How do I know if I have mites in my house?

How do I know if I have mites in my house?

In the hidden corners of our homes, tiny creatures called mites can silently thrive, causing potential problems for both our health and our living environment. These microscopic pests, with their remarkable adaptability and elusive nature, can be a source of concern for many homeowners. 

But how can one determine if these unwelcome guests have taken up residence in their abode? In this article, we will explore the telltale signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of mites in your house. By understanding these indicators, you can take appropriate measures to address the situation and restore a sense of peace and comfort to your living space. So, let us embark on this journey of detection and learn how to uncover the secrets of mite infestations in your home.

What is a mite? 

What is a mite?

Mites, with a staggering count of over 45,000 known types, are elusive and multifaceted pests that belong to a broad category of troublemakers. These cunning creatures have mastered the art of wreaking havoc in various ways. From causing skin irritations and allergic reactions in humans and animals to damaging crops, furniture, and even delicate ecosystems, mites have certainly earned their reputation as troublesome adversaries. 


Where do mites live? 

These troublemakers inhabit a wide range of environments, from the depths of the sea to the vast expanse of forests and deserts. In fact, some mites can withstand temperatures as low as negative 22 degrees Fahrenheit or as high as 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

In terms of hosts, mites have adapted to live on a variety of them, including humans - such as you and me - and animals - such as birds, mammals, reptiles and even insects. For example, humans can be hosts to the Demodex folliculorum mite, which reside in hair follicles and sebaceous glands on the skin. (These mites are typically harmless and part of the natural microbiota on our bodies.)  Animals can be hosts to the Sarcoptes scabiei mite, which causes sarcoptic mange in animals such as dogs, (which leads to intense itching and skin irritation.)

Mites may also reside in soil, on plants and trees, and even within human dwellings. 

How small are they?

Mites come in a range of sizes, depending on the species. Generally, mites are very small. Here are a few examples: 

  • Dust Mites (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus): These common household mites are microscopic, measuring around 0.2 to 0.3 millimeters in length.
  • Chigger Mites (Trombiculidae family): These mites are barely visible to the naked eye and measure about 0.2 to 0.4 millimeters in size during their larval stage.
  • Bird Mites (Dermanyssus gallinae): These mites, often found in bird nests or poultry facilities, range in size from 0.7 to 1.0 millimeters.
  • Clover Mites (Bryobia praetiosa): These red-colored mites are small, measuring around 0.75 millimeters in length.
  • Scabies Mites (Sarcoptes scabiei): These parasitic mites are barely visible to the naked eye and measure about 0.2 to 0.4 millimeters in size.

To give a comparison, .1 millimeters is roughly the thickness of plastic food wrap, whereas 1.5 millimeters is the thickness of a standard United States penny. 

How do I know if I have mites in my home? 

Mites are elusive intruders. Detecting their presence can be quite the challenge, but fear not, for I shall shed light on some telltale signs that may indicate their unwelcome presence in your home. Keep a keen eye out for:

  1. Skin irritation and itching: Mites are notorious for causing skin irritations and itching, particularly the human scabies mite (Sarcoptes scabiei). If you notice persistent itching or unexplained skin irritations, scabies mites could be the culprits. 
  2. Human scabies mites: These mites burrow into the skin and lay their eggs. The intense itching they cause is a result of the body's immune response to the mites and their activities, which include burrowing and leaving behind feces and secretions, beneath the skin. 
  3. Allergic reactions: Mite allergens can trigger allergic reactions in some individuals. Symptoms may include sneezing, runny nose, congestion, watery eyes or even asthma-like symptoms. If you or your family members experience these allergic responses without an apparent cause, mites could be a possibility.
  4. Visible signs of infestation: Though mites themselves are tiny and difficult to spot, you may notice visible signs of their presence. Look for clusters of small dots or black specks on bedding, furniture or carpets. These could be mite droppings or dead mites.
  5. Dust allergies: Mites thrive in dust, and their presence can contribute to increased dust levels in your home. If you or your family members suffer from dust allergies that seem to persist despite regular cleaning efforts, mites might be playing a role.
  6. Unexplained bites: If you wake up with unexplained bites or tiny red welts on your body, it could be a sign of mite activity. Certain mite species, such as bed mites or bird mites, may bite humans, leaving behind itchy, red marks.

What mites might I find in my home? 

There are five species of these tiny nuisances that might infiltrate your humble abode:

  • Dust mites: These pesky little creatures (both the Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus and the Dermatophagoides farinae species) make themselves at home in your bedding, carpets and upholstery, causing allergic reactions and making your life itchier than a wool sweater.
  • Storage mites: These sneaky fellows, including grain mites and flour mites, invade your pantry, feasting on your grains, cereals and dried fruits. They're like tiny thieves, silently enjoying their feast while you're left with contaminated food.
  • House mites: A diverse bunch that includes clover mites, spider mites and itch mites. Clover mites and spider mites can wreak havoc on your plants, whereas itch mites can make your skin crawl with their irritating bites.
  • Rat mites: These unwelcome companions are associated with rodent infestations. As if dealing with the rodents themselves wasn't enough, these mites add insult to injury with their itchy bites and persistent presence. It's like a double dose of misery you certainly didn't sign up for.

What attracts mites? 

Ah, the allure of mites… These crafty creatures are attracted to a myriad of things that can make our homes their prime hunting grounds. Allow me to shed some light on the tantalizing temptations that draw mites to our homes, like moths to a flame:

  • Warmth and humidity: Mites thrive in environments with elevated temperatures and humidity levels. The cozy warmth of our homes, especially in the nooks and crannies where dust accumulates, provides the perfect breeding ground for these little nuisances.
  • Skin flakes and dander: Mites have a particular fondness for the feast of skin flakes and dander that we unwittingly leave behind. As we shed dead skin cells, these microscopic morsels become an irresistible banquet for mites, particularly the notorious dust mites.
  • Dust and debris: Mites have a knack for taking refuge in the dust and debris that gathers in our homes. Dust acts as a cozy hiding spot, offering protection and nourishment for mites to thrive. 
  • Moisture and mold: Mites are also drawn to moisture and areas where mold growth is prevalent. Damp environments, such as bathrooms or areas with water leaks, provide the ideal conditions for mites to flourish.
  • Food sources: Certain types of mites, such as storage mites, are attracted to food items. Like pantry moths, they can infest dry goods like grains, cereals and pet food, making them less appetizing for human consumption.

How do I get rid of mites? 

Ah, the quest to rid your home of mites is a noble endeavor indeed. Fear not, for I will equip you with the knowledge to combat these pesky creatures - from dust mites to spider mites - and restore harmony to your abode. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Clean and declutter: Regularly clean and vacuum your home, paying close attention to areas where dust tends to accumulate, such as carpets, rugs, bedding and upholstery. Be thorough in your cleaning efforts to remove any potential hiding spots for mites.
  • Wash and (hot) dry: Wash your bedding, linens, curtains and other fabric items regularly in hot water to kill mites and remove their allergenic particles. After washing, make sure to dry them in a hot dryer as well, as the high temperature helps eliminate mites effectively.
  • Encase mattresses and pillows: Consider using allergen-proof covers on mattresses, pillows and box springs. These covers create a barrier that prevents mites from infiltrating these cozy havens and reduce the chances of allergic reactions.
  • Reduce humidity: Mites thrive in humid environments, so it's important to keep humidity levels in check. Use dehumidifiers in damp areas like basements or bathrooms, and ensure proper ventilation to minimize excess moisture.
  • Limit food sources: If you're dealing with food mites, store dry goods like grains, cereals and pet food in airtight containers to prevent mite infestation. Regularly check for signs of mites in your pantry and discard any contaminated items.
  • Use Dust to Dust on your plants: If you have spider mites or clover mites on your plants, Dust to Dust will not only deter them, but will also help your plants grow healthy and strong, as silica (one of its main ingredients) is essential for the healthy growth and development of plants.  Silica reduces mite populations through creating an abrasive plant surface and by stimulating the production of a plant’s defensive compounds that will deter mites. For best results, apply as a wettable powder to the plant’s soil, leaves and stems.  
  • Use Dust to Dust in other areas: Lightly sprinkle Dust to Dust on carpets, rugs and upholstered furniture, focusing on areas where pets or infested items are located. Consider using the Insect Buster for Dust to Dust application, as this will allow you to disperse the product evenly. For bedding, dust a thin layer of Dust to Dust on mattresses, pillows and bedding materials, paying attention to seams and folds. Allow it to sit for a few hours before vacuuming or laundering. (If vacuuming, using a vacuum with a HEPA filter is a must.) Apply Dust to Dust along baseboards, around window sills and in cracks and crevices where mites may be hiding. If your pets have been infested, don't forget to sprinkle Dust to Dust on their bedding. If you suspect mite activity in outdoor areas, apply Dust to Dust around the perimeter of your house and patio. It's advisable to wear a mask and gloves to avoid inhaling the dust or irritating your skin during the application process.

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