Mite Myths & Bad Advice


Mite Myths and Common Bad Advice


In an age where anyone who owns a computer or cell phone can publish their thoughts to the internet, it’s particularly important to discuss some common myths and misconceptions surrounding mite treatment. As a pest control store owner who has conducted extensive consultations with more than 1,000 mite customers in the last five years, I feel compelled to expose some of the bad advice I’ve encountered online.



BAD TIP #1: Put your vacuum bag into the freezer to kill mites so that they don’t re-infest the home.


This little gem of wisdom has been distributed via articles and blogs throughout the internet. The truth is that some mites shut down their metabolisms during the winter. Bird mites in particular are famous for this. After a period of hibernation, they simply perk up when the weather changes. Springtails—hexapods which are often mistaken for mites—can be found floating along ice cold riverbanks or jumping on top of snow. Many of God’s ultra tiny creatures have an uncanny ability to survive frigid winters. Hence, it’s a good idea to keep your vacuum bags out of the freezer, especially if the mite in questions hasn’t been formally identified by a veterinarian or entomologist. You wouldn’t want to introduce problems to an area that was previously mite or insect free.


BAD TIP #2: Mites are invisible to the naked eye. You can’t see mites without a high powered microscope.


Many mites can be seen without a microscope. When viewed under a magnifying glass, bird and rodent mites look like tiny spiders. Scabies mites resemble tiny turtles. Springtails look like little insects. Most species will have a tail-like appendage known as the furcula. It’s possible you won’t spot the tail right away, as it may be tucked up under the abdomen. When in doubt, use Google Image Search to find pictures of common mites that bother humans. If you don’t own a magnifying glass, run out and buy one immediately. No mite infested home should be without one! To increase your chances of catching a glimpse of random attackers, keep one magnifying glass beside your bed and another near your favorite sofa or armchair. Study your skin the moment you feel a crawling sensation. A formal identification of the organism infesting your home or skin can only be obtained from a degreed professional with a microscope. However, certain environmental factors can provide clues as to what kind of mite you may be dealing with. If you’ve found abandoned bird nests in your attic or gutters, bird mites may be the culprit. If you’ve recently dealt with a rodent infestation, rodent mites will be your prime suspects. If you have pets, mange mites could be the enemy. If you feel sensations of being swarmed by several micro tiny creatures at one time, springtails or straw itch mites could be the enemy. This list of generalizations is not meant to serve as a guide for medical diagnosis. A proper mite treatment regimen should include appointments and consultations with medical professionals. We are simply here to provide organic alternatives to individuals who may be sensitive to chemicals.


BAD TIP #3: Spread diatomaceous earth over your carpet and leave it there until your mite infestation is over.


If conquering a chronic mite infestation was that simple, I wouldn’t be in business. Diatomaceous earth is made of fossilized remains of algae. It may look like a soft powder, but it’s really more like fiberglass. It’s not an immediate contact killer, but it holds the power to slash and erode the exoskeletons of insects that crawl through it repeatedly. When spread over wide areas indoors, diatomaceous can become airborne and irritate the lungs. I’ve encountered many clients who have become ill from applying the stuff too generously. Therefore, it’s best to use diatomaceous earth in isolated areas. For example, you might spread DE under the bed or sprinkle it into crawl spaces. (Beware that pets might come along and sniff it.) Also keep in mind that floors aren’t the only place where mites are found. They commonly hang out on beds and couches, which are best treated with organic spray products. Mites can also live under carpeting or inside wall voids. Unlike bedbugs which tend to remain hidden, many types of mites will openly hang out on walls. For this reason, it’s a fantastic idea to go over walls with a Swiffer wet mop that has been saturated with our organic formula. If you intend to fog the home with our product, this labor intensive step won’t be necessary, as the fog will settle on walls and flat surfaces.


BAD TIP #4: Apply essential oils to skin full strength.


The essential oils most commonly associated with mite control are cedar, tea tree, peppermint and eucalyptus. All of these oils are quite powerful and aromatic. When applied to skin, they should be mixed into a gentle lotion or carrier oil such as coconut oil.  Treating full strength can result in excessive dryness or dermatitis. When the skin is chronically dry, hairline cracks can become gateways for certain types of mites to work their way below the skin’s surface.


BAD TIP #5: When you see a pustule or raised bump, pick it open so that the mites can get out.


Bumps and pustules should not be viewed as clear evidence that mites are hiding beneath the skin. In fact, many types of mites that infest homes are surface dwellers that drop off skin after feeding. (Scabies are most famous for burrowing. The Chielytiella mite can also burrow superficially.) A bump or pustule on the skin can provide evidence that you’ve been bitten, but it doesn’t mean the mite that attacked you is still there. Furthermore, scratching and picking are both excellent ways to spread a scabies infestation from one area of the body to another. If the mite in question hasn’t been formally identified by a physician or veterinarian, avoid scratching or use latex gloves when touching irritated areas. Discard the gloves immediately  and apply new gloves before scratching other areas of the body. As noted above, cracked or broken skin can become a gateway for mites to wander below the skin’s surface.


BAD TIP #6: Mites are only attracted to women.


The reigning theory is that that women harbor yeast to a higher degree than men, which attracts certain types of micro tiny attackers. However, plenty of men have called me to report symptoms that match the sensations felt by their wives.


BAD TIP #7: Only unhealthy people can get mites.


There are many healthy individuals who battle mite infestations. Bird and rodent mites tend to bother all occupants living within a given space, although people with compromised immune systems seem to be bitten more frequently. Sick or elderly occupants may also experience much greater irritation from the bites. The same is true of mange mite infestations, particularly those connected to sarcoptic and cheyletiella mites. The human scabies mite is quite adept at infesting anyone who comes into direct contact with it, including young or healthy individuals with no preexisting medical conditions.


BAD TIP #8:  Most mite victims are crazy. They only THINK that parasites are infesting them.


Delusional Parasitosis is a very real disorder, but it’s more rare than the Internet would have you believe. The overwhelming majority of my customers are intelligent, articulate and well read. Some own microscopes and many have collected evidence from their surroundings.


BAD TIP #9: I must throw away my bed:  Good idea, but if you bring a new bed into a mite infested home, it will likely become infested.


Unless you have endless money to shop for new furniture anytime you like, keep your mattress and use double encasements. In general, I see no reason to discard furniture for infestations connected to bird, rodent and mange mites. Springtail cases are another matter.


BAD TIP #10: Springtails can’t bother humans.


I’ve seen magnified pictures of springtails collected from bedding in homes where bird mites were once thought to be the culprit. I’ve also encountered individuals who have collected samples that where identified by pest control companies. I’m particularly disturbed by the number of springtail infestations that were originally misdiagnosed as bird or rodent mite cases. This is why I spend so much time teaching customers how to trap mites using glue boards, food bait and carbon dioxide traps. I want people to seek entomologists and veterinarians who are skilled at identifying micro tiny parasites. The emotional relief connected to the formal identification of a longstanding parasite problem is priceless! If you can’t find an entomologist who is willing to identify the samples you’ve collected, offer to pay a veterinarian for a consultation.