What Eats Termites in North America: Termite Predators and Parasites

Termites are an important food source for many animals, but they are also preyed upon by a variety of predators and parasites.

In North America, termites are eaten by ants, wasps, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, beetles, anteaters, and birds. Some of these animals are generalists that eat a wide range of insects, while others are specialized termite predators.

Termite Eaters in North America

North America is home to dozens of termite species, and each has its own set of predators and parasites. Some of the most common include the following:

Ants

By nature, ants are aggressive and territorial. This makes them one of the most common predators of termites. In fact, studies have shown that ants can reduce termite populations by up to 95%.

These tiny, hard-bodied pests are typically reddish-brown or black in color and range in size from one-eighth to one-half an inch long. Ants are very active and can quickly cover a large area searching for food.

They are most often seen swarming around trees, shrubs, and houses in the springtime. In nature, ants help control the population of other insects, including termites.

Wasps

Wasps are flying insects that are closely related to bees and ants. There are over 30,000 species of wasps, and they can be found on every continent except for Antarctica.

Wasps play an important role in the ecosystem as predators and pollinators. Some species of wasps also help to control populations of harmful pests, such as termites.

wasp on textured surface

In North America, there are several species of wasps that specialize in eating termites. These include the bald-faced hornet, the yellowjacket, and the paper wasp.

Wasps typically build their nests in tree cavities or protected places on buildings. When they find a termite nest, they will capture the insects and take them back to their nest to feed their young.

Spiders

There are many different species of spiders that can be found in North America, from small and unassuming arachnids to large, fast-moving hunters.

Perhaps the most well-known group of North American spiders are the termite eaters or sitobiones. These agile predators have sticky fangs and strong jaws that let them grasp onto virtually any surface, including the hard carapaces of termites and other insects.

Once they’ve latched onto their prey, they inject a venomous substance that quickly disables the victim’s nervous system.

As the termite eater feeds on its paralyzed victim, it secretes enzymes that help to rapidly break down its meal’s tough exoskeleton. In this way, these incredible arachnids make short work of even the largest termite colonies.

Centipedes and Millipedes

Centipedes are fast and agile predators that hunt termites for food. They typically live in damp places like basements or crawlspaces, where they can find plenty of termites to eat.

Centipedes are also known for their venomous bites, which they use to subdue their prey. However, unlike most other venomous creatures, centipede venom is not fatal to humans.

centipede crawling on a rock

Millipedes are slower than centipedes, but they make up for it with their voracious appetites. A single millipede can consume hundreds of termites in a single day.

Millipedes typically live in wooded areas, where they help to decompose fallen leaves and other organic matter. Like centipedes, millipedes are not dangerous to humans unless they are provoked.

Beetles

Beetles have hard, armor-like exoskeletons that protect them from termite harm and powerful jaws that allow them to chow down on even the toughest bits of wood.

In addition, many beetle species engage in territorial battles with other insects, which leaves plenty of dead or injured termites behind for these voracious little critters to snack on.

Additionally, many beetle larvae feed on termites, including the wood-boring beetles that are commonly used in pest control.

Anteaters

Anteaters are found throughout North America, where they can feed on vast numbers of termites hidden inside rotting logs, trees, and other surfaces.

These amazing animals use their enormous tongues to swipe up hundreds of struggling termites at a time; once the insects are swallowed down into the anteater’s digestive system, they become fertilizer for its hungry young.

In addition to being effective hunters, anteaters also play a crucial role in keeping the local ecosystem healthy by helping to protect it from harmful termite infestations.

Thus, these quirky creatures truly earn their name as “termite eaters” by filling an important ecological niche in our continent’s grand landscape.

Birds

One group of termite eaters that is particularly important in North America is the birds. These feathered animals are well-equipped to deal with these pesky insects thanks to their sharp beaks, which are ideal for tearing through wood and outsmarting even the most cunning termites.

There are countless species of birds that feed on termites, including owls, hawks, crows, and woodpeckers. These birds typically search for exposed parts of a colony and swoop in to feast on termite larvae, eggs, or scouts.

Although all of these birds play important roles in controlling the population of termites in North America, one particular species stands out from the rest: the red-headed woodpecker.

This iconic bird is considered by many experts to be the ultimate termite eater due to its unusual feeding behavior and fearless nature. With powerful jaws that can gouge holes into anything from branches to wooden houses, this little bird has a reputation as the “Ground Zeroes” of home repair.

Nematodes

These minuscule creatures are barely visible to the human eye, but don’t let their size fool you – nematodes are voracious predators that can have a major impact on termite populations.

There are many different nematode species, and each has its own preferred method of hunting. Some will burrow into the ground, chasing after termites that are busy excavating their nests.

Others will attach themselves to termites above ground, riding along until the hapless insect wanders into a patch of sunlight, where the nematode will detach and feast on its exposed flesh.

Still, other species of nematode will wait near termite entrances, latching onto any unlucky insects that happen to wander out of the safety of their nest. No matter what method they use, nematodes are deadly effective at reducing termite populations.

Dragonflies

The diverse ecosystem of North America is home to a wide range of insect species, including several termite eaters. Perhaps the most well-known of these is the dragonfly, which can be found throughout much of the continent.

These agile and graceful flying insects have long, slender bodies with brightly colored wings that unfurl quickly in flight.

Dragonflies are voracious predators, feeding on small insects like flies and mosquitoes and larger prey like midges and butterflies. They pose a threat to termites due to their carnivorous nature.

They serve as an important natural defense against these destructive pests and help keep termite populations in check across North America.

Praying Mantis

Praying mantises are impressive predators that can be found in gardens and forests all across North America. These strange-looking insects are easily recognizable by their elongated bodies and spiny legs. While they are typically brown or green in color, some species of praying mantis can also be brightly colored.

Mantises are prodigious hunters, and they will readily consume any insect that they can catch. This makes them a valuable asset in the fight against termites.

Mantises attack termites by stealth, waiting patiently for their prey to come within range before striking. They will then devour the termite whole, consuming both the body and the wings.

Final Thoughts

Some birds, praying mantises, dragonflies, anteaters, ants, and other insects are known to eat termites. While some different predators and parasites feed on termites, these five stand out as the most effective at reducing termite populations.

Each has its own unique method of hunting and feeding, and all of them play an important role in keeping termites in check.