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Magnified Image of a Mite

Common Species And Control Techniques

Mite Facts
Mites are arthropods. The body of a mite is usually oval with little or no difference being found between the regions. They are not the same things as ticks. Although they are similar, ticks are larger. Mites can be found in almost all habitats and play different roles in each. They feed on plants, organic matter and some are predators or parasites. Some types of mites can cause serious damage to plants.

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.

Two Types Of Mites
Mite species can be grouped into two major types based on their behavior. One is the free-living mite and the other is 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, those that feed on plants and those that feed on dead natural matter.

Parasitic mites usually live outside of the body of a host. Mites that live on the outside of the body have been found on almost all animals.  Only a few species of mites can live inside the skin.  These mites feed on blood, lymph and digested tissues of their hosts.

Common Mites:

Northern Fowl Mite: This mite is commonly found on domestic birds, pigeons and many wild birds. It produces several generations each year and can live away from a host for 2-3 weeks. When there are not any birds, these mites will bite humans causing dermatosis, which makes skin itchy and red. This mite can also become a household pest when birds build nests around the outside of a home, such as the eaves or in attics.

Tropical Rat Mite: This mite is found on rats and in their nests. It is gray to pale-yellowish gray and changes color to red or black when swelled up with blood. This mite can grow from an egg to an adult in anywhere from 6-12 days. It can live up to 63 days without feeding. This mite will bite humans when rats are not around and can cause dermatosis. Preventing rats from entering the home is the best protection against this mite.

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. They can grow from egg to adult in as little as one week. An adult can survive without a blood meal for 4-5 months. Chicken mites hide in dark places during the day and look for a blood meal at night.

Itch or Scabies Mite: These mites tunnel into the skin, especially on hands and wrists. Sores burst turn into scabs. Itching is intense and known as 'scabies.' Scratching can cause bleeding and infection. Most often you get them by direct contact with an infected person, not an animal. See your doctor right away for control of Scabies.

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

Controlling 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 remove the vacuum bag right away and seal it in a plastic bag for disposal.

Here are some ways to control different types of mites:

Controlling Tropical Rat Mites

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

Northern Fowl And Chicken Mites

  • 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 can not enter eaves or attics

Controlling Dust Mites

  • 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 home with a de-humidifier

Controlling Itch or Scabies Mites
For diagnosis and treatment of scabies, dermatitis and other skin conditions, contact your doctor.

For More Information On 
Mites Or Other Vectors Contact: 
(858) 694-2888  
vector@sdcounty.ca.gov
 Vector Control Program