A strange question perhaps, but one that you would likely be asking yourself if you happened upon the smell and wondered what it was, where it was emanating from and most of all what you should do about it – if anything! Especially as this would likely be an unusual smell if it were around your home.
Well, based on that, I thought it best to write about it – to give you a professional judgment. As a Termite Specialist of 10 years, by now we’re probably the best authority to give you definitive answers when it comes to termites… and that includes the smell.
One might also ask Do Termites Smell? Well, there are two ways to look at this question and we’ll answer both as a quick response here before diving into more detail below…
Do Termites Smell? Like many insects, Termites rely heavily on scent and pheromones carried on the breeze. These odors and pheromones are picked up by Termite antennae and can provide them with a wealth of information, from where food sources are located to alerting them to potential danger or even attack.
Do termites give off an odor? Because of the activities that Termites undertake, from the mud tunnels they produce right through to the pellets they leave behind, it’s not surprising that Termites carry an odor around with them. This is often described as an unpleasant fungal or musty type of smell.
Is the Smell the Termites? or the Damage Termites Are Causing?
When termites cause structural damage to your home, wood or any other plant-based matter, there’s nothing in particular that changes regarding the timber or their ‘food’. But the decaying timber which they aim for may smell …because it’s decaying.
So to put it another way, any smell coming from the area will not be as a result of damage to the targeted food source. It will only be emanating from the termites themselves, or substances that termites have brought with them or indeed leave behind.
However, if we were being picky about this, we might argue that something like timber can become impregnated with odor filled debris brought in or left behind by termites, so can take on the same odor characteristics as the termites themselves.
The only other connection to keep in mind is that termites thrive in damp or moist environments. Often an area being damp or moist is associated with a musty smell – because generally, the area has rotting wood or other materials there, so we might then think the smell is as a result of damage.
What Do Termites Smell Like?
Termites are known to smell much like the environments they live in, which isn’t surprising. Particularly with subterranean termites this can be a musky, musty mildew type of smell. Termites normally smell like one would associate with damp leaves or moist dark and dank places where little to no sunlight penetrates.
This seems like an obvious smell when we consider that most termites live underground of some sort, whether that’s termite mounds or underground. Add to this the fact they don’t like light (we’ll cover why that is in a later article) and it’s no surprise they’d smell like the same dark, dank places we mentioned previously.
“Damp leaves or moist, dark, dank places where little to no sunlight penetrates”
When Should I Smell Termites?
The same question might be what does a termite infestation smell like? Well, regardless of odors, the presence of termites may not be as obvious as you might think, in fact, they could potentially spend months, or even years gradually gnawing away at the structure of your property and you might not even know it until more obvious signs become available.
Although Termites emit an odor, it’s not one that’s pungent enough to penetrate through walls, floors or ceilings. So you simply cannot rely on smelling them to know if they are present. There are other checks and closer examinations you would need to make to be sure.
Where Will This Smell Be Coming From?
Termites may appear pretty secretive, but really it’s simply that they don’t like light, and will attempt to hide by whatever means necessary in their pursuit for the next meal mainly wood and plant-based materials.
So if you do happen to smell something that might be the smell of termites, it’s likely that they’re still very well hidden from view. In fact, in many cases, you would need to start removing flooring and walls in order to locate the exact position of these termites as they often move between cavity wall spaces and underfloor spaces too.
Do Flying Termites Smell?
Termites are termites, and although they have distinguishing features that differ between them concerning factors such as gender, type – as in their designated duties, there is (as far as we know) no difference between any of them when it comes to their odor. Termites with wings are raised in the same environment (nursery) as those without, so unsurprisingly they smell exactly the same.
On that point, it’s worth noting that there’s no difference in their genetic makeup that dictates they’ll smell any differently to their brethren either.
Do termites smell when you kill them?
There is no evidence to support that termites smell any different when they’re dead than when they’re alive. If there’s any additional odors or any increase in odor, this may only be detectable when detected close to the creature itself. So really, that means you may have to get much closer and smell the squashed termite …This might be why there’s a lack of evidence to support it.
Do Termite Droppings Smell?
It’s only natural to assume that the waste material of a termite will have an undesirable aroma to it. Whilst it’s probably not enough to make you feel overly nauseous, there will be some sort of odor from termite droppings.
What to Do If I Smell Termites
Sometimes you might just not know what the smell is, but smells like this will rarely just go away, and more often than not are likely to get worse. So deciding to ignore it is not really an option, particularly if the smell persists and you cannot locate the source. It means something is wrong somewhere, and whilst it may not necessarily be termites, there is a chance it is.
It might be that you’ve already tried to trace the source of the smell yourself and are unable to locate it unless you start plying up floorboards or ripping down walls, which is a bit risky.
So as every good advisor would say, you really need to have this investigated by a professional, even if it just means ruling out the possibility of termite infestation. Plus even if it turns out not to be termites, it’s also worth consulting with the experts about the possible deterrents and treatments you may need in case the situation of termites does indeed occur, especially if you know the area may be prone to it – better to be prepared.
Bad Smell After Termite Treatment
If you’ve consulted an expert and they’ve carried out some treatments in and around your property, they’ll no doubt inform you of any aftercare and what to expect from the treatments, this could also involve further odors.
So be aware, that many pesticides can leave a residual odor that you may be able to detect for some time afterward. There are remedies for this which can alleviate any after treatment odors.
Is Termite Treatment Toxic to Humans?
All pesticides are potentially toxic when used incorrectly. But if used in the correct way, following recommended guidelines strictly, and especially when used by a professional when undertaking large remedial work, then there should be no short or long term health risks to humans.
What to Do If You Smell Termites
If you’re reading this, then it’s likely you might be a little concerned about a potential infestation. For professional termite control experts like us, it often starts when homeowners smell a damp musty odor, or when they see a swarm of termites ready to take flight to establish new colonies.
If you suspect anything that might be termite related, then I’d strongly recommend you have the area checked, a conversation is free and it might save you thousands in remedial costs. So email us, or call us now and let’s see if we can help.
Can dogs smell termites?
Dogs sense of smell is hundreds of times greater than humans, able to smell something that is only 2 or 3 parts per trillion. So they can smell all manner of wildlife around them. Much of it they will ignore. The trick is understanding if your dog is smelling termites or not.
Do Termites Smell Like Lemon or Citronella?
It’s not generally agreed that termites smell of lemon or citronella. What you are likely picking up are Ants, prominent in Easter North America, Citronella ants emit a lemon odor as a defense mechanism.