Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Skin Mites"/ "Collembola Mites" - Are They Real?

bird/nest mite of hummingbirds

Do you experience any of the following symptoms on a daily and/or regular basis?
  • A crawling sensation sometimes accompanied by feeling "pin prick-like bites".
  • Itchy skin, especially at night.
  • Red skin lesions that resemble flea or mosquito bites, while not able to capture an actual bug.
  • A fear that you and your home/office/car are infested with an unseen bug.
  • You repeatedly wash bedding and treat your home with insecticide in an attempt to rid yourself of this invisible infestation.
If this sounds like you, first of all be assured that you are not alone - the symptoms are very real and widespread. I am asked about these so-called infestations at least several times a week through my bug consulting activities. The cause, however, is not what you may have been lead to believe. These symptoms are not caused by an insect or mite and no amount of insecticide, whether organic or not, will help you solve this problem.

What are so called "skin mites" and "collembola mites"?

The names skin mite and collembola mite are not scientific names for any real mite nor are they accepted common names for a real organism of any kind. They describe a set of symptoms (condition), not the name of an insect or mite.
 
What exactly do these terms mean? By using the word "mite" both terms are very misleading in that they incorrectly imply that the symptoms are caused by a living organism (a mite). There is no evidence that a living organism is involved, in fact the lack of a clearly identifiable organism is a hallmark of this condition. My concern is that people will try to eliminate the "mite infestation" with insecticides/miticides which needlessly exposes themselves to potential toxins and distracts them from searching for the real cause of their discomfort.

From a scientific standpoint the term "collembola mite" is particularly troublesome since collembola (springtails) are an entirely different type of arthropod, not related to mites at all (see Collembola/Springtails for a description). Collembola are harmless soil microarthropods that are abundant in rich, organic soils. Mites are a well-defined and very specific group of arthropods that are related to spiders and ticks, in fact ticks are a type of mite.

"Skin mite" is occasionally used as a common name for a group of mites that are actually parasitic on birds and rodents. Bird mites (see photo above), poultry mites, rodent mites and nest mites are the more widely accepted common names for these mites. These mites DO NOT infest homes and don't require treatment other than removal of the source nest (bird or rodent) and general cleaning (see Bird/Rodent/Nest Mite Biology and Control)

So what causes the symptoms described above?

Certain medical conditions mimic, and are easily mistaken for, bug bites. The skin lesions ("bites") can look similar and are often accompanied by itchiness and a crawling sensation. If you are predisposed by a fear of insects or perhaps a prior bad experience with an insect or mite, you may misinterpret these symptoms as "bug bites".


Allergies are probably the most common cause. You can come into contact with allergens (the stuff your body reacts to) in a variety of ways. Airborne allergens like plant pollen and dust mite allergen are inhaled but you can also have direct contact with an allergen as occurs with certain poisonous plants (contact allergens). Food allergens are consumed along with the food we eat. Allergies can affect you in a variety of ways but skin lesions, hives and itchiness are frequent complaints.

Chemical/physical irritants include things as simple as a new brand of laundry detergent, new furniture or carpets, fibreglass insulation, cleaning solvents, and so forth. The list is long and can include products that you would never suspect. In one recent example an individual had lesions that resembled bug bites (and was convinced he was infested) but it turned out that he had started using a new solvent to clean his guns about the same time that the "bites" first appeared.

Reaction to drugs can include prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs and supplements, as well as illegal, recreational drugs.

Emotional stress and anxiety are potent triggers for all sorts of physical manifestations. For example, I remember as a graduate student that the skin on my hands would start to literally slough off before major exams and seminars because of my long-term anxiety and stress over these events.

Pre-existing illness, some of which are serious, can cause these reactions as well. Since the underlying illness may be serious in some cases, the sooner you get a proper diagnosis the better.

So, my hope is that rather than spending your money on insecticides or expensive application equipment like foggers, talk with a medical professional about your symptoms. Discuss the possibility of allergic reactions but also consider the other possibilities.

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11 comments:

Meganj said...

First of all I had all the symptoms you talk about and I was a victim of a Collembola infestation in my house as confirmed by vector control of my local health dept. The specimens were taken from my clean sheets and new Pergo floor. So saying that no hexapod is involved in the crawling symptoms is not true. There is a genetically modified fungus that is infecting people which attracts the hexipods to them. If you care to investigate this we need medical professionals who care enough to do research.

Naturalist Guy said...

Dear Meganj,
Please provide me with a name of the local health department and the vector control contact, that diagnosed a collembola that was infecting people and/or your home. And, as such, please also post the name of the genetically modified fungus that is infecting people. I am intersted in this. Thank you!!
Kenny

javajane said...

Meganj, please do provide the info and any succesful treatment you used... I have been suffering with this as well and so have my coworkers! Everyone ferociously itches their noses, face, skin under the nose, etc... everyone mentions things like "I wonder if the vents need to be cleaned", or "bad pollen season"... all try to play it off but it is obvious these behaviors of constant itching in an office and in my hbome are not normal and are definitely NOT allergies. I've had allergies my whole life and this is completely different. If I spend more than a hour or so with someone they start touching and rubbing their nose and scratching their face... it is very contagious whatever it is.

sada said...

Sada said...
I am suffering with these symptons and it is driving me mad. I have had someone in to spray the house, have spent money on new bedding, furniture, etc but to no avail. No one seems to be able to help. My clothes seems to have tiny black mites embedded in them. The lack of sleep is the most worrying aspect of this.

totally infested said...

Total "INFESTATION",

By my name tag you can tell that this is a very serious situation. I have been dealing with this for over 1 1/2 years now and nobody can give me any answers. As I was in my search, I ran accross this artical and you described the symptoms to a tee.I just wish someone could give me some answers. Everyone around me are becoming infested and even my toy Poodle has them to the extent of not wanting to come in the house. Now really, if these were not real don''t you think the dog would want to come in the house. I do believe that if this is not researched
it"will"become a searious epidemic. I have been through pestesides, exterminators and perscription medications. Nothing has stoped them and everyone me is getting them. "HELP ME PLEASE"
I am serious! They are real....

Gail said...

I think what you have is a sow bug infestation--regular woodlice or rolypolys.

Collembola in you!!!! said...

You think because you do not have it!!!!! But when you get it come back to this blog and tell me you have lice!!!! It is VERY REAL!!!!! May god protect you!!!!

Tim said...

Researched Information:
Control of domestic Collembola

The best control for springtails is to decrease humidity within the building, if possible, and to improve sanitation by not depositing food particles in cracks, crevices, and around floor edges. Large deposits of dust and lint should not be permitted to accumulate anywhere in the building. Moldly bedding, mattresses, couches, and chairs have been found to be good habitats for the Collembola. Spraying or dusting of infested surfaces, including potted plants, has been found to be effective, using common household insecticides. The plants should be watered only after the soil in the pots appears to be dry. (Ebeling, 1975)
Keeping the house dry is the best preventative measure.
Collembola will not reproduce in the house unless:
a) there are regions with over 80% relative humidity, and
b) there is an ample supply of something with fungal growth on it nearby.
When they come into the house they will either die shortly or move on so no heroic measures are worthwhile. Since they do not eat anything other than fungus or decaying plant material, carry no disease and do not attack humans, they are at worst a minor and temporary nuisance.

It should be avoided to use fungicidal, pesticidal or insecticidal treatments in the house. Such treatments kill also the natural enemies, such as spiders. After the treatment, the house will be invaded by all kinds of critters due to the abscense of these predators.

Deborah Wilbur said...

I joined a gym and went from dry sauna 170 degrees to hot steam room to hot whirlpool and it helps a lot. Does not get rid of the problem but helps!

j. hart photography said...

It's real. 3 out of the 4 people in my house are being bitten and we can feel them and SEE them. They are extremely tiny, the size of the period at the end of this sentence. They seem to stop moving if they aren't on me but I've managed to capture a couple of them on a piece of tape. As soon as I can get a microscope (magnifying glass is not strong enough to see details) I'll be better able to tell if they are more like a mite or more like a springtail. They seem to be more active in the evening, during the night, and very early morning.

jeff said...

Your completely misinformed.
We have had our home infested w tiny white things that we can see everywhere that bite us & the dogs.
Its been 2 months of hell.
When they touch our skin, we recieve red sores, scratches, & welts.
We bought a house not knowing that a family of rats was living near our pool. Our new neighbors told us the wife had been suffering from the mites on the rats & asked us if we had any issues.
Well, we were fine for a year until we had an overgrown palm trimmed. The very next week, my husband came down w what appeared to be scabies, he was diagnosed at an urgent care.
Between us, weve been treated 7 times, cleaned everything including cars, animals, clothing & bagged everything.
Both of us continue to get new bites & decided this weekend to close off a part of our fence where our dogs where running thru the bushes.
Sure enough while we were working in an area where the rats had been, we found the same tiny white things everywhere & yes they bit us while we were working until we put gloves on.
Our exterminator & efforts to erradicate this hell have cost us 2000$ so far.
Yes a house can become infested, sorry but you dont know what your talking about