Some mite species are so small they are impossible to see with the naked eye. Because of their miniscule size they are often suspected when an unknown bite or rash appears on the skin. Understanding mite biology, preferred habitats, and the bite marks mites leave behind helps determine if mites are to blame for your particular problem.
Some mites are beneficial to the environment, feeding on decaying matter, while others are parasitic. Most parasitic mites attach to the external features of their host, but sometimes they are found on the inside of their host. Some parasitic mites are extremely bothersome and dangerous to the animals. In fact, the Varroa destructor mite is responsible for the devastation and collapse of many bee colonies. This mite spreads viruses to the bee colonies, including a virus that causes deformed wings, and the mite also consumes the bees’ fat stores. Mite infested bee colonies often fail within a year. Due to human dependence upon the humble honeybee, a huge investment of research and study has been aimed at solving this particular mite problem.
Specific species of mites affect humans, mammals, and other insects in vastly different ways. This article will focus on how different species of mites affect humans, but there is often overlap between species which will be discussed. Descriptions and photos of the rash or bite marks mites leave behind will be provided when available. The complexities of nature are on full display when addressing a mite problem, but most mite species are harmless to humans.
What are Mites?
Mites are not insects, they are more closely related to ticks and spiders. Most mites are very small, less than 1mm in length and have a very simple oblong shaped body. Where insects have 3 distinct body parts, mites have 2 body regions. However, like many insects, mites develop through complete metamorphosis. The life stages of mites are egg, larva, nymph, and finally adult. During its larval stage, mites have 6 legs, but mites have 8 legs as nymphs and adults. The mite life cycle usually requires 1-4 weeks. Mites do not have wings and cannot fly, but they are transported on their host and spread from host to host by direct contact.
Mite Bite Symptoms on Humans
There are many species of mites, and their bites may manifest differently on each person. Most mites are very small, some even microscopic. Because mites live and breed in unique and specific places, many people do not even realize they have been exposed to mites until they see a red patch of itchy bumps on their skin. For example, a straw itch mite should be suspected if you have had recent contact with straw or hay, and rodent or bird mites should be suspected if you have recently expelled rats or birds from your attic or home. When dealing with an unknown rash or itch, do not assume that certain historical facts are irrelevant. Because mite bites look so similar to other bites and dermatological rashes, they can be difficult to diagnose. To find and treat the culprit quickly, doctors and/or pest control technicians should have all the facts.
Most often, it is the scabies mite, or the human itch mite, that plagues humans. Mite bites are often found in clusters or patches and often itch intensely. They may form small red blisters and if scratched will open and be prone to infection. Mite bites may also cause hives or welts and sometimes cause a hard bump on the skin and swelling. Sometimes, mite burrows are visibly evident under the skin; these look like small wavy lines under the surface of the skin. Often, positively identifying a human itch mite bite requires a history of possible exposure and observing a skin scraping under the microscope. The human itch mite is spread by close human contact, but it is treatable with cream prescribed by a doctor.
Mite Bite Pictures
Flea or Mite Bite?
When battling mysterious itching bites on your body, fleas and mites are sometimes lumped into the same category. Both fleas and mites cause small, red bumps that itch and burn like fire. However, their treatments are different, therefore it is important to accurately identify the species that is tormenting you. Although small, fleas are easily visible to the naked eye, whereas some mites, like the scabies mite, can only be seen under a microscope. Also, you can feel the painful pinch of a flea bite instantaneously. When you look down to slap or shoo the biter, you’ll likely see a small flea hop away. Fleas are almost always found in households with dogs or cats and if you inspect your furry friend, you’ll probably find fleas hopping around there as well.
Mites are less obvious to the human eye and there is no direct link to our pets. A health or physical history in addition to the symptoms is important in connecting mites to the symptoms you are experiencing. Oak tree mites emerge in earnest every few years in localized geographic areas. Health professionals in your area should be aware if these mites are blossoming and therefore test, diagnose, and treat your itch as such.
The bites of fleas and mites may look and feel similar, but treating your skin for mites will not take care of a flea problem, and vice versa.
Diseases Spread by Mites
Mites and ticks are quite similar in form and function, but mites do not propagate as many diseases as ticks are known to spread. In fact, the only infectious diseases mites are known to spread are rickettsialpox and scrub typhus. The more common “disease” or ailment from mites is bothersome skin conditions such as scabies and chiggers from their bites.
Scabies on Humans
Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis, the scabies itch mite or human itch mite, is found throughout the entire world, and is spread from person to person by close or prolonged human contact. The scabies rash is caused when the scabies mite burrows into your skin and establishes tunnels in which they live and lay their eggs. Although the human itch mite prefers humans, there are other species of scabies mites that target other mammals such as dogs, cats, horses, and pigs. Although these other species of scabies mites may attempt their life cycle on humans, causing temporary discomfort and rash, they cannot reproduce on humans.
Human itch mite activity causes severe redness, discomfort, and itchiness. The adult female human itch mite burrows under the skin and lays eggs. After 3-4 days the eggs hatch and the larvae migrate to the skin’s surface. The larvae then enter small, almost invisible, molting pouches where they mature into adults. Ultimately, the male mite, who is almost never seen, penetrates the molting pouch and impregnates the female. Once impregnated, the female human itch mite burrows into the skin and begins to form subcutaneous tunnels. She typically lives 1-2 months and continually lengthens her tunnel and deposits eggs. This cyclical process of a full-blown scabies mite infestation involves much back and forth between layers of skin with tunnels or burrows being formed and expanded. It is no wonder this mite activity is so intensely bothersome.
Your first experience with scabies, symptoms may not appear for 2 months after exposure. However, subsequent infestations, symptoms will likely appear a few days after exposure. Scabies is spread by close repeated contact. Scabies most often spreads in homeless shelters, jails, and nursing homes due to the sheer number of people all living in close proximity. Until all the eggs and all life stages of the mites are destroyed a person can still spread scabies. Scabies is diagnosed and treated by a physician, not a pest control technician. The treatment includes a cream or lotion that is specially formulated to kill the mites. Clothing and bedding should be laundered, but no pesticide spray is needed for your home. This is because the mites only live a short time off the host. If a mite falls off the host to the floor, it will be unlikely to get back to the host and will die. When given the cream by a doctor it is important to follow the product label instructions exactly to fully eradicate the subcutaneous eggs and all life cycles.
Typical symptoms of scabies may include:
- Skin rash
- Intense itching, especially at night
- Pimple-like bump
- Tunnels or burrows visible underneath the skin
The scabies rash and visible burrows is often most pronounced between the fingers, wrist, elbows, armpits, and throughout the genital region. The head, face, and neck may be affected in young children, but rarely in adults.
Because scabies is powerfully uncomfortable, it is not uncommon to scratch the itch until the surface of the skin breaks. These open sores are susceptible to bacterial infection which makes treatment and resolution of scabies much more difficult. As irritating as scabies mites are, make every attempt to avoid scratching the itch. Coupling scabies with a skin infection complicates and prolongs the healing process.
Norwegian scabies or crusted scabies is the term associated with people who may be elderly, immunocompromised, or people who have conditions that prevent them from feeling such as paralysis or spinal cord injury. A typical scabies infestation consists of between only 10-15 mites. However, if a person lacks the physical sensation to know there is a problem, the mites exponentially multiply. In this circumstance, crusts over the skin’s surface conceals large numbers of mites… sometimes up to 2 million mites. Norwegian or crusted scabies is relatively rare, but these individuals are highly contagious because of the high mite population present.
Scrub typhus or bush typhus can be spread to humans through the bite of an infected chigger (larval mite). Scrub typhus is most often found in rural areas of Southeast Asia, China, Japan, India, and northern Australia. Scrub typhus has similar symptoms to many other bacterial infections, including fever, body aches and chills, and enlarged lymph nodes. A dark scab-like spot (called an eschar) may be present near the bite site. Typhus is easily treated with Doxycycline, but in areas without access to this common antibiotic, severe illness or death is possible.
Rickettsialpox can be spread to humans by a mite that sometimes infests the house mouse. If you develop symptoms of spotted fevers, be sure to inform your doctor if you have recently been in contact with mice or had a mice infestation in your home or workplace. Rickettsialpox often turns out to be less severe than Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, but in the early stages of disease, they closely resemble one another.
The first symptom of ricketssialpox may be a dark scab-like eschar may form at the site of the mite bite. Fever, headache, muscle aches, and skin rash will likely follow. Of course, these symptoms are fairly common and difficult to distinguish from a common flu. Spotted fevers can range from mild to deadly. Some spotted fevers will resolve without medical intervention, while others can be easily treated with common antibiotics. If you experience spotted fever symptoms and have been in contact with mice, be sure to inform your doctor so the proper testing and treatment protocol may be employed.
Mites and Mange
Mange is a skin condition on dogs caused by parasitic mites. A dog suffering from mange will appear beyond hope, large clumps of hair fallen out, oozing scabs on their skin, and thick hard crusty patches. Mange is often associated with stray, neglected, or abused dogs, but it can happen to even the most beloved of pets.
Sarcoptic mange, also known as canine scabies, is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. Just as in human scabies, the sarcoptic mite buries under your dog’s skin and lays eggs. As the quantity of mites on your dog increases, the amount of discomfort your dog experiences increases. Again, similar to human scabies, the mite that causes sarcoptic mange is usually passed from dog to dog via close contact. Symptoms of sarcoptic mange include extreme itchiness, redness, and hair loss. Eventually, thick yellow crusts form on the skin that used to be covered in hair. Bacterial skin infections are common due to scratching and open wounds.
Demodectic mange, or demodex, is caused by another species of mite, the Demodex canis. These mites are different from sarcoptes mites in that they are always present on the skin of your dog. These mites are passed to a pup from its mother and are always present, usually a harmless aspect of their skin flora. However, for a dog with a weakened immune system, their numbers may expand out of control and cause harm to your dog. Elderly, sick, or immune compromised dogs are most susceptible to demodectic mange. Symptoms of demodectic mange are hair loss, red scaly skin, swelling, and yellow crusty patches on the skin.
Veterinarians who suspect your dog’s torment is being caused by mites, will take a skin scraping and look for mites and their eggs under a microscope. Mange caused by either of the species of mites described above are treated similarly. The mites must be eradicated, any infection cleared, and the skin promoted to heal. Topical treatments to kill the mites, soothing baths to heal the skin, and lots of love are effective for healing mange.
The mite that causes sarcoptic mange in dogs transfers by close and prolonged contact. Therefore, it is possible for this mite to explore human skin causing redness, itching, and irritation. However, this mite cannot successfully reproduce on humans and will not become an established infestation. Of course, to avoid incidental mite exposure, you may consider limiting close contact until the sarcoptic mange is thoroughly eliminated from your dog. Or, you may decide that your pup needs extra cuddles and give extra love and affection while treating mange.
Types of Mites
Most mites are harmless to humans, but some species can cause quite an itch on people and pets. Below are described the most common mites that bother humans and what you can expect if you are in contact with these mites.
Scabies Mite or Human Itch Mite
The most common mite problem encountered by humans is from the scabies mite or the human itch mite, Sarcoptes scabiei. This microscopic mite burrows under the upper layer of human skin. The impregnated female lays eggs as she travels along the subcutaneous burrows. Sometimes the scabies mite burrows are visible on the skin as raised lines. Female scabies mites lay 2-3 eggs per day, and these eggs hatch in 3-4 days. Upon hatching, the larvae climb onto the skins surface, but once mature and pregnant again burrow into the skin. A female scabies mite can live under your skin and lay daily eggs for up to 2 months and produce approximately 200 eggs in her lifetime.
Scabies mites are host-specific. The varieties of scabies mites that infest domestic animals and cause mange can penetrate the skin of humans. They will cause the typical itching and rash, but the mite that affects dogs cannot complete their life cycle on humans.
Scabies mites are transferred from person to person by direct, skin to skin, prolonged close contact. Commonly found in institutional setting such as nursing homes, childcare facilities, prisons, and homeless shelters, scabies mites affect people worldwide and across all spectrums of life. An infected person can spread scabies even though they are experiencing no symptoms. In fact, when a person is first infected with scabies mites, sometimes symptoms do not appear for up to two months, but symptoms appear much sooner if you have had scabies before.
As the scabies mites tunnel and burrow under your skin, extreme irritation and itchiness ensues. Blisters and small pimple looking rash will develop in affected areas. This rash is your body’s reaction to the proteins and feces the scabies mite is leaving behind under your skin. Some people experience the scabies rash and irritation only in areas where scabies mites are present, while others experience the irritation throughout large general areas of their body.
Scabies mites are commonly found between your fingers and on the wrist, but they can be found anywhere on the body. Human itch mites are especially prevalent in areas where clothing is tight, socks, underwear, and waistbands, or skin folds over on itself. Elbows, knees, genitals and groin areas, breasts, and shoulder blades are all common places for scabies mites to burrow. In children scabies mites are often found near the head, face, neck, palms, and soles of the feet, but adults are less likely to be affected in these areas.
Diagnosis can sometimes be made with a visual inspection, especially if the under the skin mite burrows are visible or a sexual partner has been diagnosed with scabies. The preferred method of diagnosis is by microscopically observing a skin scraping. The microscopic evidence of scabies mites, eggs, or fecal matter can confirm the diagnosis. There is no over the counter treatment for scabies. A scabicide cream is prescribed by your doctor and the instructions should be followed exactly. Usually, the medication/cream is applied to all areas of the body, from the head down to the toes. The cream is washed off after the recommended amount of time and reapplied as directed by your physician. As symptoms may take up to 2 months to manifest, all sexual partners and those who have come into close personal contact with someone diagnosed with scabies mites should be treated.
In conjunction with scabicide cream, steps should be taken to prevent reinfestation. Launder clothing, bedding, and towels that were recently used in hot water and a hot dryer. If an item cannot be placed in the washing machine, take it to the dry cleaners or isolate the item in a garbage bag away from possible contact with people for at least a week to allow any remaining mites to die. Vacuum carpeting and upholstered couches or chairs. Consider making changes to your personal hygiene regimen to prevent reinfestations and avoid close personal contact with those infected with scabies mites.
Scabies mites do not generally survive more than 2-3 days off of human skin. Blanket pest control applications to the home are not recommended to eliminate or prevent scabies mites. Insecticide foggers (“bug bombs”) and applying insecticide to furniture, carpeting, your bed or other areas do not help eliminate the problem. The most effective treatments for scabies mites are provided by your doctor, not your Pest Management Professional.
Chiggers, sometimes called red bugs, are active virtually all year round in the South. They do not cause or spread a certain disease per se, but their bites are irritating and cause inflammation and redness. Only in its larval stage do chiggers bite humans and other mammals. Adults of this species consumes soil dwelling arthropods. Chiggers are common on rodents, including squirrels, rats, and mice. They will readily bite humans if available, but we are not their preferred host. Chiggers only survive on humans for a day or two because we usually dislodge them with our scratching.
Parasitic chiggers are the larval stage of any mite in the genus Eutrombicula. They are very small, but visible with the human eye. Larval chiggers are usually 0.25mm in length or 1/100 of an inch, whereas the adults of this species, often called red bugs, are approximately 1mm in length. The tiny parasitic chiggers are not bright red like the adults, they are usually yellowish to light red in color and only have 6 legs.
Chiggers are usually acquired when we walk through their native environments. Chiggers are naturally occurring in grassy and weedy areas or briar patches. Another species of parasitic chiggers prefers moist habitats such as swamps and bogs or rotten and decaying logs. Chiggers sense the carbon dioxide in our breath and hitch a ride as we brush against their foliage. Chiggers may wander across our clothing for several hours until they find an area of exposed skin. Generally, they bite where skin is the thinnest or clothing is the tightest. Chigger bites are common where the sock meets the ankle, or at the waistband near the groin. Chiggers may also find accessible thin skin behind the knees or under the armpits.
Unlike scabies mites, chiggers do not burrow under your skin and live out their life cycle subcutaneously. Chiggers pierce the skin at the base of a hair follicle or skin pore and inject a digestive enzyme. This enzyme liquifies our body tissue which the chigger then ingests. On other mammals, chiggers may remain attached for several days, but on humans they are usually not successful and drop off within a few hours. Often, by the time you notice the chigger bites, they are long gone.
Chigger bites usually flare up a few hours after exposure and the itch can be intense! Some people react to chigger bites with small reddish pustules and inflammation. An allergic reaction to the enzyme may cause a person’s reaction to look more like a puss filled blister. The itch and discomfort from chigger bites can usually be remedied with over-the-counter itch creams. Try not to scratch chigger bites as they can become infected if you break the skin. The good news is chiggers do not transmit any diseases to humans, and chigger bites usually clear up on their own within a few days.
The best way to prevent chigger bites is to actively protect yourself. Insect repellents containing DEET has shown some repellency in chiggers. To further resist chiggers, clothing can be sprayed with a permethrin-based product approved for treating clothing. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants tucked into your socks and boots when venturing into chigger territory. As soon as you come home, toss the laundry in the washing machine and take a warm sudsy shower. The quicker you dislodge and chiggers attached to you, the less severe your reaction will be.
Indoor pesticide applications should not be considered for chiggers, but in some environments, a pesticide application to a lawn and the perimeter of the home may help to reduce the chigger population. Usually a well-maintained suburban yard does not have a chigger problem, but sometimes wild animals and neighboring properties support chiggers in residential neighborhoods. Areas with thick layers of leaf litter or pine straw may support chiggers. Keep trees and shrubs at least one foot away from the exterior of the home. Often, chiggers inside a home are a result of overgrown plants touching exterior windows where the chiggers easily squeeze into the home. Treating chigger-infested areas with a pesticide spray will provide some control. Should you decide to treat your yard for chiggers, ensure the product you choose is labeled for mites and the location where you plan to spray. Always follow the label for any pesticide application.
With a rodent infestation comes a host of other potential issues, odor of decaying bodies, fly infestations, sealing/exclusion work, and possibly even rat or rodent mites. Rat or rodent mites usually live on the rat or mouse or in the crevices of the rat or mouse nest. They much prefer to feed on the rat or mouse host than a person. However, once you have eliminated the rodent infestation from your home, these tiny arthropods must search for a blood meal elsewhere. During this time, they may bite people or pets. If you notice unexplained bites or itchiness after a rodent infestation has been eradicated, rodent mites may be to blame. A successful rodent control program may lead to hundreds of hungry rodent mites wandering your attic, closets, cabinets or wherever else the rodents were nesting. Without the proper host, they will be unable to reproduce and will all die out in about four to six weeks. Pesticide sprays can help eliminate these remaining mites quicker. If the problems continues longer than six weeks, there are either still rodents present or you are not dealing with rodent mites.
There are 3 species of rodent mites that bite humans: the house mouse mite (Liponyssoides saguineus), spiny rat mite (Laelaps echidna) and tropical rat mite (Ornithonyssus bacoti). Rodent mites are very small, but can be seen with the naked eye. They are about the size of a period at the end of a sentence. Rodent mites are whitish or yellowish before feeding, and larger and dark red after a feeding. They may be concentrated near the area of the rodent infestation, but they have been known to wander several yards from the nest. The do not fly or “hitchhike” as bed bugs are known to do, but they are active wanderers, when their preferred host is unavailable.
A rodent mite bite can be extremely irritating. A red pustule may develop, and swelling and itchiness characterizes the rat mite bite. It may take several days for the dermatitis to resolve, and in the meantime, you may acquire more of these mysterious bites. There is no documentation of rodent mites spreading disease to humans, but their close relationship to filthy rats is enough to make them an unacceptable pest in the home.
Rat mite bites can look and feel similar to bed bug bites, but the treatments and procedures for dealing with rodent mites and bed bugs are very different. When dealing with skin irritations and mysterious bites, it is very important to tell your Pest Management Professional if you have had any animals nesting in your attic, crawl space, or home. Before treating the interior of your home for any pest related issues, most Pest Management Professionals require compelling evidence of their target pest.
This may require capturing one of the pesky biters. Place insect monitors (sticky traps) near areas of known rodent activity. These glue boards can be placed in floor-to-wall junctions and corners near suspected mite activity. Double sided tape can also be placed around furniture legs or near areas where bites have occurred. These investigative tactics can help narrow down the hot spot areas of the home. To truly identify a tiny rodent mite, magnification and an entomological background may be required, but once the specimen is confirmed, pest control treatments can be applied. Nextgen Pest Solutions has experts on hand to locate and identify rodent mites, or whatever it is that’s biting you.
To prevent rodent mites, always attempt to remove the rat or mouse nest. By promptly bagging up and removing the accumulation of fur, sticks, and threads that rats or mice were nesting in, you may just take out rodent mites with the Sunday trash. However, often, mice and rats are trapped, and their nests are deep in wall voids or located in inaccessible areas of the attic. After rodent mites are confirmed, the primary concern is to remove any rodents from the home, as well as any nesting material. Unless and until the rodents are eliminated, and the home or business is properly sealed to prevent new rodents from moving in, the rodent mite population will continue to thrive. Therefore, rodent elimination is crucial to control rodent mites.
Rodent mites do not reproduce on humans. Therefore, they will bite humans, but their life cycle cannot continue on human blood alone. With this logic, rodent mites should die out after six weeks or lessso long as there are no rodents available to feed upon. HSome pesticides are labeled for mites indoors, but they need to be strategically and properly applied. In addition, regular vacuuming of a high rodent mite area will capture some of the wandering mites preventing them from treating your family members as a host.
The presence of rodent mites unequivocally indicates a past or present rodent infestation. They are particularly bothersome because they are so closely associated with rats and mice. If you are being bitten, we encourage you to capture an insect specimen if possible. Scotch tape and a plastic baggie are all you need to procure a usable sample. By pro-actively acquiring a sample, treatment can quickly begin, and you will be relieved of the itching from rat mites.
Birds often nest in attics, rafters, warehouses, and other places commonly frequented by humans. What begins as a cute little bird family seeking shelter within the safety of your home, can escalate into mysterious bites, skin irritation, and time, effort, and money spent trying to figure out the cause. Like many other mites, bird mites are very small, but visible to the human eye. Bird mites live on both wild and domesticated birds including chickens, turkeys, robins, sparrows, pigeons, and canaries.
Bird mites live their entire life cycle on or near birds. If birds are removed, they will bite people and pets, but they cannot complete their life cycle with anything other than the blood of birds. The northern fowl mite is the most common mite dealt with on birds. The northern fowl mite lays eggs directly on the bird. When the egg hatches, the larval stage bird mite does NOT feed on the bird, but within hours it progresses to the nymph stage. Nymphs do begin to feed on the birds, and within 4-7 days they become adults capable of reproduction. Bird mite populations increase quickly because of their rapid life cycle.
There are many different species of mites that rely on birds. Scaly leg mites cause a crusty appearance on birds’ legs and feet. Parakeets are susceptible to scaly face mites which causes a thick crust to form around the birds’ beak. Canaries and Gouldian finches are susceptible to air sac mites which makes breathing difficult. Although extremely irritating and even dangerous to birds, most species of bird mites never encounter humans.
Remember, bird mites cannot reproduce without birds. When birds are removed from an attic or an indoor space, the nest and surrounding area may contain bird mites. These mites will wander the area looking for a meal and pester humans or pets, but they will eventually die off as they cannot reproduce without the presence of birds. The time each species of bird mite can live without a bird host varies, but the northern fowl mite and the chicken mite can only survive about 2 weeks without bird blood. If you have recently had birds in your attic, garage, or shed, and are now experiencing unexplained bites and itching, consider bird mites as the culprit.
When expelling birds from your home or attic, be sure to carefully remove any empty nesting material. Many birds are federally protected, and their nests can not be disturbed without special permits. However, the most common bird invaders, pigeons, starlings, and house sparrows, are not protected and may be removed at any time. After a bird removal, many people choose to proactively treat the area of bird activity with a miticide. This helps to kill the mites without giving them the opportunity to wander through the house in search of a blood meal. If you locate and identify a bird mite inside your home, it is more likely than not, that you have had birds either inside or just outside an opening to your home. By removing the birds and nesting material, you will remove most of the the bird mites. In two to three weeks, any straglers will be dead. A pesticide application can speed this up. If any bird mites are present after three weeks, most likely birds are still present nearby,
While many insects or arachnids that we discuss on this site bite, dust mites do not bite. They simply do not have the proper mouthparts for biting. However, dust mites are a likely culprit of more irritation in humans than most other mites. Allergic reactions to dust mites are a common allergy and especially problematic for people who suffer from asthma and other breathing disorders. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America states that dust mites are likely the most common trigger of year-round allergies and asthma, affecting nearly 20 million Americans. As dust mites accumulate in our bedding, couch, favorite recliner, stuffed animals, and desk chair they leave behind defecation and the bodies of their deceased. This accumulation of dust mite matter, when inhaled can cause the many symptoms we associate with allergies.
Dust mites are too small to be seen with the naked eye. They do not pierce the skin and suck blood like many other mite species, instead they survive by scooping up our shed skin cells. The temperature-controlled environment of our homes is perfect for dust mites enabling them to live year-round. An average human sheds approximately 1.5 grams of skin every day. This is enough to feed one million dust mites.
Symptoms of a dust mite allergy include:
- Runny nose
- Red, itchy, watery eyes
- Itchy nose or throat
- Red itchy patches of skin
If you have been diagnosed with asthma, dust mites may trigger an asthma attack.
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Whistling or wheezing sound when you exhale
Dust mites are not considered a pest control problem. It would be unwise to continually spray insecticides on sleeping and lounging surfaces to eliminate dust mites. Rather, the most effective treatment for dust mites is not allowing them to accumulate in the first place. Many people who have a severe dust mite allergy or asthma make certain changes to their physical environment and routine to reduce the number of dust mites. Avoid extraneous fabric such as wall to wall carpeting and curtains, instead use washable throw rugs on the floor and roll-type shades on the windows. Cover your mattress and pillow with dust proof encasements. These zippered mattress and pillow encasements are made with materials that do not allow dust mite allergens to get in and permeate your pillow and mattress. These products also protect your mattress in the event of a bed bug infestation. Wash your sheets and blankets in hot water at least once per week. Also, vacuum the deep recesses of the couch, recliners, chairs, and carpets with a HEPA filter vacuum.
Although they are not biters, dust mites contribute to serious adverse health consequences. Because we humans continually provide their required food, the fight against dust mites requires persistence and regimented routines. After making changes to your routine and your environment, you should see an improvement in the symptoms of your dust mite allergy. Many over-the-counter allergy medications are effective for controlling the symptoms. Follow your doctor’s recommendation if you cannot manage your dust mite allergy symptoms.
Spider mites are generally considered to be a landscape or garden pest rather than a pest commonly encountered inside of homes. These 8-legged arachnids are not insects, and many species of spider mites spin webs like a spider. There are many species of spider mites, but they are not considered likely to bite humans. Spider mites infest the underside of leaves of fruit trees, vines, berries, vegetables, and ornamental plants. Spider mites damage plants by sucking cell contents from the leaves. High populations of spider mites on a plant can cause serious damage, lack of crop yield, and death to the plant.
The most economically important spider mite is the two-spotted spider mite. The two-spotted spider mite is known to attack at least 200 different plants that are commercially farmed for food. The two-spotted spider mite often attacks house plants.
Spider mites are very small and difficult to see with the naked eye. They are usually found because of the damage they inflict upon plants in conjunction with the web they create on the underside of leaves. While gardening, it is possible to inadvertently brush against a spider mite and bring it inside with you, but spider mites die quickly when they are removed from their food source. Spider bites do not bite people nor can they reproduce on people. Their mouthparts are specifically designed for sucking sap from plants. If you find a spider mite on your clothes or skin, worry less about a possible bite to yourself and carefully inspect your garden and houseplants.
Clover mites, Bryobia praetiosa, are another species of mite that can cause quite a scare when they come into your home, but they are truly nothing more than a nuisance. Clover mites do not bite people. They feed on plants and are most often found in the landscape. Outdoors, clover mites can do damage to lawns, closely resembling winter kill. They also suck the sap of many different flowering plants. However, after a heavy rain, excessive heat, or a change in temperature they may seek shelter inside our homes. These mites are very small, but visible to the naked eye. They are most often seen crawling around windows and doors. Clover mites do not reproduce inside and dehydrate within a few days.
When these mites are triggered to move indoors, many people become concerned. When crushed, clover mites leave a red stain that looks like blood. Have you ever crushed a mosquito and been rewarded with a blood stain on your hand or arm? We tend to associate the red spurt of a pest with its need to suck blood. Fortunately, the red color left behind when a clover mite is crushed is NOT the blood of its prey, because clover mites are not blood suckers. Clover mites do not damage your home like termites, suck your blood like bed bugs and mosquitos, nor transmit diseases like ticks. They do not wriggle their way into our stores of flour and rice or chew our carpets or clothes like some moths. They are indeed alarming when you see them crawling inside your home, but they do not survive indoors for long and they do not bite.
Oak Tree Mites or Oak Leaf Itch Mites
Oak leaf itch mite bites are a seasonal phenomenon which seems to affect different geographic regions in an inconsistent manner. First discovered in the United States in 2004, these microscopic mites usually feed on the larvae of a small midge fly. However, in the fall, oak tree mites release from the oak tree and float on the wind. Studies show that as many as 370,000 oak tree mites can fall from an oak tree per day. These mites float on the wind and are so small that they can even fit through window screen. Oak tree mites usually hit a specific geographic area hard with many people suddenly complaining of the symptoms. The symptoms often correlate with outdoor activity, such as sitting on a park bench under an oak tree for your lunch break, taking an outdoor run, or enjoying an outdoor fall picnic.
When these microscopic mites land on our neck, face, arm, and chest a rash can develop. This rash looks similar to and is often dismissed as chigger bites. This itchy red rash often develops a white pustule in the center. Like a mosquito bite, the oat tree mite rash develops and changes over the course of about 12 hours. These bites are not usually found on the legs, just the upper portion of our bodies. The rash caused from the oak tree mite tends to be excruciatingly itchy but can usually be alleviated by over-the-counter itch remedies.
Ear Mites Bites
Ear mites are usually thought to be an affliction that affects dogs and cats, but rarely, ear mites can infect humans. Ear mites feed on the oils and ear wax in ears. Ear mites are easily transferred from pet to pet, but humans are not their preferred host. Ear mites are quite uncomfortable for your pet. You may notice them scratching their ears more often and aggressively and a dark discharge resembling coffee ground coming out of their ears. To prevent ear mites from spreading to other pets and family members, take your pet to the veterinarian if you suspect they may have ear mites. Follow any instructions given to you by your veterinarian.
If you share a bed or cuddle closely with your pet, the possibility exists that ear mites can transfer from your dog or cat’s ear to yours. Ear mite symptom varies from person to person, but most people will experience discomfort in the ear including:
- Itchiness of the ear
- Tinnitus, or ringing in the ear
- Redness around your ear
- Dark colored ear wax
- Pressure or pain in the ear
- Secondary infection inside the ear
Without treatment, ear mites can cause damage to the ear canal and ultimately hearing loss. An ear, nose, and throat specialist is usually required to diagnose and treat ear mites in humans. Diagnosis requires examining an ear wax sample under the microscope. If confirmed, ear mites can be treated with anti-parasitic ear drops.
Colloquial language has a way of evolving that causes scientists’ head to explode. In the pest control world, we are used to dealing with the imperfect terms black ant or sugar ant, or the American Roach being called a water bug or a palmetto bug. But the term “sand flea” has a less clear delineation of definition. Many people call a small biting crustacean found at the beach a sand flea or a sand mite. Of course, they are neither fleas nor mites. Sand fleas AKA sand mites bury themselves in the beach sand and occasionally bite beach walkers’ feet. They are also a highly sought-after bait for certain types of fishing.
Sand flea is also a term attributed to chigoe flea. The chigoe flea, which is actually a flea, is found in Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. This flea causes the disease tungiasis. The chigoe flea burrows itself inside human feet which leads to abscess formation, tissue necrosis, and gangrene. This terrible disease, which is common in the developing world, is not found in the United States. Therefore, when the term sand flea or sand mite is used locally, the chigoe flea is not usually the intended definition.
In the world of pest control, exact identifications are important. The term sand mite is an imperfect term but usually refers to the crustacean at the beach. These creatures are not mites and although they do occasionally bite, are not considered a pest control issue.
Many mites are so small they require magnification to see. Therefore, it is easy to blame mites for unexplained skin injuries or discomfort. For years, office workers who handle a lot of paper complained of irritations to their fingers and placed the blame on an invisible mite that lives and feeds on paper. After much speculation, it was determined that tiny, microscopic paper cuts were causing the injuries rather than an invisible yet irritating mite.
Mite Pest Control
Skin irritations can result from a myriad of influences, mite bites are only one of them. Before treating your home, office, or vehicle for a biting insect or arachnid, a sample should be obtained and its identity confirmed. Many mites are lawn and garden pests as opposed to household pests, and further still, many mite infestations are medical issues for which a doctor’s care is required. Often identifying the source of an unknown bite requires collaboration between pest professionals and medical doctors.
There are certainly situations where a rodent or bird mite is confirmed, and a pesticide application will subdue the infestation, but pests do not exist in a vacuum. Nature often works in concert with other wildlife and environmental conditions. Here at Nextgen Pest Solutions we practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM). A major tenant of IPM is to solve pest problems by thinking outside of the box. We educate our customers on environmental changes they can make to their home to discourage pests from invading, and apply safe and effective pesticides as necessary.