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Mites That Bite Humans: Bird and Rodent Mites

Updated on May 15, 2012

If you are experiencing crawling, biting or itching sensations caused by something you cannot see, chances are it's a mite. There are several mite species that can cause these sensations, only one of which is actually capable of living and reproducing on humans. Due to this unique attribute, Sarcoptes scabiei , variety hominis (commonly referred to as 'scabies') is discussed in two separate articles entitled 'Atypical Scabies Symptoms' and 'How Do You Know If Your Scabies Treatment Worked: Post Scabies Syndrome.' Here I will instead focus on several additional mite species that cannot live off of humans but can nevertheless cause long-lasting discomfort if not managed properly.

In order to determine the cause of your crawling, biting or itching sensations, it will be helpful to list all potential culprits, and rule them out one by one. First, many people experiencing a mite infestation report the biting is worse at nighttime, and in certain places such as the bedroom or near the computer. This scenario could actually indicate you have bedbugs. Bedbugs are not mites, they are much larger (adults are about the size of a fingernail) and can be easily seen with the naked eye if one looks in the right places, i.e., in mattress seams or other cracks and crevices around the bedroom. Once this possibility is ruled out, one should be sure there is no pet in the house that has severe dandruff or mange. This is often an indication the pet has a mite infestation. The mites that affect your pets are typically host specific, meaning they can only live and reproduce on one particular type of animal, such as a dog. An example of such a mite is Sarcoptes scabiei , variety canis. This mite cannot live or reproduce on you, but so long as your dog is available for these purposes, the population will continue to thrive and inadvertently bite you. As such, treating yourself will do no good. You will simply continue to be bitten until you treat your pet for the infestation. If you have multiple pets, it is necessary to treat all of them at the same time and to launder any bedding items or play toys potentially harboring mites.

Once these (relatively) obvious culprits are ruled out, it is necessary to consider bird and/or rodent mites. There are several species of bird and rodent mites known to bite humans, although none of them can actually live or reproduce by doing so. Bird mites that bite humans include the chicken mite (Dermanyssus gallinae) and the Northern fowl mite (Ornithonyssus sylviarum). Rodent mites that bite humans include the house mouse mite (Liponyssoides saguineus), the tropical rat mite (Ornithonyssus bacoti) and the spiny rat mite (Laelaps echidnina). Bird and rodent mites typically live in the nest of their host until a) the host is no longer enough to support the number of mites living there, b) the host leaves the nest, or c) the host dies. In any of these cases, the remaining mites are forced to leave the nest to search for a new host. In doing so, they often make their way into nearby buildings and begin to bite humans, which they find by using their CO2, heat and possibly moisture sensors.

When trying to determine if one has a bird or rodent mite infestation, It is helpful to first conduct a search around the outside of the house for any bird nests that might be located under the eves, in the gutters, or perhaps on tree branches that touch the house. Check all attic and crawl spaces as well as under porches and decks or anywhere else a rodent or bird could be nesting. If you find anything, you can use this information to lead you to possible entry points through which the mites might be entering the house. Check doorways, window sills, electrical outlets, air vents and possibly even drains. You may even find mites in your bed, if they have made it that far, which is quite possible if they are coming from a nest, say, just outside your bedroom window. You will not be able to distinguish between the various bird and rodent mite species without a microscope, as it literally comes down to how many hairs each has on particular pairs of legs. However upon first glance, all of these mite species will look like dust specs that can appear red, brown or black if they have recently eaten a blood meal, or more of a translucent whitish gray if they have not eaten for a while. If you stare at them for a minute or so, you will notice that the 'dust' is crawling.

If you do indeed find bird or rodent mites, it will be necessary to first remove the animal(s) and the nest(s) (be sure to be thorough because there are often multiple nests) and to then seal up any entry points through which the animals were able to gain access to the house. It may be necessary to cut back tree branches that touch or overhang the house in order to prevent the same animals from returning, or more animals from coming. After doing this, it may further be necessary to fumigate, as these mite populations could feasibly have multiplied into the tens of thousands and some of these species can live for close to an entire year without a meal from the proper host. This means that although they cannot live off of your blood, they can sure continue to try for a very very long and uncomfortable time. Remember, fumigation typically has to occur twice, about a week apart, in order to break the egg cycle, since no available pesticides are known to kill eggs. It may even be necessary to do more than one round of fumigation because bird and rodent mites are notorious for hiding in places that are difficult to reach with pesticides.

If you are still unable to determine the source of your crawling, biting or itching sensations, I would next suggest considering scabies. Not dog or cat scabies, but human scabies, which you cannot see with the naked eye. A dermatologist should be able to either recognize typical symptoms or take a skin scraping in order to identify a mite, its eggs or feces under a microscope. If they still cannot say for certain, I would suggest asking the doctor to prescribe treatment for scabies anyway because it is often very difficult to diagnose. If you have come to this, please read the following articles:

Atypical Scabies Symptoms

How Do You Know If Your Scabies Treatment Worked: Post Scabies Syndrome


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    • profile image

      Jane 2 years ago

      Scabies can definitely infest your scalp, I'm 47, so not elderly and my permethrin treatments kept failing until I finally treated my head, scalp, ears, face, eyebrows etc. I’ve got long thick hair so I initially thought it would be difficult to treat my scalp and my doctor told me it was unnecessary as they didn't go on the scalp. So I did the permethrin treatments as directed but I never really felt like they made much difference, just seemed to spread and move the bites around my body, (burrows not bites to be accurate but they look and feel like bites). My scalp kept itching but I just kept dismissing it believing it was just caused by the allergic reaction to the mites on my body. Eventually I realised I actually had bites on my scalp. I’ve since seen many posts from others saying they went on their scalp too, so it seems it’s not even that unusual. By this point I didn’t have enough permethrin left to treat my head effectively and by then I wasn’t even convinced it was that effective anyway. Thankfully in the UK you can buy Eurax from the chemists, (active ingredient crotamiton which is not as strong as permethrin but is a proven treatment just not considered to be as strong). I bought a 100g tube of Eurax; the big tube meant I was able to apply a really thick layer over my head & the rest of me. The Eurax cream is also thicker than Lyclear (permethrin) so it's easier to apply it thickly. Within an hour of applying it finally felt as if the treatment had actually had some impact on my symptoms which it never had before. Obviously treating my scalp was essential in my case but for me it also felt as if the Eurax worked better, so maybe the mites do have some resistance to permethrin or maybe it was just because I used more this time. Either way it’s been 5 days and I haven’t had any new bites for the first time in months so I think I'm finally nearing the end of this nightmare. I'm going to do the 2nd treatment (at 7 days) to allow for any eggs that may have survived the last treatment (after 7 days they should have hatched but not laid new eggs yet so I’m very optimistic I’ll be cured at long last.

    • profile image

      cole 2 years ago

      Im gojng through these bites also i what do this 3 years ago and then all the sudden didn't really feel anymore but didn't know I had them then now its just seem to have gotten worse um I thought it was fleas but I find no fleas on my dog I am getting the night bites also crawling I don't see nothing I'm fine I think of taking everything cutting out of my house except for my two couches which I'm trying to get rid of right now I don't know what to do I'm doing all the Epsom salt the scrubbing I'll even put lice medicine on me and my dog and I'm wondering if this is ever going to end will they eventually come off my body if I keep doing this thing baby I wiped my walls with bleach I vacuumed is Demi carpet shampooed it up dragons I'm doing the garbage bag thing with my clothes shower in morning and night

    • profile image

      Zee 2 years ago

      did anynone have success w frontline

    • profile image

      Sheila 3 years ago

      Ivermectin is the only solution to be rid of mites of any type,my husband and myself had bird mites living in Spain,were treated with permithrin for scabies ,didn't work,couldn't get ivermectin in Spain,had to come back to UK to be treated with ivermectin,two courses over two weeks,but we were in a bad way and had to have another course three months later.

      We lost everything, but have started again,there is light at the end of the tunnel,get a sympathetic doctor,or ivermectin can be purchased on line.good luck and be strong x

    • Samoa6 profile image

      Samoa6 3 years ago from San Diego

      Check all window sills, doors, and electrical sockets leading into your house. If it is bird mites, you can actually see them, although it is hard and you will have to stare for a few minutes just to see if something is moving. If you look extensively and still do not see anything, you may have scabies.

    • profile image

      Glenda AMA . 3 years ago

      Bird bites! Almost Positive!! 7 months and my mind is about to really be gone as everyone has thought this whole time... Please any input. Have thought it was scabies because of my self having lesions ,burrowing,and crawling ,biting. My 2 dogs are also infected. Have used premitherin 10% from a local cattle store on my apt. But haven't treated all at once. Car,apt,balcony,50 loads of laundry in trunk o car and laundry oomph. ( yes exaggerated slightly on clouths, but have had a hamper at front door or2 months in plastic bag . Dead? Think not.... My family has offered to pay my electric bill if I will go to the pavilion. That was two weeks ago. I am disabled but not nuts and have been left by them to just get on or over it. Could go on for hours, and want to help others soon.terminex called by me due to my apts saying I am also crazy . Saiid probably due to pigeons nesting on building and balcony. Has not confirmed in writing. About to lose all. Any help,ideas please. Did finally take my 1 yr old terrier mix to vet for 4 visit and ran my hands through her hair begged doc to please put under telescope after I had been to docs mainl minor ER and ER plus reg. physician . And finally a dermatologist who would not do skin scrap. And I begged for my life. Back to vet. He said come look if you would like, also took piece of tape with samples off of myself and wa-laa. Skelatorl scarcities . Please excuse all spelling hurrying to get more vinaigrette ect. MY QUESTION IS, THEY ARE THE SAME alas bITING bird mites, correct? IN WICH THE VET SAID MARLEE HAD MANGE, GREY SPECKS IN BATH. On myself also, plus brownish,redish, and what looks like white little pimples on my skin...... Anyone? Anyone? Anyone? Will be ready to have knowledge before I give in completely. TRULY TERRIFIED, CAN'T TAKE MUCH MORE. PLEASE HELP.....

    • profile image

      mary 3 years ago

      Hi I read your post how you used frontline to kill mites could you be w little more specific about which frontline and how you used it. Did you take it orally or the spray

    • profile image

      Aim To Win 4 years ago


      Would you please provide exactly what you did.

      As in how much how often, and exact name of Frontline product.

      If you ingested, how much how often.

      If you used topically, how much how often.

      I have been considering fripronil.

      I understand that any information you provide is strictly anecdotal, as in what worked for you.

      Would appreciate a response very much.

      Just signed up here so I could post this message.

      Don't really know the ins and outs yet, as in contacting someone directly via email (or if that is even possible).

      I really need this info.

      Thank You.

    • Samoa6 profile image

      Samoa6 4 years ago from San Diego

      jay - sorry to hear about all of your troubles. thank you for this information, i hope it helps others deal with infestations that are otherwise extremely difficult to get rid of.

    • profile image

      jay 4 years ago

      Please post this!

      We had (My friend at her place and then i caught them from her) a two year infestation of bird mites. This ended about two and a half years ago. We followed all the rules, bathing in dawn washing clothes in dawn and ammonia, vacuuming, all of it. Nothing worked but they finally disappeared. We just wore them out.

      We had a relapse seven months ago. Nothing was working. I read that Frontline kills bird mites on dogs and I did some research. The risks from skin exposure are minimal, it is taking this orally that has the greatest chance of harm. WE HAVE TAKEN FRONTLINE OURSELVES AND IT HAS KILLED ALL THE MITES. WE ARE MITE FREE AFTER THREE WEEKS. It is clear from reading this report on Fipronil that it's ingestion that is the problem, not skin exposure. The small risk of anything in twenty years is less than the risk of stress now. Get rid of these things. TAKE FRONTLINE!!!! IT WORKS IMMEDIATELY!!!! We are doing treatment for two months. Any mite that lands on you dies instantly. You feel a bite from time to time as the last of them comes out of the woodwork. You become their deathtrap. It's brilliant. THIS IS WORKING.

      These are the active ingredients in Frontline. Make your own decision. The emotional and psychological cost of these bastards is far greater than some slight risk in the future. Breathing city air is more harmful than this stuff :


      Fipronil is classed as a WHO Class II moderately hazardous pesticide, and has a rat acute oral LD50 of 97 mg/kg.

      It has moderate acute toxicity by the oral and inhalation routes in rats. Dermal absorption in rats is less than 1% after 24 h and toxicity is considered to be low. It has been found to be very toxic to rabbits.

      The photodegradate MB46513 appears to have a higher acute toxicity to mammals than fipronil itself by a factor of about 10.[citation needed]

      Toxicity on humans has been tested in few studies, more commonly involving human cells which were used in carcinogenicity studies, but with no adverse effects. Yet, fipronil has been classified as a Group C (possible human) carcinogen based on an increase in thyroid follicular cell tumors in both sexes of the rat. Furthermore, fipronil is considered slightly irritating to the skin, while moderately irritating to the eyes in both humans and animals, and there is no evidence suggesting it may cause birth defects.[19]

      Two Top Spot products were determined by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to pose no significant exposure risks to workers applying the product. However, concerns were raised about human exposure to Frontline spray treatment in 1996, leading to a denial of registration for the spray product. Commercial pet groomers and veterinarians were considered to be at risk from chronic exposure via inhalation and dermal absorption during the application of the spray, assuming they may have to treat up to 20 large dogs per day.[13] Fipronil is not volatile, so there is little likelihood of humans being exposed to this compound in the air.[19]

      Methoprene is a juvenile hormone (JH) analog which can be used as an insecticide that acts as a growth regulator. Methoprene is an amber-colored liquid with a faint fruity odor which is essentially nontoxic to humans when ingested or inhaled. It is used in drinking water cisterns to control mosquitoes which spread dengue fever and malaria.[2]