Get Rid of Mites
Latin Name: Class Arachnida: Order Acarina
Mites are one of the smallest arthropods found all over the world. They belong to the class Arachnida and are closely related to ticks and spiders. The majority of mites are ectoparasites of other animals; however, some species are known to infest stored food products, while others are plant feeders. Tens of thousands of different types of mites exist worldwide, with Canada being home to several thousand species. One square metre of Canadian forest soil may contain over 100 different species of mites. Though many mite species are beneficial, others can cause skin irritation or affect allergies. Some pest mites found in Canada include clover mites, house dust mites, bird mites, itch mites, and scabies mites, cheese mites, grain mites, flour mites, and mould mites.
Appearance / Identification
What Do Mites Look Like?
Similar in appearance to ticks but much smaller, mites have bulbous, round, or pill-shaped bodies. Classified as arachnids, mites have eight jointed legs. Their size varies by species, but most mites are usually invisible to the naked eye. The largest mites measure about 6 mm long, while the smallest are about 0.1 mm. The colour of mites varies greatly as well; most mites appear tan, brown, or reddish-brown, but some species are bright red, blue, or green in colour.
View more pictures of mites
Mites are ubiquitous and live in nearly every habitat, including deep soil and aquatic environments. As parasites of birds, mammals, and flying insects, mites may spread wherever host animals travel. These arachnids live either in the host’s environment, such as a bird’s nest, or on the host itself. Some species such as scabies and chigger mites can bury themselves under human skin and tissue. Mites that commonly affect humans often live in carpets, furniture, and mattresses.
Mites thrive by forming parasitic relationships with other organisms. Specific diets vary by species. Mites that are troublesome to humans feed on blood for sustenance. Most biting mites actually prefer to feed on other animals and resort to biting humans when alternative options are scarce. Common household mites, like dust mites, feed on flakes of dead skin from humans and pets.
Life Cycle / Reproduction
The mite lifecycle consists of four stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. Eggs hatch into six-legged larvae, which molt several times before entering the eight-legged nymphal stage. As nymphs, mites molt an additional one to three times before maturing into full grown eight-legged adults. Development from an egg to an adult usually takes several weeks; however, under ideal conditions development time can shorten to just a few days. After reaching adulthood, mites may live for several months.
Problems Caused by Mites
Some mites bite humans. Bites usually occur around the ankles, armpits, and areas where clothing rubs tightly against the skin. Depending on species, mite bites may be painful or go unnoticed. Nearly all bites result in itchy red marks or rashes. Intense itching may occur, and scratching may lead to infection. Symptoms usually develop within a day and may last as long as a week. Scabies mites may cause persistent, intensely itchy rashes because the pests burrow into the skin to breed and then emerge to feed on flesh. Bites from chiggers and scabies mites can transmit diseases to humans and livestock.
Mites can also be nuisances without biting. People with dust allergies are usually allergic to dust mites, which live in carpets and furniture. Mite carcasses and feces can become airborne and be inhaled, which can cause individuals with dust allergies to experience stuffy noses, watery eyes, and sneezing. Additionally, herbivorous mites, such as spider and eriophyid mites, can harm crops and may cause substantial economic losses involving grains and other organic products.
Detection / Signs of Infestation
As most mites are invisible to the naked eye, infestations can be difficult to detect until the pests become problematic. Usually, homeowners start to notice mite infestations if allergies feel worse after waking up or if small red welts or rashes appear on the skin. However, it is important to note that allergy reactions and welts may not necessarily be caused by mites. Pets that excessively itch may have mites. Red bumps and sores from biting or scratching the affected area can further indicate the presence of mites on pets. Adult mites are often visible when moving on the surface of infested product and plants.
Mow your lawn and remove weeds regularly to prevent bringing outdoor mites into the home. Also, keep leaf litter a fair distance from the house. Keeping pets clean also helps reduce the occurrence of mites. If performing outdoor activities in wooded areas, such as hiking, trail biking, or sightseeing, wear clothing that covers most of your skin.
To prevent the occurrence of mites that thrive indoors, clean the house regularly. This includes dusting surfaces and vacuuming carpets. Give extra attention to the bedrooms, as dust mites commonly live on or near mattresses. Wash linens and sheets in hot water every two weeks, and try to keep the humidity level below 50% in the bedroom. Individuals with particularly severe allergies to dust mites may want to consider purchasing antimicrobial mattresses, mattress encasements, and pillow covers.