Do termites bite? This is a common question among individuals encountering these destructive insects around their homes or yard. When you spot termites in or around your home, you probably see adult termites, which can look quite a bit like ants—and we all know that ants bite. Plus, it’s well-known that termites feed on wood. A typical termite colony can number in the many thousands, and these critters can destroy entire structures by weakening the frame as they feed on and tunnel through it. If a termite can chew through wood, it stands to reason that it could bite a human or a dog, right?
Well, not necessarily. The answer to whether termites bite people is a bit complicated, but the simple answer is that a termite will unlikely ever bite you. Here’s why.
Understanding why you’ll probably never be the victim of a termite bite helps to know a bit about the termite life cycle. Termite colonies have queens that lay hundreds or even thousands of eggs during their life cycles. Termite eggs hatch into tiny, pale larvae called nymphs, which look like little white ants. In this life cycle phase, termite nymphs molt several times, growing larger each time they shed their exoskeleton until finally maturing into an adult termite.
There are four types of adult termites: workers, which gather food for the colony as well as building tunnels and caring for termite eggs and nymphs; soldiers, which defend the territory from ants and other potential predators or invaders and primary and reproductive termites; which are responsible for mating and laying eggs to form new colonies.
Of all the stages of the termite life cycle and all the types of adult termites, soldier termites are the most likely to be capable of biting a human. They have large mandibles—the crushing organs that makeup part of their mouthparts—which they use to crush ants and other enemies of the colony. Thus, in theory, soldier termites could bite a person. However, this is an unlikely scenario unless a person were to pick up a soldier termite and handle it, causing it to bite defensively.
In short, termites are not the type of insect that seek out and attack humans or pets, and their goal is not to bite you. This means you don’t need to worry about being bitten when you encounter a live termite, especially if you don’t poke at it, pick it up or otherwise handle it. What you should worry about, however, is the structural integrity of your home and other nearby structures, including garages, fences, and woodpiles—wherever termites may be living and feeding.
Can Termites Make You Sick?
Many people who wonder whether termites bite may also wonder, Can termites make you sick? As with the previous question, the answer is a bit complicated.
Since termites are not known to bite humans, they are also not known to be disease vectors (most insects that are vectors of disease transmit illnesses through bites). However, termites in your home or elsewhere on your property can affect your health in various ways. One primary method is that termites attract mold. Their feeding activity causes wood to decompose, and decomposing wood is vulnerable to mold growth. If mold grows inside your walls, ceilings, or attic, that could cause allergies and other health issues for anyone living in the home.
Health Problems Caused By Termites
As previously discussed, termites can cause human health problems by making their homes vulnerable to mold growth within the walls, ceilings, and attics. Another way termites can indirectly cause health problems for people is through contact with different treatments some homeowners choose to use in trying to rid their properties of termites.
If you have a termite infestation, it may be tempting to take a DIY approach, heading to your nearest home improvement store and purchasing a termite control product so you can deal with the problem yourself. The trouble with this approach is that any product formulated to eliminate termites or other pests can contain ingredients that can hurt people and pets. Rather than trying to diagnose and treat a termite problem yourself, it is better to call in a professional pest management company that can adequately assess the situation and safely administer chemicals.
Another way termites can affect people’s health is by feeding on wooden steps, flooring, and other structures that become so weakened by termite activity that people wind up getting injured when the system breaks. Termites are a “silent enemy” since they live and feed primarily in darkness, inside the wood, well away from human eyes. They can do a lot of damage before homeowners are even aware of their presence, and people can be seriously injured when an accident happens because termites damage wood to the point of collapse.
Termite Bites On Skin And Other Signs Of An Infestation
It’s doubtful that you’ll ever be bitten by a termite, even by an adult soldier termite, which has the crushing jaw parts needed to bite a human. If you are bitten by what you believe to be a termite, it’s far more likely that you have been bitten by an ant that closely resembles a termite. Even if you did happen to be bitten by an actual termite, the bite would probably not be serious. As stated earlier, termites are not vectors for disease; a termite bite might cause short-term discomfort at the site of the taste, but nothing more severe than that.
That being said, although termites may not be a threat to homeowners and their loved ones as far as people sustaining termite bites if you spot termites around your living space, or any sign of them, you may have a problem on your hands that needs to be identified and dealt with as soon as possible. Termites reportedly cause billions of dollars worth of damage to American homes yearly—that’s a lot of damage, mainly driven by such a tiny insect! It shows how important it is to call in a professional at the first sign that you may have a termite infestation somewhere in or near your home.
Here are some telltale signs of a termite infestation:
If you see what look like flying ants inside or near your home, there is a good chance they’re subterranean termites. An experienced pest control specialist can determine whether you’ve spotted ants or termites and recommend the next steps.
Piles of tiny wings, or even just a branch or two spotted on a windowsill, maybe from dry wood termites preparing to form a new colony.
Tiny, hexagonal brown pellets are likely to be termite frass or feces. If you spot these, call a pest control specialist to verify they are termite droppings and not from another indoor pest.
Pencil-thin mud tubes, often on your home’s foundation or porch, at the base of a stairwell, or around the trunk of a tree, are likely to be underground termite tubes used for traveling between a colony and a feeding site.
Tiny Holes In Wood
Anytime you spot small holes that appear to have been bored into something made of wood, such as in flooring, furniture, trees, and boards, it’s a likely sign of termites.
If you spot any of the signs of a possible termite infestation, it’s a good idea to call an experienced exterminator to determine the best way to proceed.
Do Termites Bite Dogs?
Just as humans are unlikely to suffer termite bites, it is also unlikely for a dog, or any other pet, to be bitten by a termite. Termites don’t seek out and attack people or pets. Instead, they live in their colonies, in the darkness, feeding on wood from the inside and nurturing their young within their nests, typically located underground or in attics and similar spaces.
It is within the realm of possibility that a dog could unwittingly root around in the dirt, dig a hole and accidentally uncover a subterranean termite colony, and a soldier termite from the settlement could use its mandibles to give the dog’s nose or paws a pinch. But while this is possible, it’s pretty improbable. Even if a termite were to bite a dog, its tiny bite wouldn’t match the dog’s thick skin.
If your dog seems to have suffered an insect bite, it’s far more likely to have come from an ant or some other type of biting or stinging insect, not a termite. Again, if you suspect the presence of termites, ants, or any other pest inside or around your home, it’s time to call an exterminator pest control expert to address the problem.
ABC Can Eliminate Termites From Your Property
If you suspect you have a termite problem—or a problem with ants or any other pest—call on ABC Home & Commercial Services for a thorough inspection. Our experienced, professional pest control experts can evaluate your situation and determine the best course for treating your home, whether for termites, ants, or any other unwanted critters. Sometimes, physical barriers are the best choice for keeping termites away from houses and other structures. Other times, chemical treatments are needed. Whatever might be necessary—whether barriers, termite baits, pesticides, or other insect prevention products—we will apply it in a low-impact way for you, your family, and your pets, so you can enjoy a pest-free home for many years to come.