The term mites covers a large group of insects and smaller organisms, none of which you want in your home.
Biology of Mites
Mites refer to nearly 30,000 different species and unsurprisingly, this means there is a great deal of variety in terms of behavior, ecology, and structure. Most mites that people are actually concerned about, however, have some key features in common. Mites are related to ticks and are very small arthropods. There are some types of mites that you can find in homes, some of which might bite people. The majority of mites, however, are harmless to people and feed on either decaying plant material or insects. Some may also eat grain, cheese, and other stored products. Only several types of mites will be parasitic to mammals and birds, but some can get into homes.
Most of the bites that people are concerned about are ectoparasites. These inhabit the skin of mammals and birds and feed on skin debris, sebaceous secretions, lymph, or blood. The mites will ingest these substances in one of several ways, including getting them from epidermal legions, scavenging them from the surface of the skin, or puncturing the skin. Ectoparasitic mites will spend their full lives in contact with their host. As such, their movement between hosts is typically done via physical contact. Endoparasitic mites are those that live in tissues, including the lungs or nasal passages.
Why Mites Are Considered Pests
In many cases, humans are not even aware that there are mites in their home or on their bodies since they are very small. It is possible for a mite infestation, which is called acariasis, to lead to mange or severe dermatitis. That could cause its own slew of problems. There are actually several kinds of mites that have been linked to skin dermatitis for humans. Tropical rat mites, tropical fowl mites, and northern fowl mites are all commonly found in homes. The last two of these are more common y wild or domestic birds. House mouse mites may also be present if you have a mouse infestation.
The thing to remember is that most of the species of mites that you can find in your home will not actually be parasitic for humans. They do not intentionally harm us or seek us out for food. That being said, they will still readily bite people without qualms. This can lead to itching and dermatitis of varying severity. Because mites are so tiny, most people are fully unaware of their presence. Many mites can be as small as the period at the end of a sentence, making them nearly impossible to spot. It should go without saying that it is nearly impossible to control something you cannot see, furthering the status of mites as pests.
Methods for Controlling Mites
To control mites, your best option is to control whatever the host of the mites is. This means that if you are dealing with bird or rodent mites, you will need to get rid of the birds or rodents. A professional can help you figure out the host and either assist with the removal of the host or recommend someone who can. You can typically get an idea of what critter is the mite’s host based on the time of the year. Bird issues are more common during summer and spring while rodent problems are most common during fall and winter despite occurring at any time. A pest control professional can also help you directly target the mites in your home using pesticides. This method, however, has to be used together with control of the host for it to be successful. Talk to the professionals about the timing of the two treatments, which should ideally be done at the same time. This way, mites will not disperse from their previous hosts and remain in your home.
There are several options for indoor pesticides that are effective on mites and safe to use. Aerosols and sprays with synergized pyrethrins are good for killing mites on contact. The problem, however, is that once applied, this treatment is only effective for several hours. Alternatively, you can use an insecticide spray with bifenthrin or permethrin, which should keep killing mites for weeks and work on multiple types of mites. Before using any pesticide inside to control mites, confirm that it is indeed safe to use inside. Then, only spray it on potential entry points and along the bases of your walls. Never spray pesticides anywhere that someone or a pet may come into direct contact with it. You can also use a desiccant dust, like diatomaceous earth or a silica aerosol. These work well in wall void access points and electrical outlets. If you find a nest for a host, then start by treating the areas closest to it using your pesticide of choice.
DIY Tips for How to Get Rid of Mites
Whenever you deal with the hosts of the mites or apply pesticides, always wear long sleeves, a tight-fitting dust mask, and gloves. This will limit your exposure to both the chemicals in the pesticides and the mites themselves. If you have rodents as pets and mites in your home, you will need to bring your rodents to the vet. Let them know that you had mites and ask for an examination to ensure your pets are safe. Your vet may suggest some sort of treatment.
You should also take some basic steps towards cleaning your home when dealing with mites. Begin by getting rid of extra clutter as this can hide mites, that includes laundry piles and stacks of paper. Dust and vacuum your entire home regularly, including drapes and furniture. Opt for dust-proof covers on your beds. You should also wash your bedding, sheets, and towels using hot water and do so frequently to kill the mites. Reducing the humidity can also help control mites, including dust mites. Most mites will prefer environments that are warm and have high humidity, so you can also use a dehumidifier to further deter them.
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