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Pest Control/Follow-up Tropical Rat Mite Question


QUESTION: Six weeks ago, I moved into a 1940's four unit apartment, second floor. They had just tented the building for termites. Now I am being bitten up and last night managed to catch a few. Have identified them from the CDC website at Tropical Rat mites. Terminix says they can do nothing. The mites seem to be concentrated in my bedroom. I have done my part with the vacuuming and spraying ammonia on baseboards throughout my house. Taking my cats to the Vet in the morning.

So, I am assuming the tenting killed the host rats and the mites are looking for blood. If the apartment management can't get to the dead host rat to remove it, would RE-tenting for termites work?

If not, I will move. But will they come along? I was pleased to see in a previous post that you don't believe the mites would hitch a ride to a new abode? Is that true or did I misread? I feel them moving around in my hair and the bites hurt and itch.

ANSWER: Janet,

The mites that live in rodent and bird nests (bird mites/rodent mites/nest mites) can't live on our blood alone so they won't infest a home. Once their normal host animal (bird or rodent) is gone the mites will eventually die off. So they won't infest a new apartment. See for a picture of these mites and background info.

I think too much time has passed since the building was tented for these events to be linked. If mites are present in the apartment now there must be a current bird or rodent nest source. The best first step might be to confirm the identity of the mites because there are several species and knowing which species is present will tell you whether the source is birds or rodents. If you contact your local Extension office ( with a sample of mites they can get you in touch with an acarologist at the state university.

Once you get a confirmed id I'd be glad to help figure out a control strategy.

Jack DeAngelis

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

QUESTION: Thank you Jack, but I still have a few question. The site "living with bugs" only shows a hummingbird mite, which is not what I have. Mine are the size of a large period ( . ) and are red/brown. I have identified them as tropical rat mites (from CDC site) so I guess rodents are the source. (I will call the local extension office to confirm).

1. If human blood can not act as a life source, can CAT's blood? (I have two and will take to vet this morning).

2. My apartment is NOT new, it was built in the 40s and tented for termites 8 weeks ago. I live on the second floor and the girls on the first have also noticed bites. Can tropical rat mites or even bird mites live 8 weeks climbing from the dead rat, through the building, since their lifespan without a host is three months?

3.Until they die out, will spraying the baseboards (which I believe is source of entry) with ammonia or alcohol help? What about sprinkling Borax?

4. What else can I do?    (I am spending HOURS vacuuming and cleaning with ammonia each day... especially around my bed where they are most prevalent. Am washing my sheets/towels/clothes DAILY in hot, bleachy water.  I seal the vacuum bag immediately and take to the trash). I shower twice a day as they are living in my hair.

5. HOW MUCH LONGER until they die out, if the apartment management CAN NOT find the source? AND if it is Tropical Rat mites and there is a new, live rat in the attic, why aren't the mites staying on the RAT? I'd be willing to buy a few rats and put them in the attic (although this seems cruel).

6. Lastly, the parking lot behind my apartment is white gravel, could they be crawling out from under the building and attaching to my legs as I tend an Herb garden that I set up in a corner by the back entrance?

I will confirm the mite type and get back to you, but if you could please answer the above questions, I would be very grateful. This is a nightmare. THANK YOU so much for your knowledge and kindness in helping the public.

Best Regards, Janet

ANSWER: Janet,

I'm concerned that you have not correctly identified the mites. In fact, some of your questions make me think that you may not be experiencing a mite infestation at all. If you have mites I would urge you to get them identified by an independent lab, Extension is a good contact - you should insist that someone actually look at your sample.

Your description of the behavior of these mites is also very unusual so if confirmed it would add a bit to the knowledgebase about these mites.

Bear in mind that there are many things that can be mistaken for insect/mite bites. I get many questions about "bug" infestations that turn out to be caused by allergies. This is why I am reluctant to discuss how to solve a mite infestation when it has not been independently confirmed.

Jack DeAngelis

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

QUESTION: Dear Jack. I have three separate confirmations of a Tropical Rat mite infestation. Univ. of Fla.'s entomology dept, another source via my Vet, and an exterminator. Since my last follow-up, I have had my cats bathed and re-treated with Revolution and boarded at the Vet for 3 days. I then packed up some of my things and brought myself and my cats to my home in NC, where I have been for 4 days. While unpacking I have seen many dead mites, but am unsure if they might be breeding on my cats. It has been 7 days since the cats have been in the infested apartment. I am still in biohazard mode, washing my sheets daily in hot water and bleach, brushing my cats out of doors, taking three showers a day and vacuuming like a crazy person. I do not feel them in my hair and do not notice new bites on myself. I do not see them crawling anywhere, I only see dead ones where my cats have lain.
  However, I have read everything I can find and nowhere can I see what the Tropical Rat Mite's eggs look like. My cats have always had a little dandruff and still do, but I fear these are egg sacs? DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE EGGS LOOK LIKE? Also, do you know if an indoor cat can become a host to this type of mite? I understand that they bite humans but cannot reproduce with our blood. I NEED TO KNOW IF THEY CAN REPRODUCE ON CATS' BLOOD.
  Or, will they simply die out?  If you do not know the answers to these two most pressing questions, can you possibly recommend someone who can? I thank you for your time and am willing to answer any questions you may have about my infestation, as you had suggested some of my behavior descriptions were unusual.
  I have alerted the building owner in Tampa, Florida to these official identification reports and hope they do their part in eliminating them from their building. I will never return so do not need advice on that. I just need to know how to proceed to make sure I and my cats remain mite-free in NC. Thank you so very much,
Janet Henderson

The eggs would be very tiny, invisible except under magnification. The eggs would be laid in the nest of the host animal (rodent or bird), not on another animal such as a cat. And, this group of mites must feed on their rodent hosts to survive, not on cat's blood.

Can you tell me the name of the person at the University of Florida that did the id? I'd like to contact them to confirm some of the unusual behavior described for the mites you have found.

Jack DeAngelis

Update: I contacted the lab in Florida and they confirm the id and agreed that the source of the mites is probably an abandoned rodent nest(s), perhaps in the walls.  

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Jack DeAngelis


I can answer questions about the control of pest insects, spiders, mites and related arthropods. These household pests include termites, carpenter ants, powderpost beetles, nuisance ants, bed bugs, cockroaches, fleas, wasps, and many others. I can also answer questions about using pesticides and other pest control tools such as baits and traps.


I am a retired university extension entomologist. I've taught and conducted research in urban and agricultural entomology. I've published over 70 extension publications, 20 research publications and several books about insects.

Ph.D. in Entomology

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