Mites

The body of a mite is usually oval with little or no difference being found between the regions. Although they are similar, mites are not the same as ticks, which are larger. Mites can be found in almost all habitats and play different roles in each. Some mites feed on plants and organic matter, while others are predators or parasites.

Most mites are not a public health threat, but some can cause discomfort or harm to animals or humans by their feeding behavior. Some burrow into the skin of a host which can lead to skin irritation. Others can transmit diseases to humans; however, this is rare.

TYPES

Mite species can be grouped into two major types based on their behavior: the free-living mite and the parasitic mite. Both groups contain mites that can benefit or harm humans.

Free-living mites include those that feed on other mites and other small arthropods, plant-feeders and those that feed on dead natural matter.

Parasitic mites feed on the blood, lymph, and digested tissues of their hosts. They have been found on almost all animals, and usually live outside of the body of a host, although scabies mites will burrow into skin. 

Prevention and Control for Common Mites

Different methods are used to control mite infestations on animals and humans, depending on the type of mite. Many different repellents can be used to keep mites from attacking humans. Some mosquito repellents containing DEET can be used to repel mites. A vacuum cleaner will collect many mites, but be sure to immediately remove the vacuum bag and seal it in a plastic bag for disposal.

Tropical Rat Mite

Found on rats and in their nests, this mite is gray to pale-yellowish gray and changes color to red or black when swollen with blood. It will bite humans when rats are not around and can cause dermatosis, which makes skin itchy and red.

Prevention and Control

  • Keep rats out of your home by rat-proofing
  • Locate the rats' nest, seal it in a plastic bag and throw it away in a covered garbage can
  • Vacuum furniture, floors, and walls to help control mites
  • Use acaricides (mite killing sprays) at the time of rat removal

Northern Fowl Mite

This mite is commonly found on domestic birds, pigeons, and many wild birds. When there are not any birds, these mites will bite humans, causing dermatosis. The Northern Fowl mite can also become a household pest when birds build nests around the outside of a home, such as in the eaves or the attic.

Prevention and Control

  • Apply acaricide spray to cracks and crevices inside of buildings housing poultry or other birds
  • Remove bird nests from around home
  • Use screens or netting so birds cannot enter eaves or attics

Chicken Mite

This mite feeds on poultry, pigeons, sparrows, and other birds. When they have not eaten, they are white, but after a blood meal they turn bright red. The females lay their eggs in cracks and crevices inside poultry houses or in bird nests. Chicken mites hide in dark places during the day and look for a blood meal at night.

Prevention and Control

  • Apply acaricide spray to cracks and crevices inside of buildings housing poultry or other birds
  • Remove bird nests from around home
  • Use screens or netting so birds cannot enter eaves or attics

Dust Mites

Dust mites can be found in house dust all over the world but are more common in areas with high humidity levels. They live in bedding, couches, carpet, stuffed toys, and clothing, feeding on the dead skin that falls off humans and animals. Some people are allergic to dust mites, but most are not. 

Prevention and Control

  • Vacuum mattresses and floor weekly
  • Put stuffed toys in dryer weekly
  • Wash bedding and clothing weekly
  • Encase mattress if dust mite numbers are high or if you are allergic
  • Lower humidity levels in the home with a de-humidifier

Scabies or Itch Mite

 Scabies or itch mites tunnel into the skin, especially on the hands and wrists, causing sores that burst and turn into scabs. The intense itching is known as "scabies." Scratching can cause bleeding and infection. Most often they are acquired by direct contact with an infected person, not an animal.

Prevention and Control

For diagnosis and treatment of scabies, dermatosis, dermatitis, and other skin conditions, contact your doctor.


Questions?

  (858) 694-2888

  vector@sdcounty.ca.gov