Mites are small pests barely visible to the naked eye. In California, the most common biting mites include the tropical rat mite, the northern fowl mite, and the chicken mite. They feed on rodents, birds, and fowl and occasionally infest homes and bite humans once their host has left the area.
Some mite species may also be found outdoors. These mites do not typically infest homes, but people may be bitten while spending time outdoors, especially in tall grass or brush.
Detecting Mite Infestations Indoors
Unlike fleas, which tend to bite on the ankles and lower legs, mites may bite anywhere on the body. Bites may occur where clothes constrict the body such as the waistline and under the arms. They may cause painful or itchy skin irritation on all or some family members.
Mites are usually most active at night. When searching for mites, a flashlight should be used to examine walls near heat sources such as hot water pipes, heating ducts, electrical fixtures, and around bedding. Mites usually retreat to dark spaces such as cracks and crevices between feedings. You may also want to try using a sticky trap (such as those sold for bedbug detection) to try to collect a sample.
The first thing you should do if you have mites is eliminate their host. Check your property carefully for rodent infestation, and resolve any issues you find. Eliminate any bird nests under eaves and in attics. Be thorough! It will be impossible to eliminate mites if their animal host is still living in your home.
Mites can live up to six weeks without a blood meal, but will begin searching for a new host immediately. You may notice more bites once you have eliminated the animal that is causing the problem. If this happens, you should contact a professional pest control operator (PCO) to treat for mites.
San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District provides identification of suspected mites and other insect/pest specimens. Please bring a sample to the District office for identification. Home inspections for bird or rodent infestation are also available. Schedule a service request by phone or online. All District services are provided at no additional fee to county residents.
Mystery Bug Bites and Your Health
Mites are not truly invisible, but may be very difficult to see because they are so small. However, if you continue to experience bites without finding any mites or other pests, you should consider other explanations.
A feeling that something is crawling on or biting the skin may be a symptom of a serious medical condition. You should consult a medical provider before pursuing additional pest control measures on your own.
Mites are probably one of the most common insects on the earth and the vast majority of them have not been described yet. While the majority of them are harmless to humans and even helpful to us, there are several that are found in San Mateo County that can be a right nuisance. Most of these species are unable to invade your home without their host (usually rats or wild birds) but once there, they may bite humans if they reach a large population size or their host dies. Below are some of the most common biting mites in San Mateo County.