Entomologists have a difficult time agreeing on how many different species of mites there are in the world. Estimates range anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of these tiny arachnids. If that information makes your skin crawl, you're not alone. A mite infestation can be a significant issue for you or your pets, sometimes causing allergic reactions. Armed with facts, information, and control tips from the pest control experts at Terminix, you can help protect yourself from these tiny pests.
The first step towards helping to get rid of these tiny pests is to know how to identify them, as well as signs of a mite infestation. We'll touch on that information, as well as commonly asked questions we hear about mites, including:
- What are mites?
- What do mites look like?
- Can you see mites?
- Mite reproduction and life cycle
- Mite habitats and behaviors
- Common types of mites
- What do mites eat?
- Do mites bite?
- Do dust mites bite?
- Are mites harmful to people or pets?
- Are dogs and cats allergic to mites?
- What is the difference between mites and bed bugs?
- How can I help prevent mites from getting into my home?
- How can you tell if you have dust mites in your home?
- How can you tell if you have mites in your bed?
- What are the signs of a mite infestation?
- What are the differences between a mite infestation and a bed bug infestation?
- How do you get rid of mites in your home?
What are mites?
Mites are a type of arthropod, sharing the same order as such creatures of arachnids like spiders, scorpions, and ticks. However, mites belong to a distinct subsection of arachnids called the Chelicerata, which means they have eight legs and jointed fangs.
What do mites look like?
Mites are generally bulbous in shape with round or teardrop-shaped bodies. Like other arachnids, mites get around on eight jointed legs. Depending upon the species, a mite could be tan, brown, black, green, blue, or possibly bright red.
Can you see mites?
Mites are extremely tiny, ranging from between 0.01 to 0.03 inches, so it can be very hard to get a good look at them. Most mites are so tiny they can only be seen with a microscope. However, you may notice the effects of mites, such as allergic reactions and bites, rather than the mites themselves.
Mite reproduction and life cycle
Like many pests, mites do not live very long. Some types of parasitic mites, such as scabies, can live on a person for one to two months, but cannot survive for more than 72 hours apart from the host.
Regardless of species, the mite life cycle consists of four stages including the egg, larva, nymph, and adult.
Most mite eggs are extremely tiny. Once laid, it can vary as to how long it may take for the eggs to hatch, ranging from between three to four days, to as long as six weeks.
When mite eggs hatch, six-legged larvae emerge. During this stage, the larva will molt several times before moving on to the nymph stage.
During this life stage, mites molt as many as three more times, growing another set of legs and increasing in size.
After a few days, a fully-formed, eight-legged mite begins the cycle all over again. Mites have a shorter lifespan compared to other arachnids, living only for several months.
Mite habitats and behaviors
Mites can live just about everywhere. They can be found in fresh and brackish water, hot springs, dirt, on plants, and even on animals (including humans). In other words, you simply cannot avoid mites, no matter where you go.
Most species of mites are pests of agricultural crops. However, certain types of mites are parasitic on humans and animals. They can live on the skin, hide, fur, or feathers of a living creature, or feast on its blood. Most mites can be found living and feeding on plants, while others can be found in soil – or even bodies of water.
Common types of mites
The vast majority of mite species will not pose a threat to you in your home or yard. Some mites, such as the bird mite latch on to birds as their host, hiding in bird nests. In some instances, where bird nests are made inside a building, these mites can be found on floors, furniture, and windowsills in search of a meal.
Others, like the clover mite, feed on plants and vegetation, although they may make their way indoors via cracks in windows or walls. Since clover mites will not bite people or animals, they often die due to a lack of food source once inside a home or other building.
While these are just a few different types of mites, here are more species that are commonly found throughout the US and photos to help you better identify these tiny arachnids:
- Bird mites (Dermanyssus gallinae)
- Clover mites (Bryobia praetiosa)
- Chigger Mites (Trombiculidae)
- Demodex mites (Demodex)
- House dust mites (Dermatophagoides spp.)
- Flour mites (Acarus siro)
- Itch mites (or straw) mites (Pyemotes spp.)
- Rodent Mites
- Southern red mite (Oligonychus ilicis)
- Scabies Mites (Sarcoptes scabiei)
- Spider mites (Tetranychidae)
- Varroa (Bee) mites (Varroa destructor)
What do mites eat?
The diet of mites is as varied as the many species of mites.
Some mites – such as spider mites – suck juices from plants, while others consume fungi.
Other mites, like rabbit ear mites and sarcoptic mange mites, feed on small animals, while bird mites – as the name implies – seek out birds as their hosts.
There are a few species of mites (such as scabies mites, chiggers, and house dust mites) that feed on larger animals and humans.
Do mites bite?
The short answer is yes, some mites do bite humans and animals. Among the mites that bite include chiggers, demodex mites, scabies mites, and oak mites. When bitten, victims can suffer from itchy, red welts and painful rashes.
Do dust mites bite?
Fortunately for homeowners, dust mites do not bite humans or pets. However, dust mites can trigger allergic reactions in some people.
Are mites harmful to people or pets?
While a mite infestation may be uncomfortable, most mites do not generally pass on any disease-causing pathogens to humans or pets. However, their presence can cause respiratory reactions and scratching mite bites can cause issues such as secondary infections. Dust mites are among some of the species of mites known to produce an allergic reaction in individuals.
Certain mites, such as the scabies mite, can cause a contagious disease called scabies. Scabies can be spread by even casual contact with an infected individual, such as shaking hands. Scabies mites burrow under the skin to feed and cause a painful rash. If you suspect you have scabies, it's important to see your doctor and alert those you've come in contact with to get checked, as well. From there, a medical professional can prescribe a course of treatment.
Are dogs and cats allergic to mites?
It's common for house pets like cats and dogs to have an allergic reaction to mites. Common allergies in pets can be caused by dust mites as they feed on the dead skin and dander pets leave behind. Some pets may even need treatment for severe mite allergies. Contact your vet if you suspect your pet is having an allergic reaction from mites.
What is the difference between mites and bed bugs?
The main differences between mites and bed bugs include their size. Bed bugs are around ¼ inch long, which is much larger than a mite. Bed bugs also feed on blood, whereas many mites do not. Still, exposure to either can result in an itchy rash.
What is the difference between mites and ticks?
While both belong to the arachnid family, mites and ticks are not the same species. Ticks are generally larger parasitic bugs that bury themselves in flesh to feed on blood. Mites are, as mentioned, are not universally blood suckers (with the exception of a few species) and are generally very small and hard to see.
How can I help prevent mites from getting into my home?
The best way to help keep mites out of your home is to seal up all cracks, holes, and other entrances. Keep in mind that rodents and birds often carry mites, so make sure you don't have any hanging around your home or yard. Keep up with your housekeeping and make sure to vacuum and steam clean regularly. Take care to vacuum drapes, as some mites may cling to curtains and multiply.
How can you tell if you have dust mites in your home?
Because they are so small, it can be difficult to see a dust mite infestation. Rather, the most common sign of dust mites in a home or commercial building is an allergic reaction. Sufferers may experience a stuffy head, runny nose, cough, congestion, and other respiratory problems. You may also develop a red, itchy rash on your skin.
How can you tell if you have mites in your bed?
One of the easiest ways to tell if you have a dust mite infestation in your bed is to observe your respiratory symptoms. If you're experiencing more asthmatic episodes, or allergy symptoms, dust mites may be to blame.
What are the signs of a mite infestation?
Different types of mites leave behind clues that they are present. Dust mites, for example, can make allergy symptoms worse. Some mite species bite, leaving behind a telltale red, itchy rash. Other mites may simply gather in large groups, not causing trouble, but certainly being annoying.
What are the differences between a mite infestation and a bed bug infestation?
The main difference between mites and bed bugs is their diet. Bed bugs feed on the blood of their victims at night while they sleep. Mites don't necessarily consume blood, but rather feed on other bodily fluids and dead skin cells. Both can cause skin irritation in those that are allergic. However, mites rarely bite, whereas bed bugs do.
How do you get rid of mites in your home?
A mite infestation can be very difficult to treat, especially if you aren't sure what species you're dealing with. However, you can attempt to get rid of mites by following a few simple tips:
- Deep clean your home, especially mattresses, furniture, and carpeting.
- Lower the humidity in your home to below 50% humidity via air conditioning or dehumidifiers.
- Remove trash, clutter, and clear out spaces mites may shelter.
- Regularly dust surfaces and mop floors.
How Terminix® Helps You With Mite Control
If you've tried everything and you still have mites, contact the pest control experts at your local Terminix office today. You can rest assured that we know all about the mites that pester people and pets – and we know what to do to help get them under control. Schedule a free, no-obligation pest inspection today!