Can Termites Bite People?

It is no secret that termites can cause damage to wood-made structures. The economic costs of termite damage only seems to increase each year. Southern Florida is even dealing with a new species of invasive termite. It goes without saying that homeowners do not appreciate discovering termite infestations on their property; but is damaged wood, and decreased property values, all we need to worry about when it comes to the presence of termites? After all, termites are insects, and many insects are known to bite animals and humans.

Obviously, termites possess some pretty strong mouthparts, so could termites bite people? If termites can bite people, then would the bite wound become a serious medical concern? We don’t hear about termite bites often, as they seem to prefer using their mouthparts on wood and plant matter. However, termites are certainly capable of biting humans, and their are several reports from the past that seem to support this claim.

It should be understood that termite bites are incredibly rare. An emergency room doctor will likely never encounter a victim of a termite bite during the entirety of his/her career. That being said, some termites can easily bite humans, while other termites are not even capable of biting a human. For example, only termite kings and soldiers are capable of puncturing human skin, but these bites are rarely even felt by humans. Other termite colony members do not possess large enough mouthparts to truly bite through human skin.

Right off the bat, it would seem like termite bites could never inflict any real damage to a person. However, some termites are quite large in size, such as Formosan subterranean termites. These termites are large enough to draw blood when biting humans. Termites, like most insects, are not aggressive towards humans, so they will not bite unless they are properly provoked.

The vast majority of termite bites are harmless. However, some people could possess an allergy to insect bites, including termite bites. Even in these cases termite bites will not result in anything more than a red welt and a bit of itching, similar to a mosquito bite. Termite bites, however, do happen, and in cases where symptoms last for more than three days, a doctor should be consulted.

What is the smallest type of insect that has ever bitten you, with the exception of a mosquito? What were the symptoms of the bite, if any?

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