Do Termites Bite? Can They Hurt Humans By Biting?

A group of soldier and worker termites.

Termites might be small, but don’t underestimate these little guys; they can inflict significant damage.

If you’ve ever seen the trunk of a tree eaten away by termites, you know their ultimate potential. But what happens when that potential is turned on humans?

Do termites bite? Termites do not typically bite unless food deprived or threatened. Although they are capable of biting, a termite’s mandible is not built to easily break through human skin. However, certain types of termites can inflict a more noticeable bite than others. 

In the following, you’ll learn what circumstances might cause a termite to bite, whether or not they have teeth, if they are harmful, and what to do if you find termites. 

Why and When Do Termites Bite? 

Although termites don’t have a reputation for biting humans or pets, some specific circumstances might cause a termite to attack or bite. 

Ultimately, the type of termite most likely to bite is the soldier termite because they are more anatomically capable.

But even so, it is highly uncommon for these termites to bite unless they are subjected to the circumstances discussed below.  

Self-Defense

All creatures are built with their forms of self-defense.

Some might change their skin color, others might release hiss or growl, and some are built with impressive claws and fangs.

For the little termite, the only forms of self-defense they have are their mandibles and their numbers. 

If a termite feels particularly threatened with no way out, it will certainly bite as a last resort.

This might happen if you are handling the termite or injuring it in some way. 

Termites aren’t particularly fast creatures, so when they are sure they can’t outrun a predator or threat, their last resort is to turn and bite. 

Defending the Colony

Similar to ants, termites are social creatures dedicated to the production and safety of their colony.

Each termite has its own role within the caste system, but the one overarching mentality for all castes is that the colony comes before the individual.

With this mentality in mind, if a termite sees you as a threat to the colony, this is one of the rare occasions that it will bite you. 

In reality, if you are enough of a threat to the colony that one termite has decided to bite, then more are probably on their way.

This is not done out of malice or aggression; it is purely to protect the colony at all costs. 

So, if you disturb or destroy a termite nest, you might be in for a rude awakening. 

Severe Food Deprivation

This reason is far less likely than the others, but starvation can influence a termite to bite.

As previously mentioned, termites typically belong to colonies, and these colonies, on average, consist of 60,000 to 1 million termites. 

Due to the sheer number of termites in a colony and their system’s efficiency, having available food isn’t usually an issue.

Termites are detritivores, which means they eat dead plants and trees, and these aren’t particularly difficult food sources to find. 

Therefore, due to their diet and support of the colony, it is highly unlikely you will come across a singular termite hungry enough to bite, especially since they are not carnivorous or hematophagous (blood feeders).

A starved termite will never walk up and bite a human purely seeking a source of food.

Still, if it is already agitated or threatened, severe food deprivation might play a role in the termite being slightly more inclined to bite than a satiated termite. 

Do Termites Have Teeth? 

Yes, termites have teeth, but not in the way humans envision.

Anatomically, they have mandibles that could be considered an insect form of teeth, and only certain termites have mandibles large enough to potentially bite a human. 

There are three distinct types of termites within a colony that have their own specific roles. 

  • Immature termites that make up the majority of the colony.
  • Reproductive adults, known as the king and queen.
  • Fully developed winged adults.

Immature termites are split into two groups, workers and soldiers.

Soldier termites are the only termites anatomically capable of biting because they are built with large mandibles used for defense against ants and other invaders.

Soldier termites have significantly large, powerful mandibles that can be considered the insect’s teeth.

However, only the Serritermitidae family’s soldier termites have unique mandibles lined with serrated teeth-like projections that might resemble that of a human or other mammal. 

Are Termites Harmful? 

If a termite does bite you, don’t worry, the bite isn’t especially painful or even harmful.

The worst that would happen from a termite bite is you might notice a small red spot with some potential swelling where the bite occurred. 

There is no risk of contracting any form of disease from a termite bite.

At most, it might resemble that of a mosquito bite with a significantly reduced level of irritation. 

Ultimately, the most harm a termite could do isn’t in regards to your body but rather to your home. 

What to Do If You Find Termites

Termites might be slow and unlikely to harm humans or animals, but they pose a significant risk to your bank account if found in your home.

Don’t miss out on important tips for DIY termite elimination found in our article “How To Get Rid of Termites.” 

Termites in the Wild

If you find termites in the wild, don’t disturb them.

As mentioned previously, these creatures are exceptionally driven to provide for the colony, and disturbing them might cause them to feel threatened and potentially bite.

This is easily avoidable if you treat them with respect and give them a wide berth of space after you notice their presence.

Termites in Your Home

Alternatively, if you find termites in your home or within the vicinity of your house, such as in the yard or under the porch or deck, refrain from attempting to eliminate them yourself.

(What if you spot just one termite? Does that mean you have a home infestation? Find the answer here.)

When you notice a colony of termites, the best plan of action is to contact a specialist, such as a pest control team that offers termite services.

It is vital that you do not disturb the termites or their colony until the specialists arrive to handle the situation for you.

Be aware that termites are often confused with winged ants. To learn how to differentiate between termites and flying ants, head over to this article.

Termites like to create their colonies in dark and sometimes moist spaces.

Some of the top locations to find termites and termite damage in the home include:

  • Concrete walls, siding, or wooden trim lining the outside of your house.
  • Dark or damp storage areas such as basements, garages, attics, and crawl spaces.
  • Moist areas, such as kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Common wooden structures in the home such as beams, flooring, door and window frames, baseboards.

If you have somehow disturbed the colony in your attempts to find its location, refrain from any further destruction.

Due to their overwhelming motivation to protect the colony, termites will relocate and move the colony with them if they feel threatened. 

Therefore, causing further damage to their nest will cause them to relocate and will further complicate the process of eradicating them from your home. 

Eliminating Termites Yourself

If contacting a specialist is out of the question, try to determine how the termites are entering your home and where their nest is located.

(See our inspection guide here.)

If you’re lucky and they have infested a piece of furniture or something that is not integral to your home, remove this object and place it outside far from your property in direct sunlight.

More often than not, the disturbance, along with the sunlight, will entice the critters to relocate. 

If you cannot remove the object of infestation, try to identify if the termites are subterranean or drywood termites so you can purchase the proper termite control products to eliminate them.

Some products will target only one type of termite, and others, like BioAdvanced Termite Killer, will effectively kill all termites.

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If you find termites in your home but are uncertain of their nest location, set-up termite bait stations, like these, around your home and do a thorough sweep of your house and lawn.

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Some termites will host their colonies deep in the soil or in a tree, so the root cause of the issue might be outside your home rather than in your walls. 

For more bait station options and other solutions, read our article here.

Final Thoughts

Termites might cause unease if you’re a homeowner, but when it comes to fearing them as potentially harmful creatures, we can assure you there is nothing to fear from these little critters.

It is highly unlikely a termite will ever bite you, and if you are bitten, the red dot they leave in their wake will fade in days. 

Of course, termites might not take a bite out of your arm, but they will certainly take a bite out of your home.

So, be sure to contact a pest control specialist if you notice their unwelcome presence anywhere on your property. 

Need more information on termite prevention, elimination strategies, and the best products to use in your termite battle?

Click here to see all of our termite articles and tips.

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