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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Request: Please ID Species of Acari



Thank you in advance for insights you may provide. Myself and my home have become infested with a type of acari. That was confirmed when I sent bug fecal matter I found on my bed sheet to a diagnostic lab who runs PCR tests; they found dna in my specimen that matches acari. They don't have any specific acari DNA primers to match against though.

Do you know what kind of mite or tick is infesting me and my home, based on the symptoms below?

My Symptoms:

- Find specks, such as in this photo on my bed linens every few days. They do not stick to fabric, are 1/2 mm diameter, dark brown, and either spherical or tube-shaped.
- While near dogs, they became itchy about 20 minutes later, and they weren't before
- Sores on scalp - new ones daily
- Pustules (look like pus-filled acne) on my face, usually my nostrils, where nostrils meet face, and sometimes around jaw line - new ones every 2 or 3 days
- It's nocturnal, and does not like light. I feel something moving through my hair on scalp 5 to 10 minutes after I lay down to sleep
- When wearing hat in movie theater, feel something moving through hair at 10 PM and later



ANSWER: Dear Viv – I may not be able to provide much assistance here. First off, mites (Acari) can be found nearly everywhere; in fact, I would be very surprised to find a home where one could not detect their presence! Then, the symptoms you describe do not sound as if mites would be responsible. See and for images of typical responses to mite bites. Also, the objects visible in the image you provided did not appear to be arthropod-related in any way; they could be specks of just about any kind of debris. Finally, in your follow-up message, the mites already eliminated from consideration cover virtually anything that might affect humans in any way.
    It is not at all uncommon to have the feeling that something is crawling on your skin/in your hair when nothing can be found, I have experienced this myself on several occasions. I can only suggest that if you have not done so already, you should consult a dermatologist/allergist for a medical opinion. You might also find the publication on ‘mystery bites’ at helpful.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello Saugy,

Thanks for your response.

Can you recommend a laboratory that does full dna sequencing which I can send the bug fecal matter to, to get a dna sequence made of it, that doesn't charge an arm and a leg?

I sleep inside an EcoKeeper Bed Bug Tent, and check my bed sheet before I go to sleep, and ensure there is nothing on it. Upon waking up, I see one to three of the dark brown dry pellets.

Here's a photo of a recent bite, between my nose and mouth.

How likely do you think it is chiggers, or perhaps rodent mites?

Do you know of a source that has photographs of the feces of different mites and ticks that bite humans?



Dear Viv - I'm sorry, but I am not familiar enough with laboratories offering sequencing services to make any recommendations. Also, clear photographs of tick or mite excrement appear very difficult to locate. However, as ticks, like fleas, are obligate blood feeders, I suspect that they would be similar to 'flea dirt.' And given the small size of mites, I doubt that one would be able to distinguish their feces from other similar sized bits of debris by physical appearance alone. Finally, given your location, the time of year, and site of the lesion, whatever caused the tiny skin lesion in your image almost certainly would not be a chigger. And although mites cannot be 100% ruled out, I strongly doubt that they would be the cause either.    
  As the publication I cited in my earlier response points out, there are many other causes of skin lesions that easily can be mistaken for 'bug bites'; that is why I recommended that you see a dermatologist/allergist to see if they can help resolve this troubling issue.

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Ed Saugstad


Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.


21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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