What are Dust Mites? What Causes Dust Mites?

Photo of Dust Mites
Image by GIlles San Martin | CC BY-SA 2.0

Do you know what the difference is between “dust” and “dust mites?”

What about how dust mites get into your home? Do you know how that happens?

If you don’t know the answer to those questions, don’t worry because you’re not alone.

Most people don’t actually know what are dust mites and many think that these critters are the same thing as regular dust.

What’s also surprising is that 9 out of 10 people can’t even tell you what causes dust mites inside their home.

In this article, we’ll shed some light on what dust mites actually are and what attracts them. By the end, you’ll know all of the essential information on this topic.

What are Dust Mites?

A common misconception is that the terms “dust mites” and “dust” are interchangeable. This is not true.

The term “dust” includes tiny particles of earth and waste matter that include dead skin cells, dirt, plant spores, hair, bits of food, etc. Here are some common symptoms of dust allergies.

On the other hand, “dust mites” are microscopic bugs that mainly feed off of dead skin cells that are shed by humans and animals (source Wikipedia). Since the average person can shed up to 1/3 ounce of dead skin cells per week, this provides a lot of food for dust mites to live on. If you have pets, this number increases even more.

Dust mites can also survive off eating fungi and food crumbs.

These bugs are not visible with the naked eye. In order to see them, you need to look at them under a microscope. They’re translucent, have eight hairy legs, no eyes or antenna and a mouthpart in the front of the body.

Adult females can lay anywhere between 40-80 eggs in one setting. The life cycle from egg to adult is about one month and the full life cycle for each dust mite is between one to three months.

Fortunately, the American Lung Association confirms that dust mites are not parasites. This means that they don’t bite, sting or burrow themselves into your skin, which is good news. These bugs only become a nuisance to us by releasing harmful allergens that are derived from their fecal matter and body fragments. If you have a dust mite allergy, you’ll notice reactions that include itchy eyes, running or stuffy nose, coughing, sneezing, and facial pressure or pain.

What Causes Dust Mites?

As we alluded to above, the major diet for dust mites are the dead skin cells that are shed from our bodies and our pets. There’s no permanent way to stop the constant food supply source for these critters.

One of the major causes for dust mite infestations is warm, wet weather. The peak season for dust mites to multiply is in the spring and summer months. However, that doesn’t mean they’re of no concern during the fall and winter.

Once the colder seasons approach, we start to close up our homes, which prevents any type of escape for these critters. This causes their feces and body fragments to build up inside, unless proper steps are taken to get rid of them.

The unfortunate side here is that dust mites are nearly everywhere. In fact, an average of 4 out of 5 homes in the United States have some level of dust mites in at least one bed. And, the presence of dust mites is not usually discovered until severe allergic reactions start to occur.

A startling fact is that one square inch of carpet can contain up to 100,000 of these critters and each mite can produce up to 20 pieces of feces per day – that’s a lot of waste! Many people have an allergy associated with this waste and this explain why they have such a strong allergic reaction to dust mite infestations.

What Can You Do About Dust Mites?

Now that you’ve found out all about what are dust mites, you’re probably asking yourself this question, “What Can I Do About Them?”

We have several articles dedicated to that very topic.

If you head over to this section of our site you’ll find a good resource with tips and tricks to help eliminate dust mites from your home.

Since it’s impossible for us to try to eliminate what causes dust mites, one of the best methods for getting rid of these pets is by placing an air purifier in your home. This device works by pulling in the dust mites into the machine, trapping them and preventing them from returning to the room.

Take a look at this link to find out more about what makes the best air purifier for removing dust mites.

Once these critters are captured, they don’t have the chance to release any more waste. The less waste produced, the less chance there is for having an allergic reaction.

Other key steps for having a dust mite free home is to clean thoroughly with a vacuum that includes a HEPA filter. This type of filter is specially rated to remove microscopic particles that cannot be seen by our eyes, including dust mites. Combing this device with an air purifier is your best chance of keeping your home free from these pests.