Jody Savage had a run-in with mites that was a nightmarish experience, lasting over a year, requiring her to use her biotechnical research skills to identify and defeat them. She documented her story in a book, Year of the Mite. Watch her presentation at 79°West. Her slides are here.
Mites are tiny creatures, but their unsettling habits and habitats are creepy.
- Invisible Invaders: Mites are stealthy, hiding in places like soil, water, flour, and even your sheets, where they feast on dead skin cells.
- Animal Squatters: Mites aren’t picky about their hosts—they can be found in the ears of moths, nostrils of hummingbirds, lungs of seals, and throats of honeybees.
- Mites Among Us: Have you ever heard of Demodex mites? They reside in our facial hair follicles and sweat glands, living off eyelash gunk. A controversial fact? Whether they have an anus is still a matter of debate.
- Speed Demons: Paratarsotomus macropalpis, a type of mite, is the fastest animal on Earth, moving at an astonishing 322 times its body length per second.
- Dinosaur Dilemma: Believe it or not, some scientists speculate that mites and bugs might have played a role in wiping out the mighty dinosaurs. George Poiner, a paleontologist, is one of them, advising against reviving dinosaurs that might bring back their potential pathogens.
- Bizarre Reproduction Saga: Some mites, like those in the Orbatida order, reproduce through parthenogenesis, where females give birth to females without the involvement of males.
- Maternal Sacrifice: Adactylidium mites take reproduction to a gruesome level. The male offspring mates with all the females while still inside their pregnant mother, ultimately leading to a rather unsettling end for the mother.
- Arachnid Oddities: H. sadistica, another arthropod, a spider, has a peculiar mating ritual involving piercing the female’s carapace.
- Parasitic Predicament: Mites are more than just tiny pests. Many mites are parasites, and Carl Zimmer emphasizes that there are more parasitic species of animals on Earth than free-living ones.
- Bird’s Nightmare: Dermanyssus gallinae is a major parasite affecting birds, infesting wild birds and over 90% of commercial poultry operations, potentially carrying diseases dangerous to humans. This is the type that infected Jody and her home.
- Human Intruders: D. gallinae is an underrecognized human parasite, significantly affecting poultry workers in regions like North Carolina with extensive poultry production. The second largest employer in Chatham is a poultry factory.
- Mite-Free Zone: Lower your chances of mite encounters by implementing preventive measures in your home, from keeping it cool and dry to maintaining cleanliness.
- Exorcising the Mites: If you find yourself infested with mites, there are steps you can take to eradicate them using the least toxic and effective methods. Consult professionals for proper guidance.
Who knew this unseen world of mites was so diverse and bizarre?