For some time now (a year and a half for me to be exact) many have suffered from a new infestation of domestic parasites, namely, microscopic biting mites in the home. For those who are familiar they know all too well that the stories of invisible bugs wreaking havoc in homes is not an epidemic of delusional parasitosis as many have been led to believe. These bugs are real and virtually undetectable except by the constant misery they perpetuate on those who are unfortunate to know them first hand. Countless hours of lost sleep and ineffective measures have led me to write on behalf of and, hopefully, to the relief of those distressed for whom the mainstream medical and pest control circles are oblivious.
To those uninformed these microscopic mites appear to be a new invasive species. Many theories abound regarding their origins, but a quick perusal of the internet searching “biting mites” reveals the startling extent of this growing epidemic. Whether by global warming or unassuming travelers, these virtually invisible creatures are arachnids (akin to spiders and ticks) which have invaded houses and offices throughout America. Because they are impossible to see, numerous reports have been discounted as hysteria. Some are plagued while their cohabitants are not. Many have moved and/or relocated in an effort to escape the communicable pests to no avail. They are not susceptible to any residual pesticide and some remedies such as Listerine, Windex, and Cedarcide pesticide have limited effects; there is quite simply no substance which gives long term relief from these monsters. After reading countless horror tales and painstakingly amassing countless hours of anecdotal investigation I am happy to finally be writing of some substantial progress which I want to share with anyone and everyone similarly situated.
First of all; anyone afflicted with these pests is going to have to get past all the conventional measures typically employed. These measures will simply drain your wallet and prolong the problem further. These measures include:
1. Endlessly washing your clothes and sheets – Although washing clothes is highly recommended, it is simply not going to eventually rid the problem absent other measures. For every mite you wash down the shower or washing machine drain, there are plenty to take his place. You will make no progress at all unless you stop the immigration.
2. Pesticides – There quite simply in no effective pesticide available for these bugs and many companies have exploited such hopes to great profit and great loss to their customers. Perhaps the near future will yield such a chemical, but absent the reintroduction of DDT ( a possiblity given the extent of the problem), “ain’t happnin.” Mites are not insects and their morphology is simply not susceptible to the residual applications of these chemicals. Once the chemicals are dry, they lose effectiveness. By endlessly spraying these chemicals in the home you are simply exposing yourself to toxins which will slowly kill YOUR immune system, not the mites making you more susceptible, not less. Oh, and by the way, fogging is no better so don’t go buying a ton of household chems and then a ton of commercial chems just to poison yourself.
3. Elliminating all carpet in the house is a very good step, but again, absent treating the cause of the problem these stop gap measures will have no lasting effect.
That being said, the only long term solution to this problem is to alter the environment of these pests. I came to such conclusion after several reports of erradication coming from people all seeming to coincidentally happen in December. Also it simply did not make sense that some people were affected while their cohabitants were not. The reason is that these mites seem to be a a biting variety very similar to household dust mites and their control must be the same. These mites are surviving in the home on shed skin cells and moisture just like dust mites. Since different people perspire differently they are afflicted differently, hence the the selective torture. As such all outside measures to control the home are only effective once you treat the source. As strange as this may sound… the source is us. You heard me right…US!.
My home was invaded primarilly because of openings into my house resulting from a shifting foundation. There is one and only one common denominator to all this suffering, and it is moisture. Mites cannot live long term in environs with low humidity (i.e. under 50%) The hot summers in the Southeast make for fervent breeding grounds both inside and outside and homes where humidity control is problematic (all but the best sealed and AC’ed in the South) are susceptible. This being said, this is the common denominator explaining the fall/winter success. When the temp drops in the fall cold dry air from the north comes south and furnaces start to dry out homes. In winter humidity values stay low until it rains and/or the temp climbs back up. Whenever it rains the leaks around your house draw in moisture by the heat in the house rising and sucking in moist air through the cracks. (I discovered the full impact of this by placing hygrometers, (Walmart $7 ea.) in every room; This is how I found the leakes in my house and taped or repaired them.) As long as a house is reasonably sealed these low humidities can be maintained. Mites, like all of God’s creatures, need water to survive. When it is in short supply, they go searching for it. As such, dryer months force millions of these tiny creatures from their hiding places in search of water. Thus begins the process we need to get rid of them.
Like a good golf game, things tend to get worse before they get better. Often the seemingly quick spike in mite population is actually the existing population on the hunt for water, and guess where that water is? Believe it or not… it’s YOU! Once all sources of dampness are eliminated and the home is competely dry (i.e under 50% humidity for a couple of weeks) the creatures hunt for the only water in the house; this water is from your own respiration and perspiration. Mites need warm moist places to survive. In fall their humid warm environs inside and out turn dry and cold and huge populations grown by favorable summers turn their attentions to you. This is why they plague sleepers. Almost any mite infestation is detected by a series of sleepless nights. The subtle itching which keeps us awake becomes acute once the adult buggers start to bite. By that time you fully realize it’s mites, you have a full blown infestation. Nothing is more enticing to a cold thirsty mite than a warm, moist, stationary body. Sleeping humans are the perfect life support for these mites just as they have sustained vast populations of dust mites since homes were invented. They drink our breath and sweat and stay with us as long as they can, roaming the fertile countryside of our bodies just like dust mites. Only difference is, these bastards bite, and wake me and countless others up in the middle of the night (sometimes more than once) to shower and change sheets in the hope of a few hours sleep a night.
So the problem is now clear; these mites are sustained by moisture in the home and although drying the home significantly reduces their number, the small amount that can live close to the human body are simply a good bread starter for the days when the humidity returns. Add to that that any (and I mean ANY) place you leave moisture becomes a refuge for them. This means your car, your office, your girlfriend’s house, etc. any place you frequent and leave a little sweat. All these sources must be eradicated to eliminate the problem long term. This means some seemingly drastic measures, but the relief obtained is far worth the effort.
Step 1. Dehumidify the home.
Go to Walmart and buy the cheapest hygrometers they have (about $7). You may get only one, but, trust me, having these in every room is all but paramount. Also, get them all the same as comparing them is a key element in the plan and different brands will vary. By placing these in every room of the home you will quickly (as I did) find where your house is leaking in moisture. Until all these leaks are found and sealed, you will not be able to keep your humidity down. When they all are within a couple of % of each other, you are in good shape.
Next, keep the heat on. A furnace running is the very best effective way to reduce the humidity. I also have a dehumidifier, but they run about $200 and really do not perform well for the electricity used unless the humidity is above 50%. Running the heat, even slightly higher than normal, gives a great head start or reducing the humidity. Once the humidity in the house is under 40% you can back off the furnace to a normal level, but use the furnace to dry whenever the humidity gets back to 40% and threatens to climb (i.e. every time it rains). In warmer climates like the deep south where I live, I even use space heaters and the AC TOGETHER when the outside temp forces me as this double utility bill is the only way to keep the moisture down. Letting the humidity get back above 40% threatens to undo any progress. To those of us afflicted, high utilities are a small price to pay for a shot at killing these things, so heat away!
Next, you should find these bugs now running for their lives to any moist place imaginable. Isolate cloths and all porous material in the house from sources of moisture (this includes YOU). I have three of every article of clothes I wear (no more) and I rotate these in the cleaning. It is simply impossible to keep everything clean by washing constantly, so pick out a very small wardrobe and keep the clean clothes in a sealed container. I found Rubbermaid 55 gallon Trash cans the best. They hold a lot and the lids keep clean clothes safe until wearing. A second is also handy to keep infested clothing quarantined until washing. This includes the sheets which must be washed daily for a decent shot at ridding these things. Clothes you will not wear need to all be isolated in a part of the house you do not frequent and open enough to dry completely in the dry air. Over time all these bugs will die, but only if they are dried out completely.
Now the final element… YOU. Until you isolate yourself from these bugs as a water source, they will continue to live on your own body moisture. As a result, any chair or bed you use will retain moisture and continue to support these pests. I repeat for emphasis: ANY POROUS MATERIAL YOU TOUCH WILL RETAIN YOUR MOISTURE AND BE A BREEDING GROUND! You have to isolate your body from putting moisture or mites into furniture and from pulling mites out of furniture. Mites left in a dry sofa will eventually die, but only if denied moisture completely until the moisture INSIDE the furniture is completely gone and that takes time. Likewise, mites on your body will be looking to reinvade these places and you cannot let them. As strange as it sounds, you yourself are now a walking trap for these devil creatures and every time you catch them they must go down the shower drain or down the washing machine drain. You must first “close the bar” and then “throw out the scragglers!” Make your showers and wash cycles count by taking the bugs out and denying them reentry completely.
Next, seal mattresses and box springs in dust mite covers (again Walmart, about $20). Include the pillows (about $5 ea.) Next purchase about 3 shower curtains, the vinyl kind (Walmart, about $3 ea). Keep a shower curtain between you and your furniture at all times and hang it up somewhere to air out completely when not in use to kill any bugs and keep the furniture drying out completely through the winter. A vinyl mattress cover (yes, they kind for bed wetters) would be strongly encouraged as the bed is these pests’ last refuge. Of paramount importance: DO NOT SIT OR LIE ON ANYTHING WITHOUT A BARRIER BETWEEN YOU AND IT!!! Each morning you can pull the sheets off with a night’s worth of mites and wash them down the drain and deny the ones left behind any moisture to survive. Over time this will yield powerful results if followed strictly. Good luck to all of you. I feel your pain and want very much to help. I hope this blog does just that.
If you want any other guidelines, research dust mite control and treat these bastards the same. Once the mites are under control (i.e you get a full night’s sleep) keep the measures reasonably employed to prevent their return. Remember, use the winter for a good head start on the summer. Once the humidity gets above 50% for any length of time (and it probably will if you live in the South) they are sure to return. Given the extent of reported infestations, these bugs, like cockroaches, can be controlled, but probably never eliminated.
Recap. 1. Dehumidify the home. 2. Employ barrier methods to deny these mites any moisture from the human body. Good luck!