Do termites bite humans?

Termites are a major hazard to property owners across the Queens, Brooklyn and Nassau Country metro areas – and everywhere else in the U.S. So it's natural you might be wondering if they cause physical harm by biting, stinging or otherwise attacking, especially if you're a homeowner with young children. Luckily, these pests aren't directly harmful in that manner, though they can contribute to health issues in certain circumstances.

Do termites bite humans?

Short answer: Almost never. While soldier termites have mandibles that can bite a human, in the rare event that they see someone as a threat and chomp down, they'll leave little to no mark by doing so, and cause no pain.

Why? Because the subterranean soldier termites you'll see in the greater New York metro measure 1/8 of an inch long at best, according to the National Pest Management Association, meaning their mandibles are less than a quarter of that.

There are termite species whose soldiers might be more likely to bite a human than common subterranean termites, such as the Formosan termite: The Healthy Housing Reference Manual from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites Formosan termites as being incredibly aggressive and voracious, eating wood at a pace dwarfing that of many other species. The good news is that they've never been seen in the New York metro. They prefer states in the southern U.S. due to the warmer climate, as the NPMA notes.

termites crawling through damaged woodTermites are among a property owner's worst nightmares, but not because they bite.

Why is a bite so unlikely?

First and foremost, consider this: The average person rarely sees a termite – any termite – up close, let alone gets close enough to one of the insects that biting or any kind of contact could be an issue. Your most likely contact with them will be if you're unfortunate enough to be in a building exactly when a swarm of termite alates pops up out of a crack in the wall or floor. Even if you were unlucky enough that these "swarmers" – which lack soldiers' mandibles – all flew right past you in a hurry, they wouldn't bite, sting or otherwise harm you. They're too busy looking for a new place to colonize! 

What happens if they do bite?

Probably nothing. If they leave a mark at all, it might itch briefly if you have sensitive skin. However, this is uncommon, and chances are any bite imprint will be gone before you know it. 

Can termites cause other health problems?

Unfortunately, yes. A 2017 study archived by the National Institutes of Health found that termites living in settings near cockroaches could spread allergens similar to those of the latter pest, which cause common allergy symptoms (coughing, sneezing and congestion). In rare cases, these accelerate to asthma. 

If a home or building you own is termite-infested, the particles of their nests (as well as their saliva and droppings) can spread through the ventilation system and trigger such allergies (not to mention all of the other health issues caused by bad indoor air. If you discover any termite warning signs in your home, don't worry about bites – call Rudy's Exterminating Company right away to schedule a consultation and extermination.