Question – What Do Termites Do to Humans?

A lot of people generally worry about termite infestations because of what they can do to your home – sometimes they can cause severe damage that can end up costing you a lot of money to repair. Something that not a lot of people ask, however, is “what do termites do to humans”? The curious few who do ask generally want to know what sort of things termites do when they are around humans, or even their pets. Today, we aim to talk about termites and the kind of effects they can have on you and me.

Why Are Termites a Problem?

what do termites do to humans

There are a lot of species of termites in the world today – probably around a thousand or even more. Not all of these species can be found invading peoples’ homes, of course. In fact, most of them are found in the wild or in the woods, far from civilization. A lot of these species of termites maybe don’t even know that humans exist. Fact is, only a few – probably just a handful – of termites are considered to be “structural” termites (as in, they infest structures that were made by humans).

Termites thrive in warmer climates, but are generally found all throughout the United States. In fact, only Alaska is fortunate enough to not have any termites at all (that we know of, at least), and understandably so with their climate. That basically means that you are at risk of termites, no matter where you are in the United States (as long as you aren’t in Alaska of course). It’s worth a mention, however, that termites will be more commonly found in the warmer states – I’m looking at you, folks from the South/East/West/South East/South West.

So why exactly are termites such a problem?

Well, they’re an expensive problem…

The biggest issue with termites invading your home is generally the cost involved with it. To be frank, I wouldn’t want to be dealing with termites – my first bout with them ran up a bill in the thousands for the tenting, the accommodations for me during the tenting, and then the repairs that needed to be done afterwards. I didn’t realize that I had termites until it was too late – at that time I had already ended up getting a termite problem so severe that my house badly needed repairs. I had to replace a portion of my subflooring, as well as some parts of my ceilings and walls. Trust me when I say you don’t want a bad termite problem – it can get so darn expensive!

What Do Termites Eat?

Answering this question is important, because it will also help us answer the question what do termites do to humans later on. Termites, as we all already know, basically eat mainly wood. However, termites will eat anything cellulose based, so in fact you might someday see termites getting into important paper documents or beloved books. They aren’t picky – if it’s got cellulose in it or if it’s wood, they’ll eat it. That’s why you don’t want termites in your home, especially if you’ve got a lot of books or expensive wooden décor.

One thing I do know, however, is the fact that termites will generally gravitate towards wood that has moisture. A lot of the time, they’ll also go for wood that’s beginning to rot and decay and is “soft wood” in a way. As a result, you’ll often see termites in places that are water damaged, or in places like gardens and yards where plenty of decaying wood (fallen twigs, branches, and the like) as well as moisture are found.

What Attracts Termites

To be honest I was a little surprised to find out that there are so many different things that can attract termites to your home. I had to do so many different things once I learned that there were so many things in my home that could attract these little pesky bugs. You might be surprised to find out a lot of the things that I am about to tell you are things that you too might have in your home! I figured it would be important to take a short detour and talk about these things before we got right to talking about the answer to what do termites do to humans.

Fire Wood and Other Wood or Lumber Piles

To be frank, this particular reason I would guess is one of the more obvious ones on this list. After all,  wood pile would, rather naturally, attract termites! Doesn’t matter if it’s firewood or lumber meant for use in construction or renovation… unless it’s treated wood, you don’t want it within like 20 feet of your home. Trust us when we say this! Keep your stock of wood about twenty or even thirty feet away from the actual structure of your home and thank us later.

Oh, you might also want to keep the wood at least five or so inches up off the ground – this will be really helpful in discouraging things like subterranean termites from making a home in the wood!

Remember that termites love moist, softened or rotting wood. For this reason, if you find that your wood is beginning to rot or decay, you can choose to do a few things: either treat the wood to make sure no termites come, or treat the area around it to kill any termites already in the area. You could also choose to simply get rid of the pile of wood.

Another thing you might choose to do is to simply get rid of the pile, of course. But to prevent this type of waste, why not store the wood in an area that will keep it dry, or at least in a place where the sun will dry it quickly?

Unmaintained Roofing and Gutters

Yep, you heard me. If you have been putting off the cleaning of your gutters and your roof, stop! It’s so important to keep the top of your house clean and free of debris – making sure you do this will enable you to keep termites away. If you are asking how exactly this will prevent the termites…hear me out.

If you don’t keep your gutters clean, and if you don’t remove the debris such as fallen leaves, twigs and branches from your roof, well you already have an instant termite attraction right there. On top of that, if you don’t do this maintenance then you are risking the possibility of getting damage to your roof. Gutters and drain pipes that do not drain properly means that water and moisture will stay on your roof unnecessarily. As a result, you can expect to begin finding leaks on your roof. The same goes for putting off the repair or replacement of broken or missing shingles.

Leaks on your roof can lead to moisture and water gathering inside your home. This means moistened wood, which leads to softened wood, which leads to rotting wood, which leads to… yep, you guessed it! Termites. Termites, and a heck of a lot of damage that will end up costing you a ton of money to repair… what a nightmare!

Mulch

Did this one surprise you? To be honest this was the one that actually caught me off guard. After all, I’ve been using mulch in my garden for so long without realizing that it could probably attract termites. But after learning more about termites, I eventually came to the conclusion that it does actually make a ton of sense that termites would be attracted to mulch. It’s used in the soil, to help fertilize your garden and make sure your plants grow really lovely and healthy.

So how do you counteract the attraction of termites to mulch? Well, this one is more simple than you might think – all you really have to do is keep the mulch at least a good 30 or some inches away from the foundation of your home. This will reduce the chances of the termites coming into your home significantly enough, while simultaneously allowing you to treat your garden and yard for termites – as a result ensuring that you definitely keep them at bay.

Too Much Greenery

Greens are great – they make your yard and garden lovelier and for sure increase the ambiance and value of your home. Who wouldn’t want to sit out in their yard or garden after a long, exhausting day? Who wouldn’t want to spend time with family and friends at a family barbecue or cookout, surrounded by fresh air brought by lovely trees and plants? Who wouldn’t want to eat food harvested from their own garden? Don’t all of those things sound absolutely amazing?

Yep, absolutely.

However, greenery can at times summon the termites – particularly if your yard and garden go unmaintained. You should do your best to avoid things such as tree stumps being left to rot in your back yard. Sweep up and properly dispose of any fallen twigs, leaves, and branches. Make sure that you also keep your yard free of any furniture or items that may have begun to outlive their usefulness. So indeed, it is time to get rid of old lawn or patio furniture that has begun to fall apart!

Additionally, I also want to bring to attention the branches that may be hanging over your house. Trim any overhanging branches off the trees regularly in order to minimize possible damage to your roof and gutters.

How Do I Know I Have Termites

We’ve talked about the risk of termites to your home. We’ve talked about the possible ways in which you could be attracting termites to your home. Now, I want to talk about how you might know you have termites – another thing that is very important before we move on to answering the question “what do termites do to humans?”. Yes, we’re now about to talk about the signs that you might have a termite infestation… or the signs that you could have one incoming. This is something that is certainly important because early detection can honestly make such a huge difference in the prevention of damage to your home. Who knows, early detection might also help in the case of what do termites do to humans!

Here are some of the signs of termites:

Flying Termites

Flying termites are also known as alates, or even as swarmers. These things are basically the harbingers of a potential termite infestation – they WILL be the ones to start an infestation in your home if they deem it to be a habitable place with plenty of food available. This is basically because the swarmers are the males as well as the females of the colony that have split off to establish their own new home. It’s their job to find a nice, new place in which to make their colony. These swarmers are basically the ones to hole up in your home, lock themselves in, and breed until they produce enough workers to start building up the colony. Such annoying little pests!

Flying termites have two sets of wings, and both sets are essentially the same in size. This will allow you to tell them apart from flying ants, who also have 2 sets of wings (but the front wings are larger than the back set). Oh and since we are talking about wings… if you find some discarded wings lying around, you may want to call for a termite inspection. This is because swarmer termites will discard their wings when they find a place they want to make their new home.

Noises in the Walls

If you are hearing some noises coming from your walls, don’t worry –  you haven’t lost your mind. Basically, the noises that you are hearing are very likely coming from the termites. Worker termites chomp on the wood and bash their heads against it, resulting in a rather quiet scratchy sound coming from your walls. Yeah – you’re not going insane. It could indeed just be the termites making the noises while they work!

Oh, another thing I want to mention though is the fact that these noises can actually be overlooked. They’re so small and quiet that you may not notice it unless the place is quiet enough. This is why I think it’s important to remain vigilant in guarding your home against termites, checking occasionally if you see or hear anything that could clue you in to their existence in the area.

Tubes

We’re not just talking about any tubes..we’re talking about termite tubes. These are more easily distinguishable – if you start seeing what appears to be tubes of soil, mud, or clay around your walls inside and outside of the house, you could be looking at a very clear sign of termites!

Hollow and Papery Lumber

One more thing that I think is worth mentioning before we answer the question “what do termites do to humans” is this obvious sign of termites: wood that sounds hollow, or feels… rather papery. The only real way to find this out is by knocking on the wood or applying some sort of pressure to it. If it bows and bends more than what you would expect from its supposed thickness, then you may have a cause for concern. The same goes if you knock on what should be solid wood and it sounds more hollow than normal.

Termites typically eat through wood so severely and destructively that they leave only a shell of it behind. So if you find that you accidentally step through a wooden floorboard or cause damage to your wall by simply leaning against it… well. You may just have termites. Time to call for a termite inspection! Oh and before I forget, I did put together a guide on how to find a cheap termite inspection so check it out if you need it.

What Do Termites Do to Humans?

We’ve come to the part that you probably want to know about the most – what do termites do to humans? We already know all about what they can do to our homes, so it’s time to ask what they can do to our health. It’s only natural, of course, to wonder what types of things you can expect when there are termites around. It’s completely natural to ask how termites might affect human health.

Do Termites Bite?

I would say that this is actually a question that I wondered about myself. It’s only natural to be worried about termites biting or stinging, especially if you live around a lot of them. Thankfully I am here to answer that question for you because I’ve already done the research. The answer is no – termites do not bite nor sting…at least they typically don’t. Generally termites keep to themselves and only really care about the food they want or need, which is wood, and not you!

However, on the rare occasion that an aggravated termite might chomp down, there’s no real cause for concern. If you get bitten by a termite, take comfort in the fact that these pests are A) not toxic and B) not really harmful to us humans. Termites thankfully do not carry diseases (at least not that we know of), probably because they don’t really feed off blood.

There you go! What do termites do to humans when they bite? Absolutely…nothing! Unless of course you are extremely sensitive to getting bitten, then that’s a completely different case altogether. Yes, it actually is completely possible for someone to be allergic to the droppings or the saliva of a termite.

Let’s now move on, shall we?

Are There Any Health Problems from Termites?

Of course since we have now answered the question of what do termites do to humans when they bite, the next logical question for us to ask is – are there any other health concerns that we should worry about? Well, I guess in a way the answer to that question is yes – there are some things you need to worry about when you are living with termites. First of all, termites can cause a lot of dust, and can also leave behind a lot of droppings (also known as frass). And so, if you or someone you live with has some form of a respiratory problem, you might have some problems on your hands.

Termites can cause some allergic reactions in people who have dust allergies or allergic rhinitis. It could cause constant sneezing, itchy eyes, phlegm, post nasal drip, and all sorts of uncomfortable things. On top of that, you may also find that people who have asthma can get their attacks triggered by termites – certainly something that you would want to avoid. Asthma attacks are dangerous, life-threatening, expensive, and let’s admit – they are a complete and total pain that nobody enjoys living with and dealing with.

If the particles (dust and frass) get into your heating and ventilating systems, it can be even more frustrating to deal with – as a matter of fact this can further contribute to the allergies and asthma!

Additional Information

Although I think that we’ve sufficiently answered the question what do termites do to humans, there are still a few things that we should mention. Termites may not be considered a HUGE threat to a person’s health, but the simple fact is that keeping them away can be a great way to prevent a ton of problems. Complete prevention will always be better than dealing with an infestation, because in many cases (especially in localized treatments or spot treatments), harsh pesticides are used in dealing with these insects.

If you do end up needing a treatment, make sure that you wait the recommended amount of time to allow the harsh chemicals to dissipate before you even re-enter your home. Also, if you want to get rid of termites, please make sure you hire a qualified company to help you do the job so that you can minimize the risk of the mishandling of the pesticides.

Another thing I should mention is the fact that you can use things like beneficial nematodes to protect your garden and yard not just from termites, but also from other pest insects. This is a topic for another time, however.

Should I Be Worried?

The answer to this question is simple, really… we’ve answered “what do termites do to humans”, so now that you know the answer to that question, do you feel as though you should be worried? To us, unless you have allergies or you’re asthmatic, termites aren’t really a huge cause for concern when it comes to health. However, if we’re talking about your home, your property, and your possessions… well, that’s a different story altogether. To that question I would say yes, you should be worried.

The Importance of Early Treatment

As I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s so very important to detect termites early – and treat them early too. Termites are such destructive little critters that you really want to minimize the amount of time they spend in your home (and if you can, you should strive to completely eliminate the time they spend there, too). These insects can cause so much damage that it’s simply better to prevent them entirely. Remain vigilant and take precautions so that you can avoid ever having to deal with them, and you should be all good.

Conclusion

I hope that I was able to answer the question of “what do termites do to humans” properly and sufficiently! Termites aren’t really that big of a health threat per se, but still I figured it would be important to keep them away and at bay. To that end, I hope that this comprehensive guide was incredibly helpful and informative!