Most Common Types
There are thousands of species of mites which, like ticks, are small arthropods. The most bothersome to humans and pets are clover mites, dust mites, itch mites, tropical rat mites, tropical fowl mites, and scabies mites.
What They Look Like
Mites are microscopic; some are virtually invisible to the naked eye, others are about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Adult mites have four pairs of legs while larvae have three pairs. Clover mites are approximately 0.75 millimeter long and can be distinguished by their long front pair of legs under magnification. Dust mites and female scabies mites are smaller at about 0.3 millimeters.
Where They Live
The most common mites are parasites which live on or under the skin of birds and mammals. Dust mites live in furniture upholstery, pillows, and mattresses. Itch mites live on insect larvae living in straw, hay, grasses, or leaves. Humans are bitten when they come in contact with this plant material.
Where They Nest
Scabies mites burrow under the skin and produce tiny tunnels in which they lay eggs. Rodent mites nest in warm areas, like around pipes and furnaces, where rats and mice live. Bird mites live in cracks and crevices where birds nest.
Steps to Prevent
Because of their size, mites are nearly impossible to identify in an environment. However, the presence of mite bites indicate that preventative measures need to be taken. A good vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter will remove clover mites, bird and rodent mites, and dust mites. Dust mites also thrive in high humidity (above 50%) and die in dry air. Run a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain low humidity in damp areas of the home.
Are They Harmful?
While they rarely transmit disease, mites can affect a person’s health. Dust mites and their feces are major components of dust. They can trigger “dust allergies” and asthma attacks. Itch mites, rodent mites, and bird mites can leave red rash-like marks on the skin and cause irritation and itching. When the mites bite pets it causes mange.