The common house dust mite is not the most threatening creature on its own, but the untold numbers that live around us do have a noticeable impact on our health.
What Do They Look Like?
Without the aid of magnification, the human eye cannot readily make out the shape of a dust mite. The typical mite is under a hundredth of an inch in length. When you get up close, they are bulbous grey-white bugs with eight hairy legs to move them around your home. Otherwise, they are frighteningly nondescript aside from being perfect for next year's bug-based SciFi adventure.
Where Do They Live and What Do They Do?
Dust mites are effectively named: They are mites which live on or near dust, specifically the kind that contains tasty tidbits of human skin for them to eat. The life of a mite is relatively uninteresting. They move about the dust piles in carpets, bedding, or in the air ducts while looking for skin snacks. Like people, they tend to live near their food source to make life easier, so they are more likely to pack in at rates as high as a few thousand per gram of dust near frequently occupied areas. They prefer temperate climates of 70 to 80 degrees and 70 to 80 percent humidity, much like the typical human. The males have a short lifespan of three weeks or less, but the females can live for over two months to ensure the survival of their offspring.
How Do They Impact Humans?
Dust mites have a biological cycle like most living things, regularly taking one material and turning it into various waste products to power their own bodies. The fecal matter of the tiny mites can float along in the air as readily as the balls of dust from where they originated, adding additional waste material that can be breathed in by humans. They also shed skin themselves, regularly molting their outer layers. These particulates being added to your air supply is why dust mites are regularly associated with asthma and chronic respiratory illnesses.
How Can You Remove or Reduce Dust Mite Infestations?
Mites are linked heavily to humanity, so completely removing them takes special effort that most would be unwilling to do, including switching to impervious upholstery, changing the temperature and humidity in the home, and application of chemicals. For most people, the sensible solution is to regularly clean and vacuum as much as possible to reduce the amount of dust available for the mites to call their home. You should also schedule deep cleaning on your home's ductwork every season or whenever you notice a dust buildup. Because of the volume of air moved through them, the ducts collect dust and can serve as a hidden fortress for the mighty mite army.
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