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The mite is a small, eight-legged animal that you can’t actually see with the naked eye, with a size of less than 1 mm. Mites, Acariformes, together with ticks form the order Acarina, with some 546 families and more than 45,000 species. Of these, 2,500 live in water and more than 10,000 are parasitic. This article especially dives further into the house dust mite.
Because they are such tiny critters, scientists believe they have yet to discover the majority of mite concerns. Despite their size, they come in many different shapes and sizes so they can vary a lot among themselves. Describing mite species falls under arachnology. Mites therefore fall under the class spinoids (Arachnica), but remember that they are not spiders.
House dust mite
The house dust mite, Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, is a tiny mite only 0.3 mm in size. This mite is found all over the world, in almost every climate. Just not at high altitudes where it has difficulty reproducing. The European variant of the house dust mite is the Eruoglyphus maynei.
The house dust mite is always found in a house where people or animals are present, that is a fact. The tricky thing is that some people are allergic to the dust mites, which is very annoying because they are everywhere in your house.
The flour mite, Tyroglyphys farinae, is a species that, as its name implies, you find a lot in packs of flour. Flour is their main food source, but they can also consume a variety of other products derived from plants or animals.
Spider mites are small mites that are especially fond of plants. The red spider mite is bright red and lives on numerous plants where they can cause stippling and brown spots on the leaves. You find them especially in warm greenhouses.
The bird mite, Dermanyssus galinae, is a globally common parasite that you find mainly on wild birds and poultry. Naturally, you encountered this mite in places where birds had nests. In humans, the bird mite can cause a long-lasting skin rash. When there are no or too few birds, the bird mite seeks out humans (or other animals).
Habitat of mites in Belgium
The house dust mite is the one we encounter the most as humans and also causes the most problems related to allergies. This mite lives wherever it is dark, warm and humid. There is no particular area in Belgium where you will encounter them more or less, they are standard in every household.
Outward characteristics of mites
The most striking thing about the (house dust) mite is its size. At 0.1 to 1.0 mm in size, these are very small animals. The house dust mite achieves a size of 0.2 mm. Mites always have 8 legs, unless the insect is still in an early life stage, in which case the animal may also occur with 6 legs that later expand to 8.
Mites fall under arachnids in that they have 8 legs. A major difference from true spiders and mites, is that spiders have a body that is clearly divided into two parts. A mite’s body consists of only 1 segment.
Lifestyle and diet
Here we look at the house dust mite, which most suffer from. Mites collect, live and mate anywhere they can find food. Places with lots of dust and fibers is where dust mites can find most of their food. That’s why you find them a lot in mattresses, pillows, blankets, carpets, curtains, dog and cat baskets, and so on. They like to stay in a place that is dark, warm and moist.
Enemies of the mite
Interestingly, the mite has relatively few natural enemies, probably due to its microscopic size. In nature, they are only killed by predators such as larger insects or by being burned in the sun. In the home, however, they have no enemy and can go about their business undisturbed.
Reproduction and longevity
In mites, it is the females that lay the eggs, from which the young emerge. In the first larval stage, it is common for the young larvae to have only 6 legs instead of 8. Where they reproduce depends very much on the species. For example, a mange mite, sarcoptes mite, will only reproduce on dogs because they are host specific.
Nuisances and diseases
It depends on the species of mite, but there are species that carry diseases and can transmit them to humans. For example, a mange mite such as Sarcoptes can transmit mange, which causes itching and skin problems. The ear mite can cause a lot of itching and scratching of the ears in dogs and cats.
However, the mite we encounter most often as humans is the house dust mite. These fortunately do not carry diseases. However, people can be allergic to them, making it unpleasant to have this mite around.
This allergy is caused by the mite’s feces. A protein in these droppings activate the allergic reaction. In addition, it also happens that when a mite grows, it throws off its exoskeleton which also contains a protein that can trigger the allergy.
Controlling mites is difficult because they are so small and many species are immune to insecticides. Therefore, it is impossible to completely eradicate all dust mites. However, you can reduce the population and you can prevent lots of new ones from coming in.
Here it is especially important to prevent dust and moisture as much as possible. All fabric furniture should be vacuumed at least twice a week, don’t forget the curtains as well. Your comforter covers should also be washed regularly to kill the mites.
There are also special vacuum cleaners, air filters, dust mite killers and special mattress covers; but these products have not been officially proven to actually curb or not curb the population of dust mites in your home.
If you really want to rigorously remove a large number of mites from your home, it is best to hire and professional who can help you with this major operation.
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