Termites are known by homeowners everywhere for the havoc they wreak. These little bugs pose severe risks to people by destroying the stability that holds their homes together. But despite their wicked little mandibles, termites rarely bite people. If one does, don’t fear: termite bites are usually harmless.
What are Termites?
Termites are cellulose-eating insects that feed on wood, tunneling and chewing into porches, houses, trees, and rotten logs. They are distinguishable from other bugs by their beaded antennae and sturdy bodies. Reproductive-ready termites, also known as swarmers, have four wings of equal length. All termites have very small jaws, and unlike parasitic insects, they do not seek out humans or feed on blood. You might not even notice an infestation until your floor is falling in.
Termites are categorized into three groups:
Drywood termites live directly inside (you guessed it) dry wood. They are most often found inside the house in furniture and walls and can go undetected for a long time since they nest within the wood. They are most common in the humid coastal regions of South Carolina.
Dampwood termites are typically the largest type. They thrive in moist environments and prefer to nest in fallen timber, decaying logs, and dead stumps. Like drywood termites, they can live directly inside the wood and do not need contact with soil to survive. They are found in western states like California, Idaho, and Washington.
Subterranean termites are the most common and most destructive. Unlike their dry and dampwood brethren, they travel to and from nearby soil, building “mud tubes” along walls to prevent them from drying out. Subterranean termites are found in every state except Alaska.
Examining Different Types of Termite Biting Behavior
Worker termites are responsible for building nests and tunneling into wood, and though they will chew your wall from the inside out, they will not bite you. Their jaws are too small, and they are not aggressive. Their primary jobs are to build up the colony and care for the queen.
Swarmer termites might be seen during the day when mating before shedding their wings. Like worker termites, they cannot bite people.
Soldier termites are the only termites with the potential to bite. They have larger heads and stronger jaws than typical worker termites. They also lack wings and eyes. Their job is to defend the colony from predators like ants. But even if a soldier termite bit you, it would be minor and you probably wouldn’t notice it.
Health Risks Associated with Termites
Termites pose little direct risk to human health. Unlike parasitic insects such as fleas and ticks, or venomous insects like wasps and centipedes, termites are not capable of inflicting harm on people. Worker termites do not attack, and soldier termites have evolved to fend off other insects, not humans.
If you have an insect bite, chances are it’s not from a termite. However, even small open wounds can become infected. If you notice any adverse effects from an insect bite, contact a health professional.
Are Termites Dangerous to Humans?
Although their behavior is destructive, termite bites are nothing to fear and are extremely rare. If you are bitten by a termite, the damage would be mild. However, termite behavior does pose a severe risk to homes and other buildings, and if you suspect a termite presence in your home, call a termite control company like Pure Pest immediately. Termites cost Americans over $5 billion a year, and most damage is not covered by insurance.
How to Prevent Termites from Entering Your Home or Business
There are several strategies homeowners can utilize to prevent and combat termite infestations.
- Eliminate Moisture Sources
Moisture attracts termites. Pipes, drains, and faucets should be inspected regularly. Leaks cause areas to become damp and rotten, compromising the integrity of your home and allowing termites to enter. Installing a quality drainage system and having ground that slopes downward from your home’s foundation will help prevent water accumulation.
- Seal Entry Points
Check the edges and corners of buildings for cracks and decay. Termites often enter homes through the surrounding soil, so it is crucial to store mulch and garden soil away from the home. Wood siding on windows and doors can also provide termites entrance if their integrity is not maintained. Make sure to keep debris and pieces of wood away from the walls of your home, and trim the branches of any surrounding trees: all of these can act as bridges into your home
- Remove Food Sources
Termites feed on wood and other plant material. Wood byproducts are often overlooked and left near the home, attracting termites. These include wood chips, wood shavings, paper, boards, and sawdust. All of these attract termites, especially if they start to decay.
It’s also a good idea to remove old tree stumps and dying or diseased trees from the property, as well as unnecessary brambles and underbrush.
- Utilize Chemical Treatments
Treating the walls of your home with chemical deterrents will prevent termites from chewing into the wood. Sodium borate is recommended since it can be brushed over wood and is less toxic than typical insecticides. Once it is completely dry, you can apply a coat of paint over it to seal it into the wood.
Another option is Taurus SC, a termiticide often used by pest control professionals. It’s long-lasting and takes effect within 90 days. The active ingredient, Fipronil, is in many flea and tick medicines for pets, so Taurus is popular with pet owners. Just make sure to only use it outside, and consult a pest control professional before using any chemicals in or around your home.
- Use Physical Barriers
If properly installed, physical barriers will prevent termites from entering the home from underneath. Physical barriers will protect your home from subterranean termites. A physical barrier is added underneath a slab or under the layer of the home that contacts the ground. Subterranean termites often enter into basements and cellars, attracted to moisture and invading through cracks in the structure.
Types of physical barriers include:
- Sand barriers
- Basaltic barriers
- Stainless-steel mesh barriers
- Plastic barriers
Sand barriers are least effective alone and function best when coupled with a chemical soil treatment. Basaltic particle barriers are another option, however, they do not work in every climate. A steel mesh barrier is a metal grid, woven tightly to prevent termites from entering through the mesh.
All of these can prevent termites from entering the home, however, only if installed correctly. If a physical barrier becomes compromised, termites could still enter through. This is why it is best to couple physical barriers with chemical soil treatments or with a chemically-treated plastic barrier.
For long-term protection, consider installing a physical barrier to protect your home. The cost of a system depends on numerous factors, including the size of the area, termite presence, the quality of the foundation, and whether the building is already constructed.
- Monitor for Infestations
Signs of a termite infestation include:
- Damage to walls
- Sagging floorboards
- Mud tubes
- Discarded wings
As termites burrow within walls, they leave thin lines and exit holes on the surface. Subterranean termites build mud tubes from exterior walls to nearby soil, which are long thin tunnels made of wood and soil. Bubbling on painted walls and uneven surfaces also signify a termite infestation. Sagging floorboards are especially common above cellars or basements, or if the building has a poor foundation. Discarded wings might be found in the corners of the home, as well as the sawdust-like feces termites leave behind.
- Hire Professional Pest Control Services
This is the most effective action you can take to prevent and get rid of termites. Termite specialists do this for a living, and they can offer a personalized solution to your needs depending on the type of infestation, where it’s located, and whether you have children or pets. A good pest control specialist takes these factors into account.
Termites are destructive pests, but their bites are harmless to people. The damage they inflict on your home, however, is a whole other story. If you suspect termites on your property, you should act quickly. The longer termites are present, the greater the damage and the higher the cost to your home and wallet. Don’t wait! Call Pure Pest. today and get peace of mind that termites are gone.