Mites are tiny arthropods, related to ticks. Several types of mites can be found in homes and of these a few may bite humans. Only a few mite species are parasitic on birds or mammals, but these can occasionally become biting pests in homes. |
Although many different types of mites can infest a home, not all species bite. Most biting mites are not actually parasitic to humans; although they may attach briefly and bite, they usually are transmitted from other animals. Some mites, including scabies and chiggers, do live off of humans, however. In the case of scabies, prescription medication is typically required to kill the mites.
Human Biting Mites
Several types of mites are associated with cases of skin dermatitis in humans. The tropical rat mite, Ornithonyssus bacoti, is one of the most common house invading species. The tropical fowl mite, Ornithonyssus bursa, and northern fowl mite, Ornithonyssus sylviarum, are also frequently encountered in homes. The latter two species are found principally on domestic or wild birds. The house mouse mite, Liponyssoides sanguineus, may also be found in structures with house mouse infestations. The tropical rat mite is a parasite on rats. Although none of these species are truly parasitic on humans, they bite people readily, often producing dermatitis and itching. Preventing Infestations
Prevention is the most important method of controlling an infestation of biting mites. Their tiny size means that it is nearly impossible to seal off a home from an occasional bout of mites; there are some measures that can be taken to reduce their chances of infesting a home, however. Tight door and window seals can help prevent some types of mites from getting into a home; cutting back vegetation around a house will also reduce this possibility. People should shower after being outdoors, and clothing should be washed promptly.
If rats or birds are the source of mites, then they should be dealt with first. An exterminator can help eliminate rodents living in a home, and the house itself should be made as rodent-proof and bird-proof as possible by sealing up any points of entry. Homeowners should destroy any rodent nests they find, and old bird nests should be removed and the area cleaned with bleach. If a pet bird or rodent is infested with mites, it should be treated by a veterinarian. Dealing with an Infestation
If a biting mite infestation happens anyway, there are steps that can be taken to eliminate them. All carpets, drapes, mattresses and upholstered furniture should be vacuumed thoroughly. Bedding, including pillows, sheets, and blankets, should be washed in hot water. Maintaining a regular deep cleaning schedule for the home can help prevent a reinfestation. It may be necessary to repeat these cleaning procedures a number of times before mites are eliminated. For serious infestations, the services of a professional exterminator may be required; there are a number of chemical and natural treatments that are effective in controlling biting mites.
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