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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Tiny and numerous little nightmares


Photos of mite
Photos of mite  

Mysterious brown dots on paper surfaces
Mysterious brown dots  
Hi Mr. Saugstad,

Over the last few days, I have suddenly found myself in the middle of an infestation. My university room (in England) had a small amount of food in it close to the window, which had been open each night due to the hot weather. Having removed what I assumed to be the food source, kept my windows shut ever since, and spent hours each day hoovering up the mites, I have seen to decrease in the numbers present every day when I return from work. I'd like to know what they are, where is likely to be their breeding ground and what I can do to get rid of them!

The bugs themselves range in size from just visible (but out of focus in any cameraphone pictures I take) to less than a pin head.
They vary in colour: the largest are always black/brown/dark red; the medium are black/brown/dark red/grey/white; the tiniest are usually white.

I have been bitten a lot on my limbs and torso, however I know that there's been a mosquito living in the room too and with the windows shut I must be its only food source, so I think it's unrelated. If only I could find it...

I've attached a collage of bad photos of the bugs, some with a 5p coin for reference (same size as a US dime I believe). In the top right of this is the largest I managed to photograph, and you can perhaps see that there seem to be some antennae at the front. That combined with the varying colours made me think maybe they are poultry mites? But then why am I tending to find them on cardboard and bottles in my room rather than on myself (and no I don't keep birds!)?

There has also appeared a brown dotting on some (only a couple) pieces of paper in my room, as seen in the second photo. Is this related or helpful?

Thank you for any help you can give me!

Dear Chris - Unfortunately, I cannot see any detail in your images that would enable me (or likely anyone else, for that matter) to make an identification. All I can say is that their shape would seem to rule out one possible suspect, namely booklice. Also, the 'grown dotting" on the paper appears to be no more that bits of dust or other particles of detritus.
   I suggest that you see if your council government has any pest control service available, and if such is the case, request that they investigate. See for a starting point.
Hope this helps a bit,

p.s. - If you are in the vicinity of Poole (Dorset), I might be able to have a personal look when my wife and I are there in October

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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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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