Do Termites Bite People? Surprising Facts Revealed

Termites are notorious for causing damage to wooden structures, but do they pose a risk to humans through biting? Many people wonder if these wood-destroying pests could potentially harm them or their family members.

While termites are highly destructive to buildings, they generally do not bite humans. Their primary food source is cellulose found in wood, so people needn’t worry about becoming their next meal. However, it is still important for homeowners to be aware of termites and take preventative measures against potential infestations.

In addition to the reassurance that termites are unlikely to bite people, understanding the differences in appearance between termites and ants can be helpful. For instance, termites have straight antennae and even-sized wings, while ants have elbowed antennae and their front wings are longer than the rear ones. This knowledge can aid in correctly identifying any potential pest issues.

Do Termites Bite People?

Termites are known for causing extensive damage to wood, but do they pose any threat to humans or pets in terms of bites? Let’s explore this aspect in detail.

Termites Vs Ants and Mites

Termites are often confused with ants and mites, which are known to bite or sting humans. However, there are some key differences between these insects:

  • Termites: Primarily feed on wood and cellulose materials; straight antennae; front and hind wings are similar in shape and length.
  • Ants: Known to bite and sting; elbowed antennae; front wings are longer than hind wings and tinted brown.
  • Mites: Some species bite or cause skin irritation; very small, often microscopic; diverse group with different feeding habits.

To distinguish between these insects, it’s important to note their physical appearances, which are clearly different from one another.

Bite Humans and Pets

Termites themselves are not known to bite humans or pets. They primarily feed on wood, dead leaves, soil, and sometimes paper1. Their focus is on building and maintaining their colonies.

While termite bites aren’t a concern for humans or pets, termite infestations in homes are still a serious issue, as they can cause significant structural damage to wooden structures2.

In conclusion, there is no need to worry about termite bites, but it is essential to be vigilant about preventing and addressing termite infestations in your home.

Types of Termites and Bites

Subterranean Termite

Subterranean termites are the most common type of termite. They live in underground colonies and forage for wood in concealed mud tubes.

  • Appearance: Creamy white to dark brown, about 1/8 inch long
  • Bites: Subterranean termites do not usually bite humans
  • Habitat: Soil and moist wood

Examples of damage caused by subterranean termites include tunnels in wood and soil, as well as mud tubes on walls, ceilings, and floor joists1.

Drywood Termite

Drywood termites do not require contact with soil. They infest dry wood above ground, such as furniture and wood framing.

  • Appearance: Creamy white to light brown, 3/8 to 1 inch long
  • Bites: Drywood termites rarely bite humans
  • Habitat: Dry wood2

Examples of damage caused by drywood termites are smooth, clean galleries in wood, and small, round fecal pellets3.

Dampwood Termite

Dampwood termites infest wood with high moisture content, such as logs and tree stumps.

  • Appearance: Creamy white to reddish-brown, 1/2 to 5/8 inch long
  • Bites: Dampwood termites do not usually bite humans
  • Habitat: Wood with high moisture content4

Examples of damage caused by dampwood termites are decayed, damp wood and large fecal pellets5.

Comparison Table

Type Habitat Bite Humans? Appearance
Subterranean Termite Soil and moist wood No Creamy white to dark brown, 1/8 inch
Drywood Termite Dry wood Rarely Creamy white to light brown, 3/8-1 inch
Dampwood Termite Wood with high moisture content No Creamy white to reddish-brown, 1/2-5/8 inch

Signs of Termite Infestation

Mud Tubes and Droppings

Termites create mud tubes along the foundation of a building. These provide them with shelter as they travel between nests and food sources. Here are some examples of where to look:

  • Along the foundation
  • In the crawl space
  • Around pipe penetrations

Droppings, also known as frass, can signify an infestation too. They resemble sawdust or small granules and are often found near wood.

Structural Damage

Termites can cause severe structural damage in buildings, as they devour cellulose found in wood. This can lead to:

  • Sagging floors
  • Cracked walls
  • Hollowed-out wood

Regular termite inspections can help identify and prevent extensive damage.

Swarmers and Wings

Swarmers are winged termites, usually seen during or after rain, leaving their colonies to start new ones. Identifying them can be an early indication of an infestation. Key differences between termite and ant swarmers:

Feature Termites Ants
Wings Same length Different lengths
Antennae Straight Elbowed
Waist section Broad, uniform Narrow, pinched

Discarded wings near windows or doors can also indicate their presence.

Though termites can’t bite or harm people directly, they can cause extensive damage to buildings. Early identification and action can help prevent significant harm and costly repairs. Regular inspections, recognizing signs like mud tubes, droppings, structural damage, and swarmers can play a crucial role in keeping these pesky insects in check.

Effects of Termite Bites on Humans

Pain and Itching

Termite bites are generally not known to cause pain or itching in humans. Unlike other insect bites, like those from mosquitoes or fleas, termite bites are relatively mild. Termites primarily feed on wood, not human blood, so their bites do not cause the same kind of reactions as those of other common pests.

Swelling and Allergic Reactions

While termite bites are not usually painful or itchy, they can cause swelling and allergic reactions in some cases. Such reactions may include:

  • Redness at the site of the bite
  • Mild swelling around the bite area
  • A slight burning sensation

These symptoms are generally not severe and can be alleviated with over-the-counter creams and cold compresses.

Infections and Long-term Effects

Due to the cleanliness of termites compared to other insects like mosquitoes, bed bugs, lice, and fleas, termite bites are not known to carry significant risks of infection or long-term health effects. Nonetheless, it’s important to practice good hygiene and care for any insect bite to minimize the possibility of complications.

Termite Bites Mosquito Bites Flea Bites Bed Bug Bites
Rarely cause pain Often cause itching Can cause itching Frequently cause itching
Mild swelling possible Swelling possible Swelling possible Swelling possible
Low infection risk Higher infection risk Higher infection risk Higher infection risk

In conclusion, termite bites are generally not a cause for concern compared to bites from other common pests. Their effects on humans are typically quite mild, and they do not often lead to significant health issues. However, if you believe you have a termite infestation in your home, it’s important to address the problem with proper termite control methods to protect the structural integrity of your property.

Prevention and Treatment

Pest Control Options

  • Chemical barriers: Applying a soil termiticide to create a barrier around the house.
  • Biological control: Introducing natural termite predators, like nematodes, to reduce termite populations.
  • Bait systems: Offering cellulose-based baits to attract and poison termites.
  • Wood treatments: Applying termite-resistant chemicals to wood in the structure of a building.

Termite Inspection for Homes

  • Professional inspection: Hiring a pest control company to inspect your home periodically for termites and signs of termite damage.
  • DIY inspection: Examining wood, floors, and ceilings for signs such as hollow spots or termite droppings, and checking exterior walls for mud tubes.

Wooden Structures and Landscape Maintenance

  • Trees: Prune tree branches away from your house to prevent termites from using them as bridges.
  • Mulch: Avoid using wooden mulch near the house, as it can be an attractive food source for termites.
  • Moisture management: Fix leaky pipes and gutters, and maintain proper drainage to reduce damp areas that attract termites.

Here’s a comparison table for differentiating between termites and ants, as they can be easily mistaken:

Termites Ants
Straight antennas Elbowed antennas
Two sets of equal length wings Two sets of unequal length wings
Thicker waists Thinner waists

By following these prevention and treatment methods, you can protect your home from termite infestations and maintain the integrity of wooden structures in your landscape.

Footnotes

  1. Termites: How to Identify and Control Them | US EPA 2

  2. Common Questions about Termites and Termite Control 2

  3. Drywood Termite | University of Florida Featured Creatures

  4. Dampwood Termite | University of Florida Featured Creatures

  5. Termite Damage | University of Kentucky Entomology

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Swarm of Termites

 

Subject: Swarm of flying bugs
Location: Florida panhandle
March 11, 2016 9:09 am
I found this swarm of bugs outside my house and am wondering what they are and if I should be alarmed?
Signature: Josh

Swarm of Termites
Swarm of Termites

Dear Josh,
This is a swarm of Termites.  Perhaps there is rotting wood under the ivy.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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