Termites are invertebrate insects that live in colonies and eat wood and other plant-based materials. Termite bites don’t pose a risk to humans, and are very rare. Termites are more dangerous to people because of the damage they can do to wood in homes.
Termites keep to dark, and often damp, areas. Termites are white and light brown in color, and they have straight antennae. Termite colonies can range from two to millions of insects. The queen and king are the largest termites in the colony and the workers are the smallest.
Different types of termites in the United States include:
- subterranean termite
- dampwood termite
- drywood termite
They live in wood in homes or buildings, or in natural areas like forests. In the United States, they live in every state other than Alaska. There are 2,600 species of termites throughout the world.
Termites very rarely bite humans. While you may have an infestation of termites in your home, they don’t seek out humans or other living creatures like parasites, which feed from blood. Termites eat wood and other plant-based matter.
There are several types of termites in a colony. A termite with the potential to bite you is the soldier, but again this is unlikely.
Soldiers have more-developed and stronger mouthparts than worker termites to fend off predators like ants. Their heads are larger than worker termites and brown, rather than white. They don’t have wings or eyes.
A bite on your skin is more likely to be caused by another insect, like a:
Winged termites are not a risk to people. Certain termites in a well-developed colony develop wings to swarm in warm weather, mate, and create a new colony. They have wings that are the same size and have straight antennae. They may be yellow or black. They do not bite people.
It’s unlikely you’d notice a termite bite. The insects have very small jaws, and it’s uncommon for them to bite humans or even animals.
It’s much more likely that a different type of insect caused your bite. Symptoms of bug bites usually occur on your skin. Your skin may appear:
- reddish in color
- raised and swollen
If your symptoms get worse, do not fade over time, or might be from a more dangerous insect, see a doctor for a diagnosis and proper treatment.
Termites aren’t like some insects that carry potential diseases with them when they bite. A termite bite is rare and would be very mild because of the size and biting ability of the insect.
You are susceptible to infection with any bug bite or opening of the skin. Keep an eye on the bite area and call a doctor if you develop a fever or if the bite area looks or feels worse over time.
It’s unlikely your bug bite is from a termite, but if you were near a termite nest and noticed bite symptoms, you can take some general precautions at home to treat it. Here are some general first aid tips for bug bites.
- Wash the bite area with soap and water.
- Apply a cold compress for discomfort.
- Observe the area for any changes, like increased swelling or pain. You can use over-the-counter products like antihistamines for swelling or itching, or acetaminophen for pain.
See a doctor if you’re unsure of what type of insect bit you, if your symptoms worsen over time, or if you have signs of an infection like a fever. Also seek emergency medical help if you have shortness of breath or feel dizzy or lightheaded.
While the health risks from a termite bite are very low, they are a very dangerous species to people because they can destroy homes. An infestation from a termite colony in your home can lead to structural damage. This can lead to your home being unsafe and requiring significant repair.
Termites enter homes and other buildings and eat through the wood within the structure. This hollows out the wood and makes it unstable.
There are several ways to prevent and mitigate termite infestations:
- Build a barrier between a concrete foundation with space between soil and wood in new construction.
- Seal wood surfaces in new construction.
- Make sure your yard and the area around your home’s foundation has proper drainage.
- Maintain the outside of your house and fill in any cracks or holes that appear on the exterior.
- Do not allow water to build up in or around your house.
- Cut back any plants that may be near openings to your house.
- Avoid stacking wood near your house.
- Inspect or hire an exterminator to monitor your house for termites regularly, looking for holes in wood or the insects themselves.
You can treat termites by creating barriers preventing their entrance into your structure or by trapping them. You can try natural treatments or ones that involve chemicals.
Call a pest removal expert to help you remove the termites from your home and prevent further damage. Some treatments will include applications of chemicals around your entire home, while others will treat the infestation itself. You may use a combination of treatments.
Termites can return, so make sure you inspect for them regularly and try to keep the area around your house dry and sealed so insects can’t enter your home.
It’s unlikely a termite will bite you. They feed off wood and live in dark environments. A noticeable bug bite is more likely to be from a different insect. Monitor the bug bite and treat it with basic first aid. Call a doctor if your symptoms get worse over time.