Most of us are familiar with mold. In addition to this fungus that can grow on food, plants and areas where you have moisture or high humidity, you may run across tiny creatures called mold mites. These microscopic white or tan colored mites feed on mold and fungi and are part of the larger species of mites, including cheese mites, flour mites and grain mites.
Mold mites are wingless, smooth and so small that they don’t cause structural damage, and they don’t bite humans. However, these soft-bodied pests do have long “hairs” which can cause an allergic reaction in some people. That is why some individuals may believe they have gotten mold spores bites when they have actually been in contact with a mold mite. In some cases, what may feel like a bite or sting is actually a skin irritation linked to an allergic reaction to mold growing inside your home. A number of environmental factors, including medical conditions, certain medications (or changes in dosage), detergents, houseplants, soaps, lotions and deodorants can cause sensations that can be very similar to feeling as though you have been bitten by a bug or insect. If you have dust mites in bed, you might also experience itching and other symptoms linked to an allergic reaction.
Mold mites can also affect your air quality. Most importantly, the mold that these animals feed upon can pose health risks which can result in coughing, throat irritation, wheezing and nasal stuffiness, particularly in individuals with compromised immune systems. One in three people can experience an allergic reaction to mold. When living in a home with mold, asthma sufferers can have asthma attacks if they are allergic to this irritant. People with chronic lung illness can experience serious infections when they are exposed to mold. In some rare cases, molds produce mycotoxins which have been linked to serious and fatal diseases.
Now that we’ve provided you with some information about what types of reactions you might have to mold, we’ll go into more detail about mold mites, including the signs you have them, how to differentiate between other mites that can invade your home, what attracts them, tips on how to prevent mold mites and suggestions on how to get rid of these minuscule pests.
Signs You Have Mold Mites
Mold mites feed on mold. So if your home is damp, has a water leak or high humidity which can cause damp walls or even a damp bathroom, you may have mold and mold mites. These pests can also appear on dead or dying plants or flowers, mulch or other lawn areas that stay damp, rotting food, stored food and bird and animal nests, as well as anything else that doesn’t completely dry. One consequence of modern homes being sealed tightly for energy efficiency is that water can more readily be trapped inside, which is what this fungus needs to survive. Molds reproduce by making spores, which can survive in even dry conditions.
Compared to other common household pests, mites can often be overlooked because of their size. How in the world can you tell if you have a mite problem? If you see brownish or white “mite dust” on shelves, food or other peculiar places, that could indicate that you have mites. If you have a high-definition camera, you can snap a picture, blow it up and see if those little specks are dust or actually living things.
Mold spores are everywhere. The problem comes when colonies develop. Although it can be difficult to know if you have mold growing inside your home, there are a few ways to tell:
- The most obvious sign is to see surface mold on walls, ceilings, pipes and your roof from a leak or water damage that did not dry out.
- Mold typically has an odor, so if you smell something unpleasant, you should try to find the source.
- If you feel better when you leave your home, that may be a sign that you have a mold problem. Some people report feeling listless, congested or have watery eyes when they are home but don’t experience these symptoms when they are away.
Bathrooms are the most typical breeding ground for mold and mildew. Make sure you either turn on your fan or open a window to allow the humidity to escape and the room to dry.
Cooking and doing laundry can also cause high humidity in your home. Even a lot of houseplants can raise the humidity levels in your home.
Mold and mold mites love damp and humid places. Lots of vegetation in your yard can also be a source of a problem.
Now that you know more mold mites, let’s talk about other similar creatures that may be lurking in your home: cheese, flour and grain mites.
What’s A Cheese Mite?
Cheese mites are aptly named because these creatures love cheese. They are part of the arachnid family, but these pests don’t bite or harm people. Humans only come into contact with cheese mites because of their preferred food source. As with mold mites and pantry mites, cheese mites rely on damp and moist conditions to survive. Some cheeses, like Milbenkäse from Germany and Mimolette from France, rely on these mites for their flavor.
According to the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the flavor of those cheeses “can be traced to individual molecules produced by cheese mites. These molecules include neral, a volatile constituent of lemon oil. Neral is one molecule within a cocktail of hydrocarbons, terpenes, and aromatics produced by a pair of glands found on cheese mites.
“However, flavor-enhancing or not, mite populations can quickly get out of control. If there are too many mites, they dig too far, too fast, transporting mold spores from the rind to the interior of the cheese and potentially ruining the entire product. This is why vacuums, brushes and compressed air are often used to blast mites off the rind. Even so, these measures only buy cheesemakers some time. It’s nearly impossible to remove all of the mites, especially considering that a typical female lays hundreds of eggs in one lifetime.”
Even if we don’t want to admit it, we ingest mites, gnats and other microscopic bugs far more than we realize or want to know. In small quantities, having these tiny animals in our digestive systems really shouldn’t have an impact.
Is A Flour Mite In My Pantry?
Flour mites are also tiny creatures which can be found inside your home and which feed on your flour, grain and cereal. More than likely, you will bring flour mites into your house from your grocery store. If your food is infested with these creatures, you may notice a fine dust on the food. Although there are people who have a rare allergy to flour mites, they are harmless to people. Regardless of their impact on us, most homeowners would want to get these pests out of your pantry just because of the “ick” factor.
Mites don’t live for a long period of time. Their lifespan is nine to 30 days. During that time, females can lay up to 800 eggs. This explains why mites can spread quickly.
If you see a brownish “dust” on your shelves or food packaging, don’t ignore it. This might indicate that you have an infestation of flour mites. The first step to get these mites out of your home is to determine which food is infected. Since these creatures like flour, grains and cereal, that is a good place to start looking. Closely inspect your food and look at its packaging to see if you spot any of the telltale brown “dust” accumulated anywhere. You could even notice this residue on one of your shelves.
After you find and discard the infected food, clean your shelves with a bleach solution to make sure you have eliminated the source of your problem.
Is A Grain Mite The Same As A Flour Mite?
Grain mites are sometimes called flour mites, so you’ll often see these names being used interchangeably. These pests can become a problem in moist conditions and are often associated with fungal growth. In addition to seeing the fine powder that can indicate that you have these pests in your pantry, you might be able to detect a minty odor when these creatures are crushed. A grain mite will feed on the germ, but can also feast on other parts of the kernel and any mold that is growing on the grain. If these pests are present in large numbers, you might be able to detect a disagreeable odor. Humans that are exposed to grain mites can experience a condition known as “grocer’s itch” and may experience an allergic reaction.
Even if you thoroughly clean your pantry and clean cracks and crevices with a vacuum, mites can survive several weeks in unfavorable conditions during an immature “resting” stage. For this reason, make sure that all your remaining food containers are tightly closed so these wandering mites can’t find a way to get inside. Another way to make conditions less favorable for these creatures is to keep food stored in low humidity, well-ventilated spaces. Avoid purchasing items from the store that are in damaged containers or that may be damp. Regularly check your pantry for evidence of mite “dust” and try to use and discard old packages of food before opening new ones.
How To Get Rid Of Mold Mites
When we hear about mites, whether it’s dust mites, mold mites or any kind of little creature that would infect our food, bedding, furniture or anything else we come into contact with, it’s natural to have a negative reaction. Mold mites and other similar pests love damp and humid spaces, so the first step in removing them is to address your home environment.
Getting rid of mold mites can be a challenge. There are several things you can do to help prevent or treat them, most of which start with eliminating the source of the mold problem.
- Throw away dying or dead flowers and plants or move them outside.
- Keep fresh vegetables and fruit in the refrigerator.
- Periodically clean out your food pantry and wipe down shelves, paying particular attention to corners.
- Open your windows to air out your home.
- Clean any surface mold by mixing one cup of bleach with five gallons of water and wiping down the area.
- Use a dehumidifier if necessary in rooms where mold tends to grow.
- Fix any leaks in your home.
- Have your air conditioner and furnace checked to ensure they aren’t adding excess moisture into your home.
- Remove any dead or dying vegetation in your yard and make sure you aren’t overwatering.
- Call in a professional to treat the mold and mold mites if the steps you have taken aren’t having any impact.
The key to ridding yourself of mold mites is getting rid of the source of the mold and lowering the humidity levels in your home.
Flooding And Mold Mites
If you’ve recently been affected by a flood, mold and mildew can be a real concern. Mold can rapidly spread through your home. According to FEMA, mold can start growing in your home within 24 hours after a heavy rain event. If you’ve been unable to get into your house after a flood, the damage can be extensive. Drying out your home is a critical first step in stopping and controlling mold and the mold mites that can come with this fungus.
Once your home has had time to dry out, you will need to check carpet, the carpet pad, upholstered furniture, drapes, wood and other porous objects which can be breeding grounds for mold and for mold mites. Pay special attention to odors since mold gives off a smell.
FEMA recommends going through your belongings and deciding whether an item needs to be cleaned, dried or discarded.
To protect against mold, FEMA suggests homeowners:
- Open windows for ventilation.
- Wear rubber gloves, eye protection and a mask when cleaning.
- Mix 1 ½ cups of household bleach in one gallon of water to thoroughly rinse and disinfect impacted areas. Don’t mix bleach with ammonia since the fumes are dangerous.
- Use a non-ammonia soap or detergent to clean all areas and washable items that came into contact with floodwaters.
- Cleaned areas can take several days to dry thoroughly. The use of heat, fans and dehumidifiers can speed up the drying process.
- Find all mold sources and clean them thoroughly.
- Remove and discard all materials that can’t be cleaned, like drywall and porous objects. Clean the wall studs where the wallboard has been removed and allow it to dry thoroughly.
For most people, mold is a bigger health risk than the mold mites which often feed on this fungus. Whether it’s mold mites or another similar type of mite, homeowners typically don’t like the idea of little creepy crawlies hanging around and would prefer to keep their homes bug-free.
ABC Can Protect You Against Pests
Prolonged moisture stemming from flooding or hot, humid conditions can result in a host of problems in your home, including mold and the pests which thrive in these environments. When you are dealing with these types of pests, ABC Home & Commercial Services can help identify the source of your problem and recommend ways to remove even the most persistent and pervasive pests. Homeowners rely on the pros at ABC to take care of pest problems in their home in rain, shine and even after storms and flooding.