Can termites bite people? (Termites WILL bite if threatened)

FAQs

Termites can bite people, animals, and other bugs, but, normally, humans don’t need to worry about termite bites. When termites do bite people, termite bites rarely cause any harm beyond a minor pinch, possibly drawing a little blood.

Termites have a caste known as the soldier or king caste. This termite caste is similar to soldier bees or ants (different hive-type insects have somewhat similar social structures) whose sole purpose in life is to protect their colony.

Video showing some soldier termites (the ones with the larger heads and mandibles) defending against other terites and ants. This video gives you an idea of how powerful solder termites can bite. Worker termites mostly use their mandibles for eating.

Soldier termites’ bodies are more suited than worker termite bodies are for defending their termite colonies from invading enemy insects like ants.

Soldier or king termites often have a larger head and larger mandibles (jaws) than the worker termites. Even for a novice entomologist, it is quite easy to distinguish between worker termites and soldier termites. If you want to see an example of the different castes of termites within a colony check out this page.

A real soldier termite defending itself by biting a person's finger.
Here’s a soldier termite doing its job, defending its colony against a perceived threat.

It turns out that soldier termites’s mandibles are strong enough to cause you pain if they bite you.

So, termites can bite people but do termites normally bite people?

If any type of termite could hurt you, soldier termites are the termite caste that can cause the most pain.

Don’t worry though, for the most part, termites don’t tend to bite people or pets.

Boy sticking his hand in a termite infested tree. Many worker termites crawl on his hand but don’t bite him.

They prefer to stay in the dark recesses of the tunnels they make within wood and use their energy to expand their colonies and devouring the cellulose within wood and other plant material.

Why would termites bite animals?

Soldier termites often bite animals that are perceived as a threat to the colony. This might happen if your dog or cat, for example, starts sniffing or digging at a termite colony.

Soldier Coptotermes (aka Formosan) subterranean termite bits a blade of grass stuck into it’s colony’s tunnel entrance. You can see that soldier termites are quick and proficient at biting whatever they deem a threat to their colony.

Besides the fact that they prefer to spend their time unseen in the shadows, termites are also very slow organisms. Termites’ slow speed makes it even more difficult for them to attack you or your pets.

The only time termites can move fairly fast is when they grow wings during the adult stage of their life. These swarmers then take off in search of a new colony.

I have heard of people getting bitten by flying termites before but again, this is rare, and some of these reported flying termite bites could be flying ant bites. Since ants also sprout wings as they mature into their adult stage of life, they’re often confused for flying termite alates.

How should I cope with a termite bite?

If a termite does bite you, it would likely not feel a whole lot different than a mosquito bite or an ant bite—something like a minor pinch.

In fact, you probably won’t even feel anything unless they happen to bite you in an area on your body where your skin is relatively thin (like the webs between your fingers.)

Worker termite trying to bite a person's finger but not piercing their skin.
What appears to be a worker termite trying to bite a person’s finger but not piercing their skin.

The irritation or pain will likely be gone in a few minutes and certainly subside after a few days and you don’t really need to worry about catching a disease or getting an infection as there are no documented cases of this happening to humans from termite bites.

There may be a slight burning since the mandibles of termites are coated with a type of saliva that helps to break down cellulose.

This saliva may cause some irritation or pain in certain people but most people say it just feels like a small pinch and the pain does not typically last long. You will likely get a tiny red spot that should go away within a day or two.

If the spot of the termite bite is irritating or bothering you try some hydrocortisone or another type of anti-itching cream.

If it continues past one to two days, you may want to see a doctor as this is unlikely a termite bite and could be from a type of harmful insect.

Do winged termites bite people?

The most common type of termite that the average person will encounter is a winged termite or as they are sometimes called termite swarmers. These are the reproductive termites that often seem to swarm through people’s windows just prior to a thunderstorm. Or you may encounter them exiting a piece of wood from a tree while mowing the lawn or gardening.

This form of termite can tend to create some anxiety if you do not understand what the insect is. They are often confused with ants and understandably people think they may be a nuisance if entering a house. However, these termite swarmers typically do not live long (under 24 hours) and do NOT have the powerful mandibles that soldier termites have as discussed above.

Unless you provoke termite swarmers they will typically not harm you. Many people have had all kinds of flying termites land on them and not a single one caused them any harm. You can just lightly brush them off and if they did get into your home from the outside you can easily vacuum them up. If they came from inside your home (walls, trim, etc.) you should get a professional termite inspection conducted as soon as possible.

What kinds of termites are capable of biting or pinching humans?

There are some larger species of termites such as the mastotermes or formosan termites who can draw some blood with their bites.

There are probably other species that I am not well acquainted with from other parts of our planet that could bite as well. If you know of any please let the rest of us know in the comments below.

If you think you got bitten by a termite you may want to do a double look and make sure it is not actually an ant.

A lot of people mistake ants for termites and vice versa. This is understandable but most termites are somewhat of a creamy white color, and again they move pretty slow.

Many worker ermites from Amazon on man’s hand but they don’t bite him.

If I’m not being bitten by termites, what is biting me?

Some other possibilities are lice, mites, fleas, or bedbugs. Sometimes these tiny pests can infest your home are remain mostly unseen, but if they start biting you, you are going to notice!

They are, however, a whole different issue than termites, and should be treated with methods designed specifically for controlling them.

Do termites bite people often? 

No, it is uncommon for termites to bite humans.  Some people do report termite bites happening, although this is more often than not a misidentification of pests.

So, at the end of the day, if you find termites in your home, you don’t need to worry much about them munching on you or your pets.

What you should be concerned about is the damage that they can do to your home.

If you find these little “white ants” in or near your home, shed, wooden fence, etc. don’t hesitate to contact a pest control professional to conduct an inspection. If you have termites in or near your home, you’ll want professional advice about your options are for eliminating these bugs.

Don’t let them go on unchecked, because they will end up costing you thousands of dollars. The average price for termite treatment and repair of damages is over $8,000.

You can answer a few questions below and get several free termite control quotes

Frequently Asked Questions About Termite Bites

Are termite bites dangerous?

Termite bites are not known for being dangerous to either humans or animals. At most, they will typically leave a small red bump and feel like a little pinch. Some soldier termites can even pierce your skin. They may also itch for a few days although this is rare.

Video showing some termites in Thailand. One bite the videographer on the foot, breaking the skin and drawling a little blood.

Usually, termite bites leave very few symptoms and they are not known for carrying any diseases or toxins.

If your symptoms are worse than this you were most likely bitten by some other insect. In this case, it would be a good idea to see a doctor to to rule out anything dangerous.

What do termite bites look like?

Usually, a bite from a termite will just leave a small red bump. Rarely the bump may swell a bit in people with sensitive skin. This skin may itch slightly although usually not and the bump should subside within 1 – 3 days.

Do termites sting? What about flying termites?

No, neither regular termites nor flying termites sting. They do not have the anatomical capability to sting you however they have powerful (for an insect) mandibles that they can pinch you with. Particularly, the soldier termites that defend their colonies have the strongest jaws and can pinch the strongest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoEljLb8mMU

If you’re human, don’t worry about termites hurting you (just your house). It’s not impossible for termites to bite humans, but termites mostly avoid people.

More resources on termite bites

  1. Wound treatment and selective help in a termite-hunting ant – NIH
  2. Do Termites Eat Mulch? – NeverPest
  3. Downregulation of Orco and 5-HTT Alters Nestmate Discrimination in the Subterranean Termite Odontotermes formosanus (Shiraki) – NIH
  4. Do Termites Eat Concrete? – NeverPest

6 thoughts on “Can termites bite people? (Termites WILL bite if threatened)”

  1. My building was termite treated two and a half weeks ago two weeks ago started my bikes and I’m still getting them and their hives welts I wish I could take a picture and show you and now I have flying termites because my AC went down and I got it to work and then I have flying termites in my house and then the larvae ones are on my lamp shades how do I stop this

    Reply
    • Christa, first get your vacuum cleaner and suck up all the flying termites in your home then take the bag from the vacuum and dump it into a garbage bag. I would double bag it and take it to the city dump away from your home. Second, kill a few termites or catch them and put them in a zip lock bag. Save these to show a pest control professional. The pest control professional needs to ensure these are termites and not flying ants. If they were biting you and you are getting welts this leads me to believe that you are dealing with flying ants. Termites don’t typically bite people, and if they do it is usually the soldier caste of termites which is nothing more than a small pinch when they feel threatened. I have heard a few people getting allergic reactions to termites, but not many. It sounds like you need to call up the pest company who performed the first treatment on your home and ask them to ensure they treated for the correct insect. It could be that they treated your home for termites when you were dealing with carpenter ants or another type of ant. The best thing to do is to have a couple separate pest companies come and perform an inspection. Pest inspections are usually free, if they are not, call a different company to request an inspection. If you can show them a sample of the insect that is flying around and biting you (dead or alive) they should be able to identify them as termites or ants (and their specific species) fairly quickly and then develop a plan to eradicate them. You can fill out some quick info here to get a couple estimates and have a few companies contact you if you would like. If not, please ask around to friends and family to ask for recommendations for a good local pest control company. Good luck and come back and let us know what you find out!

      Reply
  2. I went to a gas station that was swarming with thousands of winged termites, each was at least 1 inch long . I pumped my gas and tried to get out as fast as possible, but one got on my neck and I grabbed him between my fingers and thumb, and he ended up between my thumb and middle finger as I squeezed him as hard as I could and flicked him down on the ground…. It all took about 1 second . just after that I felt a stinging sensation (like burning) on the surface of the skin on my middle finger .
    I thought, golly did that thing bite me; no way, ; I squished him too fast…So I figured he must have had some sort of toxin that squirted out on my finger as I squashed him. The sensation on my finger didn’t go away quickly, but I did notice it for several days off and on……then I didn’t notice it….. But then after a few weeks the stinging sensation returned to the exact same spot on my finger…and lasted for a few hours…
    I thought maybe it was some sort of Termite toxin that irritated my skin and damaged some nerve endings just below the surface??
    So I looked it up on Google and found that there ARE certain species of termites that do have the capability to defend themselves by EXPLODING and releasing chemicals to kill their prey! Yikes…. Suicide Termites!…Don’t we have enough crazy suicide bomber PEOPLE on earth without having to contend with suicide Termites???

    Reply
    • Gary, this is bazaar to say the least. Thanks a lot for sharing that article, I love livescience, they have a lot of incredibly interesting articles. This sounds very likely to have been a possible culprit of your stinging sensation on your finger. It is interesting that it lasted for several days off and on. We have had other viewers of mytermitetreatmentcosts.com write in to us and say they too had been bitten by flying termites. But sometimes, after further research, they end up writing back informing us that they believe the culprits may have been flying ants instead. This strange but useful termite behavior is typically observed in the species, Neocapritermes taracua. The Neocapritermes taracua is typically found in French Guiana, but perhaps other species can do something similar as well. I’m sure researchers are actively looking into it.

      Reply
  3. I was bitten by a termite in Las Vegas in my bed, I felt it sting me and captured it in the act for identification, thinking it was a spider at first. Once I got it under the light I realized it was a tiny black termite (soldier type) with no wings. The stings left two painful blisters on my leg almost 1/4 inch each and are still there after 3 days but haven’t changed in size or redness since day one. This termite was tiny too, he was barely more than 1/8 inch long and jet black. I’ve since caught 2 more in cracks in my wood floor.

    Reply

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