90's and had to haul a few boats for tenting. Look at the ceiling above the highest concentration of droppings below. You should find a tiny hole, no more than 1/16" or maybe a knot that isn't solid. The workers clean the tunnels and deposit the droppings outside the nest. I doubt they're eating the cedar but rather the cabin roof or whatever the softest wood above is. The only way to get rid of them for sure is to haul the boat and tent it. Don't forget to get the mast and boom under the tent as well if they're wood. If you have a wooden dinghy you put on deck while underway but store ashore when not boating get that in as well, may be a source of termites. Good luck

12-10-2007, 07:15 PM
Thanks Chris & welcome to the Forum.

I attached a sample of the droppings to a written report I left for the captain. :D Ya' gotta know his day started good. ;)

I'd place odds that it's termites. There was not a single wing in evidence (since Friday I have clocked over 20 hours detailing the interior of this vessel), but my research indicates that it can take several years for a colony to establish. They would have to reach adulthood and swarm (spring and summer?) before they leave wings. Also, the boat was detailed about a month ago before the Fort Lauderdale show. (There's clean ... and then there's Margo Clean!)

This afternoon when the captain asked me what I thought it indicated, I told him I thought it indicated he needed a professional exterminator... :rolleyes:

- M

12-11-2007, 09:40 AM
Good advice Margo.

Wild Wassa
12-11-2007, 11:26 AM
That looks like Silverfish droppings ... did you pick up anything off that bench, things like charts, books or papers and then discover those droppings? ... and the few white spots could be their eggs.