5 Signs of Termite Infestation in Your Wood Furniture

May 15th, 2023 Blog

A close-up of a piece of light wood, covered in small termite holes

Nobody wants to think that they have termites in their home — or in their furniture. An insect infestation of any sort is sure to make you feel unsettled, itchy, and begging for a swift resolution.

Knowing the warning signs is one way to manage the potential for a termite infestation. Being equipped with the tools to identify termites in your home quickly means you’ll have a better chance of getting on top of the issue before it becomes a greater cause for concern.

About Termites

Much like the hierarchies seen in ant colonies, termites have a caste system of soldiers, workers, and the termites that solely produce. Often misidentified as flying ants, termites have some notable physical differences: termite bodies are long and tubular, only the ‘winged reproductive’ termites have wings, the wings are equal in length, and their antenna are straight.

Termites eat rotting and decaying plant matter, including wood, leaf debris and soil. North America has three categories of termites: subterranean, drywood and dampwood. Drywood termites are the species that homeowners need to be most wary of when it comes to furniture.

Now that you know how to identify a termite physically, here are five signs that you have a termite infestation in your solid wood furniture.

1. There’s Visible Damage to Wooden Furniture

One telltale sign of termites is damage to pieces of wooden furniture. While the destruction may not be immediately visible — termites eat from the inside out, after all — some indicators include tiny pinholes, rippled or uneven surfaces, chipped and patchy areas, and small piles of sawdust beneath the furniture. If the damage is extreme, the furniture will sound hollow if you knock gently against it.

2. You Find Shed Wings

Remember, not all termites have wings; only the ‘swarmers’ do, who are responsible for reproduction. If you have noticed shed wings near bright areas — like doors or windows — this, unfortunately, could be a sign of a larger colony of termites in your home and your furniture.

Swarmers only leave the rest of the colony when it’s getting overcrowded. They travel in a swarm (usually of about 50 termites) to seek mates and to create a new colony; they lose their wings after their first flight. So shed wings around the home are a sign of termites on the move and expanding their habitat.

3. You See Droppings

If you see small mounds of droppings — also known as frass — underneath furniture, this may mean that the piece is infested with drywood termites. Termite frass looks like a dark powdery substance, almost like sawdust or lightly coloured coffee grounds. And drywood termites kick the frass out of their colony to the floor below.

With such destruction and the mess that it accumulates, you can see why these tiny insects are considered one of the most disliked common enemies of wooden furniture!

A close-up of a peach-coloured termite on a damp piece of mossy wood

4. You Hear a Clicking or Rustling Noise

A lesser-known indicator of termite activity, yet one of the most perturbing, is the noise it makes. Termite sounds may include gnawing, chewing, rustling, clicking, and banging.

These disconcerting sounds can be attributed to soldier termites clicking and banging their heads against the inside of their habitat to alert the colony of oncoming danger. Worker termites also make a rustling and clicking noise as they (distressingly!) chew and gnaw through wood.

5. You Smell an Unusual Odour

If you are catching a mouldy scent in and around a piece of furniture, and you’ve been implementing proper furniture care (meaning you can rule out bacteria or germs), this could be a sign of termite activity. Termites smell like the matter they eat and are known to give off a musty odour.

Like many insects, termites use scent to communicate. With this in mind, another odour that could be a sign of a termite infestation is a sweet, honey-like scent. In contrast to the musty scent of other colony members, the colony’s queen emits a sweet odour as she seeks a mate.

Treatment Options

It’s safe to say that finding droppings, sustaining damage to pieces of furniture, experiencing unusual odours, and hearing rustling noises are less than desirable in your home.

If you suspect that you do have a termite infestation in your furniture, there are a few measures which you can take at home to control the invasion:

  • Sprinkle boric acid around the piece of furniture. Once eaten, it dehydrates and kills the termites.
  • Leave the furniture outside in the sun for several days. Note that direct sunlight will fade wooden furniture, so don’t implement this method for a prized piece.
  • Clean the furniture with an orange oil mixture. Combine 16 fluid ounces of tap water, 10 drops of orange oil and a quick squirt of dish soap in a spray bottle. Test the mixture on the underside or inside before starting the rest of the piece.

If the infestation has gotten truly unruly, or if you have a quality piece of furniture or an heirloom piece you don’t feel comfortable trying to treat yourself, it’s important to connect with an extermination company as soon as possible.

Moving forward:

  • Consider using termite protection on your wooden furniture; with these pests at large, treating your furniture can seriously extend your furniture’s lifespan — but always test untried polishes on an inconspicuous area before treating the whole piece.
  • When you’re cleaning your wooden furniture, never thoroughly soak it. Not only would this encourage mould and mildew, but it may also cause the wood to warp while creating an even more desirable environment for termites.
  • Complete regular checks on the underside of furniture and on the inside of drawers to check for telltale signs of termite activity — catching them in their early stages will save you repeat, costly exterminations.


Fortunately, top-quality wooden furniture isn’t as desirable to termites as other pieces because it’s coated using a protective termite barrier. So, if you’re currently looking for new furniture, like wooden bedroom collections, dining tables or cabinets, be sure to invest in quality pieces — as made by us here at Woodcraft. Not only will you own superior furniture that’s made to last, but you’re also mitigating the potential for noisy, smelly and hungry guests.