Latin Name: Part of the subclass Acari
There are over 30,000 different varieties of mites. These include ticks, spider mites, chiggers, bird mites, dust mites, bed bugs, and many other small arachnids. With so many species, they have a wide range of habitats and behaviors. Some are a nuisance or even a danger to humans.
“Mite” is a generic term for a wide variety of small to nearly microscopic arachnids. While they may differ greatly in appearance, they all have 8 legs, a head, and an abdomen. Most mites are not easily seen, but their effects certainly are. Some mites cause skin irritation, hair loss, plant damage, respiratory problems, or other issues. While most mites are not harmful, there are some that are parasitic or otherwise destructive.
Common Species of Mites
- Chiggers – Found in rural and undisturbed areas, chiggers will attack people and animals. While they are difficult to see, they usually appear as tiny red or yellow spots in dirt or on rocks. Chiggers live in the soil and wait for a host to pass, latching onto its skin. Chiggers do not feed on blood, but rather the skin of the host. It can feed for several days if not removed. Chigger bites cause irritation and can be swollen and itchy.
- Dust Mites – As one of the most common mites, dust mites are also known as house mites. There could be thousands of dust mites in a building, but they are invisible to the naked eye. They live in clothing, mattresses, pillows, and cushions, feeding off of the dead skin of pets and people. These mites do not attack or openly feed on humans or animals, but when they or their feces become airborne, they can trigger respiratory problems for those with asthma or allergies.
- Scabies – Scabies can actually infest people and pets by burrowing under the skin to feed and lay eggs. Because these mites cannot live more than a day without a host, infestations are spread through direct contact. Scabies mites cause irritation and itching, and can cause mange in animals.
How to Get Rid of Mites
The first thing you need to do is identify the type of mite in your home. Of the many types of mites out there, most have specific treatment and control methods. How you solve the problem will depend on the species involved. For even more detail, check out the very detailed instructions on Stop Skin Mites.
- Wash bedding and clothing. It is important to kill potential mites by washing all clothes and bedding at the highest temperatures possible. If the mites are causing health problems, all items should be sealed in plastic bags until they can be washed.
- If necessary, seek medical attention. Most mites are only harmful to those with allergies or existing conditions, but if the mites have caused any health problems, you should consult your doctor. Likewise, your pets should be examined and treated by a veterinarian.
- Eliminate moisture. Many mite species are attracted to humidity, so if the relative humidity is kept below 50%, this will reduce the mite’s ability to live in that environment. Homes with poor ventilation and high humidity are the perfect environment for mites.
- Vacuum often. Regular vacuuming can dramatically reduce the number of mites. In combination with cleaning bedding and clothes, you can nearly eradicate several species of mite.