Do termites bite? This is a common question among individuals who encounter these destructive insects around their home or yard. For one thing, when you spot termites in or around your home, you’re probably seeing 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 are capable of destroying entire structures by weakening the frame as they feed on and tunnel through it. If a termite can chew through wood, then 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 it’s unlikely you’ll ever be bitten by a termite. Here’s why.
To understand why you’ll probably never be the victim of a termite bite, it helps to know a bit about the termite life cycle. Termite colonies have queens that lay many hundreds or even thousands of eggs during their life cycles. Termite eggs hatch into very small, pale larvae called nymphs, which look like little white ants. In this phase of the life cycle, 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 colony from ants and other potential predators or invaders and primary and reproductive termites, which are responsible for mating and laying eggs in order 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 make up 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. This is an unlikely scenario, however, 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). Having termites present in your home or elsewhere on your property, however, can affect your health in a variety of ways. One primary way is that termites attract mold. Their feeding activity causes wood to decompose, and decomposing wood is vulnerable to mold growth. If there is mold growing 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 health problems for humans by making their homes vulnerable to mold growth within the walls, ceilings and attics. Another way in which the presence of 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 on your hands, 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 have an adverse impact on both people and pets. Rather than trying to diagnose and treat a termite problem yourself, it is a better idea to call in a professional pest management company that can properly assess the situation and administer chemicals safely.
Another way that 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 structure breaks. Termites are a “silent enemy” of sorts, since they live and feed mostly in darkness, actually 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 as the result of termites damaging wood to the point of collapse.
Termite Bites On Skin And Other Signs Of An Infestation
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever be bitten by a termite, even by an adult soldier termite, which has the crushing jaw parts that would be 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 actually been bitten by an ant that happens to bear a close resemblance to 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 bite, but nothing more serious 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 each and every year—that’s a lot of damage, especially to be caused by such a tiny insect! It just goes to show 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 actually subterranean termites. An experienced pest control specialist can determine whether you’ve spotted ants or termites and recommend next steps.
Piles of small wings or even just a wing or two spotted on a windowsill, may be from drywood termites that are preparing to form a new colony.
Tiny, brown pellets that are hexagonal in shape are likely to be termite frass or feces. If you spot these, call a pest control specialist to verify they are in fact 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 subterranean 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 above 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 it’s unlikely for humans to suffer termite bites, it is also unlikely for a dog, or any other pet, to be bitten by a termite. Termites simply don’t seek out and attack people or pets. Rather, they live out their lives in their colonies, in the darkness, feeding on wood from the inside and nurturing their young within their nests, which are typically located either 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 colony could possibly use its mandibles to give the dog’s nose or paws a pinch. But while this is possible, it’s really pretty improbable. Even if a termite were to bite a dog, its tiny bite wouldn’t be much of a match for 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, and not from 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 a reputable pest professional 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 particular situation and determine the best course of action 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 way that is low-impact for you, your family and your pets, so you can enjoy a pest-free home for many years to come.