Mites can be a nuisance for both plants and humans alike. These tiny pests can wreak havoc in your garden or cause discomfort in your home due to allergies. In this article, we will discuss various methods and strategies for getting rid of mites to create a more enjoyable environment for you and your plants.
One common method for tackling mites in the garden is by using non-chemical controls, such as blasting the affected plants with a jet of water to dislodge the mites. However, this technique is not suitable for very young or delicate plants Oregon State University Extension. In cases of dust mite allergies, sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) has been approved by the FDA as an option for treatment, effectively training the immune system to no longer recognize dust mites as allergens Harvard Health.
- Non-chemical control pros:
- Environmentally friendly
- No risk of pesticide resistance in mites
- Non-chemical control cons:
- May not be as effective as chemical methods
- May require more frequent treatment
There are various options and factors to consider when it comes to getting rid of mites. Stay tuned as we explore these methods in depth and help you find the best solution to tackle the mite issue.
Identifying Different Types of Mites
- Commonly found: Indoors, carpets, furniture, and bedding
- Feeds on: Dead skin cells
- Size: Extremely tiny, reaching about 0.25 millimeters
- Visible through: Microscope
Dust mites are most commonly found indoors, in items such as carpets, furniture, and bedding. They primarily feed on dead skin cells and are extremely tiny, usually measuring about 0.25 millimeters. To identify them, you may need to use a microscope 1.
- Commonly found: Plants, trees, shrubs
- Feeds on: Plant tissues
- Size: Minute, around the size of a period on a page
- Color: Varies based on species
Spider mites are often found on plants, trees, and shrubs 2. Although they are minute creatures, they can be somewhat easier to identify than dust mites. Spider mites have a feeding preference for plant tissues. Their size is around the size of a period on a page, and their color varies based on the species 3.
- Commonly found: Sun-exposed concrete surfaces, patios, sidewalks, retaining walls
- Feeds on: Grass, plants
- Size: Tiny, about 0.75 millimeters
- Color: Bright red
Clover mites, sometimes called “concrete mites,” can be found on sun-exposed concrete surfaces like patios, sidewalks, and retaining walls 4. These tiny, bright red arachnids, measuring about 0.75 millimeters, are vegetarians and feed on grass and plants.
- Commonly found: Human skin
- Feeds on: Sebum, skin cells
- Size: Tiny, around 0.1-0.4 millimeters
- Visible through: Microscope
Demodex mites are commonly found living on human skin and feed on sebum and skin cells. They measure around 0.1-0.4 millimeters in size and are generally visible only through microscopic examination. Consult a healthcare provider if you suspect Demodex mite infestation5.
- Commonly found: Pet ears, dogs, cats
- Feeds on: Ear wax, oil
- Size: Tiny, visible as small white dots
- Symptoms: Ear discharge, itching, foul odor
Ear mites are commonly found in the ears of pets, particularly dogs and cats. They feed on ear wax and oil and are tiny but visible as small white dots. Symptoms of ear mite infestations include ear discharge, itching, and foul odor. It is advised to seek veterinary care for proper diagnosis and treatment 6.
Household Measures for Preventing Mite Infestations
Mites thrive in humid environments, so reducing humidity can help prevent infestations. Using a dehumidifier can maintain humidity levels below 50% and discourage mite growth.
- Pros: Reduces mite population, improves air quality
- Cons: May need multiple dehumidifiers for larger spaces
Vacuuming at least once per week can prevent mite buildup on carpets and furniture. Using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter will trap mites and their allergens, reducing their spread.
Examples of surfaces to vacuum:
- Upholstered furniture
Washing Bedding and Fabrics
Washing bedding and fabrics in hot water (at least 130°F or 54°C) will kill dust mites. This should be done weekly for effective prevention.
Items to wash in hot water:
- Mattress pads
- Stuffed toys
Encasing mattresses, box springs, and pillows in dust-mite-resistant covers can prevent mite infestations from spreading through bedding. Dust-proof covers should be made of a tightly woven fabric that prevents mites from penetrating the surface.
Steam cleaning effectively kills mites on many surfaces, including carpets and furniture. Steam cleaners use hot water vapor to penetrate surfaces and provide a deep clean.
- Pros: Kills mites on contact, chemical-free, effective on various surfaces
- Cons: Time-consuming, potential for moisture buildup if not dried properly
In summary, preventing mite infestations at home can be achieved with steps, such as reducing humidity, frequent vacuuming, washing bedding and fabrics, using dust-proof covers, and steam cleaning. These measures help create a cleaner and healthier environment for those with allergies or asthma.
Outdoor Mite Control and Prevention
Lawn and Garden Care
One way to prevent mite infestations is by maintaining good lawn and garden care practices.
- Keep the vegetation well-trimmed
- Remove dead leaves and debris
- Make sure to water adequately
These healthy practices can help control mite populations and ensure the plants remain strong and less susceptible to damage from mites, such as spider mites.
Using Predator Mites
Introducing predator mites can be an effective way to control mite infestations in your outdoor spaces. Examples of predator mites include:
- Phytoseiulus persimilis
- Neoseiulus californicus
- Amblyseius andersoni
These species feed on various mites, such as spider mites and house mites, including the common Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus. By releasing them into your lawn or garden, they can help reduce the population of harmful mites and protect your plants.
Pros of using predator mites:
- Natural method
- Targets specific pests
- Minimizes damage to plants
Cons of using predator mites:
- May require regular releases
- Effectiveness varies depending on conditions
When dealing with a severe mite infestation, you may need to resort to applying insecticides. Here are some commonly used insecticides:
- Horticultural oils
- Neem oil
- Pyrethrin-based products
These insecticides can help control the population of mites, such as spider mites, ticks, and ear mites, and prevent further damage to your plants.
It’s essential to follow the product’s instructions for application and safety. Be sure to properly identify the type of mite you’re dealing with to select the right insecticide for your specific issue.
- Effective in controlling mite populations
- Wide variety of products available
- Can be used as a last resort
- Can harm beneficial insects
- Overuse can lead to resistance
- Potential environmental concerns
Skin Mite Treatment and Prevention
Over-the-Counter Creams, Gels, and Lotions
Over-the-counter creams, gels, and lotions can be effective in treating skin mites like scabies or demodex. For example, scabicide lotions or creams can be applied to the entire body to treat scabies 1. These can be found at most pharmacies and should be used as per the instructions.
- Permethrin cream
- Crotamiton lotion
In some cases, a visit to a doctor may be necessary for more severe infestations or if over-the-counter treatments do not provide relief. A physician may prescribe medications to help with itchiness, redness, or other symptoms associated with mite infestations.
Examples of prescriptions:
- Oral ivermectin
- Topical corticosteroids
Some home remedies can provide relief from skin mite symptoms, although their effectiveness may vary. It is important to consult a doctor before trying any home remedies.
- Tea tree oil
- Apple cider vinegar
Self-Care and Cleaning Routines
Good hygiene and self-care practices can help prevent and treat skin mite infestations. Keeping a clean environment is essential to prevent the spread of mites.
- Wash clothes, bedding, and towels regularly
- Vacuum and dust your home frequently
- Shower daily
- Avoid sharing personal items like brushes, clothing, and towels
Using Essential Oils to Combat Mites
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a powerful natural remedy for mites. Extracted from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, it has antimicrobial and insecticidal properties.
To use tea tree oil against mites:
- Mix 15-20 drops of tea tree oil with 1 cup of water in a spray bottle.
- Shake well and spray affected areas daily.
- For bedding and furniture, allow it to air dry before using.
- Natural and chemical-free
- Effective against various mite species
- May cause allergic reactions in some individuals
- Frequent application may be necessary
Eucalyptus oil, derived from the eucalyptus tree leaves, has proven to be an effective solution in combating mites as well.
To use eucalyptus oil:
- Mix 10-15 drops of eucalyptus oil with 1 cup of water in a spray bottle.
- Shake and spray on affected areas.
- Reapply every few days for the best results.
- Natural and eco-friendly
- Repels mites and soothes itching
- May not be as potent as tea tree oil
- Requires regular application
|Tea Tree Oil||Eucalyptus Oil|
|Pros:||Natural and effective against mites||Natural, eco-friendly, and repels mites|
|Cons:||Possible allergic reactions and frequent application||Less potent, regular application needed|
Using essential oils such as tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil can help you get rid of mites in a natural and eco-friendly way. However, it is important to remember that some individuals may have allergic reactions to these oils, and they may require frequent applications for the best results.
Special Considerations for People with Health Conditions
Allergy sufferers, especially those who have allergies to mites, may experience symptoms such as sneezing, itchy eyes, or a runny nose. To reduce the presence of mites and ease allergy symptoms, consider:
- Using a HEPA filter in your vacuum cleaner and air purifier
- Washing bedding frequently in hot cycles (above 55°C)
- Minimizing carpets, upholstery, and stuffed toys in your living space
People with Asthma
For those with asthma, mites can trigger asthma symptoms. To reduce exposure to mites, take these steps:
- Use dust mite-proof bedding covers
- Opt for hard flooring instead of carpets
- Keep humidity levels low in your home
Individuals with Skin Conditions
Mite infestations, such as Demodex mites, can worsen skin conditions like eczema. To prevent mite-related skin issues, you can:
- Maintain a consistent cleansing routine
- Avoid allergenic skincare products
- Consult a dermatologist for personalized advice
|Tips||Allergy Sufferers||People with Asthma||Individuals with Skin Conditions|
|Use HEPA filters||✔️||✔️|
|Wash bedding frequently||✔️|
|Dust mite-proof covers||✔️|
|Avoid allergenic products||✔️|
|Consult a dermatologist||✔️|
By implementing these tips, people with health conditions can effectively reduce mite populations and mitigate their negative impacts on their well-being.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Mite
Biting bug in SoCal
Location: San Diego, CA
February 6, 2012 3:31 pm
My husband and I were getting bites after a Xmas trip to South America and we figured we picked up bed bugs in a hotel or on our luggage. After an exterminator came by and found no sign of bed bugs, we bought mattress covers and climbups to search for these pests ourselves. My husband finally caught one biting him and then we found another running around on his stomach yesterday (gross). They’re both about 0.5mm and the latter was quite a fast runner. The pics were taken by a microscope in the lab of a friend. It’s now February here in Southern CA. Our bedroom has a big palm tree resting on it and I’ve long thought there might be rodents or birds in the tree (we can hear things running around on the roof sometimes). Last week I found a dead mouse next to our house so I’m thinking maybe it’s a bird/rodent mite? The tree is slated for trimming this weekend and our exterminator is coming back to check our place for mice and these bugs. A ny help on IDing this guy would be fantastic.
Signature: Bummed out in SoCal
Dear Bummed out in SoCal,
We agree that this is a Mite and it most likely is connected to birds or rodents. Perhaps you have a rodent nest in your attic or possibly an abandoned bird nest in the eaves that has caused the Mites to seek human blood. Good luck with your extermination.
Letter 2 – Little Red Bugs
We had these little red bugs in our window seals we didn’t have them last year but this year we do they are the size of a pin drop with little legs if you can’t think of what they are I will have my husband send a picture of them but there just in the window seal.
Certain types of Running Mites, family Erythraeidae, are bright red. They look like tiny spiders. They are predatory, feeding on other mites and small insects. They will not harm you nor your home.
Letter 3 – Mason Bee with Mites
Subject: Black bug with wings and 6 legs
Geographic location of the bug: Denton texas
Time: 03:37 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Just curious as to what this is.
How you want your letter signed: Justin
The large insect in your images is some species of Hymenopteran, most likely a species of solitary Bee, and it appears to be crawling with Mites. We searched for information on Bees and Mites and we discovered a site, Bee Mite ID, that can be used to identify the Mites, but better images are needed and input from someone with far more skills at identifying mites than we have, like an acarist, would be helpful. We found an image on BugGuide of a Bumble Bee with Mites, another image on BugGuide of an Orchard Bee with Mites, and an image of a Mason Bee with Mites also on BugGuide. Some Mites that infest insects and arthropods are detrimental to the health of the Bees and the Nests, while other Mites only use insects to move from place to place, a phenomenon known as Phoresy, and those Mites, even when numerous, are not detrimental to the host. We will write to Eric Eaton in the hope of getting a more specific identification for you. Was this Bee able to fly?
Yes, a mason bee covered in mites. I am no mite expert and am not sure whether they are beneficial to the bee, detrimental to the bee, or of no consequence at all. Looks like even mite experts are still trying to sort them out:
I wish I could be more helpful.
author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America
Facebook Posting by Lisa Phillips: My Mason bee blocks got infested with these mites. Built new blocks and burned the old ones.
Thank you so much for the quick response. I’m not sure if it was able to fly. It did not try to fly away when i walked up to it so i am assuming that it couldnt. Unfortunately those are the only two pictures that i got of it. I really do appreciate you finding this out for me. I had never seen anything like it. The only thing i could think of is that it was a bee or some sort of wasp with eggs or babies. I remember seeing a spider with the babies on its back. Thank you again.
Hi again Justin,
The spider you saw is probably a species of Wolf Spider. The female drags around her egg sac and carries she carries her spiderlings for a short time so they have time to disperse throughout her range. We have been thinking about your sighting. We suspect that it would be difficult for so many Mites to crawl on an adult Mason Bee, but a newly metamorphosed individual would be most vulnerable up until the time of its maiden flight.
Letter 4 – Mite
Subject: Can’t quite identify what this bug is that keeps biting me 🙂
July 20, 2012 9:49 am
Hello first off thanks very much for reading. I have had several bug bites on my legs (around 10) over the past few days, and woke up this morning and found the actual bug that had been biting me. I have attached pictures but am not quite able to identify it. It is very small but I took a picture through a pocket microscope. Can you help me identify it please? The bites are not painful and barely itch at all.
Thanks to your microscopic enlargement, we are able to identify your culprit as a Mite, though we do not have the necessary skills to determine a species or genus or even a family. There are many biting mites and some typically trouble birds and others rodents. If there was a recently abandoned bird nest near where these bites have occurred, it is possible that once the birds left the nest, the Mites resorted to biting humans out of desperation.
Letter 5 – ICKY WHITE BUGS!
My friend and I have little white bugs living in the soil of our plant. When we water the plants they float to the top of the soil then go back in once the water goes down. My friend tried to put dish soap in the water but that didn’t kill them. How can we get rid of them without buying a spray for them.
I have asthma and my friend is disabled. It would be easier if we could get a home remedy. Can you please help us. In my last email I failed to mention that our plants are indoor plants there are 5 different kinds of plants we own and 3 of them have the white bugs.
Your letter doesn’t specify if you have a full on infestation or just a few bugs. If they are big enough to see, they are big enough to be removed manually when they float to the surface. If you are squeemish, try tweezers.
A better suggestion, especially if you have many bugs, is to use the old flea bitten fox trick. Remember the fable of the fox who had fleas, so he grabbed a stick in his mouth and went for a dip? The fleas moved to his head to stay dry, and as they moved to the stick, the crafty fox let go of the stick, and was rid of the fleas for a bit.
Try submerging your plants in a bucket of water, when the pests rise to the surface, pour off the water into the toilet, and let the plant dry out. You may need to do this several times to rid the plants of the pestilence.
Sorry your description was so vague, I can’t really identify your pest properly, but they might be a variety of soil mite. It is also possible that they are not actually harming the plant, and have just taken warm refuge in your dirt. Dirt in the garden is full of insects and their kin which are actually beneficial.
Update: December 5, 2009
We just got a comment on this letter, and we are linking to a site with information on Soil Mites.
Letter 6 – Locust with Mites from Australia
Locust infected with mites?
Thu, Jan 1, 2009 at 8:48 PM
This locust was very well disguised by colour and textures to fit in with the semi arid landscape and I only spotted it when it jumped out of my way. After processing the shot I noticed the little red attachments. Would they be some type of mite or some other parasite?
Capricornia region, Queensland
Your Locust is in the suborder Caelifera and probably one of the Short Horned Grasshoppers in the family Acrididae. We are not certain if the Mites are parasitic, but that is quite likely. There are some mites that infest insects, but they are not parasitic. Rather, they use the insect for transportation purposes, a phenomenon known as phoresy. We are currently experiencing problems with images going live and hope to resolve this very soon.
Letter 7 – Mite
Tiny bugs found on cat, in our bed, and on my wife
Location: Gainesville, Florida (indoors)
February 12, 2011 11:34 pm
On February 11, 2011, in Gainesville, Florida, my wife discovered a tiny red bug (about the size of a pin head) climbing on her. She immediately thought it was a tiny tick as we had a problem with them once before from a hiking trip. I stuck it to a piece of tape so I could photograph it and have it identified from our local extension office. Since it was Friday night, the extension office was closed. While I searched the web for answers, my wife continued to find them on our cats, on her, and in our bed. I assumed they were clover mites but all of the descriptions say that clover mites do not bite people. She insists that they are and have biting her. Last night, I was bit as well. I am attaching a photo I took. Please let me know what in the world this little guy is.
We agree that this is a Mite, but exact Mite identification is well beyond our amateur capabilities. Eradication of Biting Mites can be very difficult. We would recommend a trip to your local natural history museum to see if you can get any assistance with an identification.