The term “black pepper mite” doesn’t apply to a species of mite, but rather to a group of mites with a similar appearance. When people mention black pepper mites, they might be referring to one of several different types of mites. Occasionally, they might be talking about the mites that cause scabies, an itchy, unpleasant skin condition caused by mites burrowing into the skin. The disease is characterized by itchy, red spots in the crevices such as the bends of the elbows and knees, between the fingers and toes, and in the genital area. They’re incredibly easy to catch and equally difficult to get rid of…. but fortunately, not impossible with appropriate medical assistance. More often than not, however, they’ll be referring to the bird mite, a type of parasite typically found in animal nests, but which can occasionally make its way into the home. If this type of black pepper mite is making your life a misery, here’s everything you need to know about how to get rid of them.
What Are Black Pepper Mites?
As Hunker explains, black pepper mite is a term that’s often used to refer to a bird mite, a type of ectoparasite (i.e. a parasite that lives outside the host) whose natural habitat is animal nests. Usually, they feast on the blood of birds or rodents – an unpleasant thought maybe, but not one that’s going to bother us too much providing they stay away from us. The problem is, events can sometimes occur that force the mites to leave their own nest and move into ours. Usually, this happens when the fledging birds or animals abandon the nest, effectively robbing the mites of their food source. At that point, the mites will swap their natural habitat for somewhere they think they can get a free meal. Unfortunately, that can often mean our homes. Even more unfortunately, they rarely travel alone, with the result that infestations can arise very quickly.
What Do Black Pepper Mites Look Like?
Black pepper mites might not be microscopic organisms, but as housekeepingexpert.com explains, they can be extremely difficult to see with the naked eye, particularly if they’ve taken up residence in the crevices of fur or clothing. Typically, they have an oval-shaped body that measures around 1mm with a hairy back and eight legs. Although they’re generally see-through, their bodies will often take on a reddish or black hue after feeding.
Who’s At Risk From Black Pepper Mites?
Ultimately, mites don’t discriminate. They don’t care about race, class, gender, size, height, or anything else. So long as they see you as a food source, a warm host, and a safe haven, both you and your home are targets. That said, some people are more vulnerable to certain kinds of mites than others. When it comes to black pepper mites, the people most typically affected are apartment dwellers with nesting pigeons, poultry farmers, homeowners with a birds nest nearby, people with pets or other animals that have become infested, and people who’ve bought used furniture, clothing, carpeting or other items that were already infected when they were bought into the home.
Are Black Pepper Mites Harmful?
While black pepper mites will never say no to a good meal of bird blood, they don’t much care for human blood. As gopests.com explains, while they’ll bite humans if they’re displaced from their original hosts (they are bloodsuckers, after all), they’ll rarely stay around for long as they need bird blood in order to complete their life cycle. But even though their stay is short-lived, it can still be deeply unpleasant. As well as leaving red marks on the skin, their bites can be extremely itchy. Complications are rare, but constantly scratching the affected areas can lead to problems. Bacteria can also occasionally crawl under the skin, increasing the risk of secondary bacterial infection.
How to Get Rid of Black Pepper Mites
Black pepper mites might not feast on human blood in the same way as certain other critters do, but that doesn’t make them any more welcome in our home. If you think your house is under attack, here’s what you need to do.
Identify What You’re Working With
Understanding a problem is the first step to resolving it. We all know what a cricket or an ant looks like, but mites are tricker… especially considering they’re practically invisible to the naked eye. But before you start waving a can of insecticide around, it’s important to get a proper identification. After all, there’s no point in following the steps to get rid of black pepper mites if you’re actually dealing with a different parasite altogether. Start by taking the advice of domyown.com by laying a piece of clear packing tape sticky side up in an area you’ve noticed lots of activity. If it’s a flat surface like a tabletop, you could try using a soft paintbrush to sweep the insects onto the tape. If you’ve felt the mites on your skin, gently lay the tape on the area and lift it up. Pop the tape under a magnifying glass so you can check if you’ve caught any mites. If you have, contact your local cooperative extension office to explain the situation. They should then be able to arrange an identification via an entomologist. If they confirm that you have black pepper mites, you can move forward with the following steps. If they confirm it’s actually another parasite (bedbugs, noseeums, and biting gnats are commonly confused with mites), you’ll need to follow the removal process relevant to that species.
Find the Source
Once you’ve confirmed that your uninvited pests are black pepper mites, you’ll need to find and remove the source of the infestation. Fortunately, black pepper mites can’t fly or jump, so you’ll rarely have to travel far to find it. Complete a sweep of the house looking for birds or rodent nests (if it’s a bird’s nest, you’ll usually find it in the rafters, eaves or gutters), dead birds and rodents, and birds that have taken up residence in the chimney or attic. Be sure to wear gloves during the process to avoid bites. Dispose of any nests and dead birds away from the house.
Once you’ve located and disposed of the source of the infestation, it’s time to pull on your cleaning gloves and spend some time doing a thorough spring clean of your house. Once they find a way into your house, mites will quickly take over, hiding away in carpets, stacks of papers, bedding, air ducts, lampshades… basically, nowhere’s safe. To make your home a little less inviting, start by decluttering, removing any stacks of magazines, newspapers, and papers, sorting out your laundry pile, and getting rid of anything that isn’t needed.
Clean, Then Clean Some More
Once you’ve decluttered, start scrubbing. Clean any surface thoroughly (a mild detergent is usually sufficient) and wash and dry any fabrics (including curtains, pillowcases, throws, and duvet covers) located in the infested areas. You may have to continue laundering the fabrics every 1 to 2 weeks until you’re sure that the infestation is clear. Use the hottest water the material can stand – ideally, this should be 130- 140 degrees. Dusting is also crucial, so be sure to wipe down any objects like vases, phones, knick-knacks, picture frames, and shelves where dust accumulates. Use a damp cloth while you dust so you don’t simply lift the dust (and the mites with it) into the air.
Use a vacuum cleaner to vacuum any cloth-covered furniture and bedding, along with carpets, rugs, and any curtains or blinds that can’t be cleaned in the washing machine. Once you’ve finished vacuuming, remove the bag immediately, seal it, and put it in the freezer to kill any mites. If it’s a bagless vacuum cleaner, empty the collection container into a sealable bag and do the same. Once the mites are dead (this will usually take a few hours), remove the bag from the freezer and dispose of it away from the house. As mites can burrow and cling to fabrics, you’ll need to continue cleaning and vacuuming regularly until you’re sure the infestation is gone.
Protect Your Bed With Covers
If black pepper mites are in your house, it’s because they’ve been displaced from their own home. Unfortunately, that means they’re on the lookout for somewhere cozy to take up residence – which often means your bed. Mites love to burrow into mattress pads and pillows, so be sure to protect yourself from their unwanted attentions by enclosing your mattress and pillows with dust-proof covers.
Try a Natural Insecticide
No one likes the idea of dousing their home in chemicals, but if you’re dealing with an infestation of black pepper mites, you may have to. If you’re totally averse to the idea, you could start by seeing if they respond to a natural, DIY solution using alcohol or essential oils. To make an alcohol spray, add five tablespoons of rubbing alcohol to one gallon of water. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray it over any fabrics and surfaces where mites are present. As alcohol can stain some fabrics, test the solution on a small, inconspicuous area first. To make an essential oil spray, add one cup of vodka to a spray bottle together with 20 to 30 drops of orange oil (you could try a different oil such as eucalyptus, but as orange oil contains high traces of limonene (an effective natural insecticide) this is preferable). Spray the solution over any affected areas, being sure to test it on any delicate material first in case of a reaction.
Bring Out the Big Guns
If you’ve already tried and failed to deal with your mite infestation using natural remedies, it’s time to get serious. Dousing your home in potent insecticides and disinfectants might be scary, but providing you follow the instructions and apply common sense, they’re a safe, highly effective way of dealing with mites. Sprays containing Pyrethrums are the most efficient remedy for black pepper mites. An all-purpose spray like Sterifab that can be used safely indoors on bedding, mattresses, furniture, and anything else in the home is ideal. Regardless of what insecticide you use, be sure to dilute it with water if required and to keep any children and pets away from freshly sprayed areas. To treat any cracks or crevices, take the recommendation of buglord.com and apply CimeXa Dust, a non-repellent, low-toxicity engineered silica dust that kills all mites, bugs, and insects that comes into contact with it by it sticking to their exoskeleton and absorbing moisture and oils. The mites will die of dehydration within around 24 hours of contact. You can also use the product to treat infected rugs and carpets. Simply scatter the surface with the dust, let it sit out overnight, then vacuum it up every 3 to 4 days. If you’re unable to find any CimeXa Dust, diatomaceous earth can be used as an alternative – just be aware that it may take a little longer to work. Regardless of the product you use, be sure to read the label carefully and follow the instructions to the letter. If the instructions say to dilute it with water before application, do it. Failing to do so won’t make the product more powerful or effective, but could actually have the reverse effect if the mites begin to avoid the areas where the insecticide is potent enough to be detected. As with any chemicals, apply basic common sense procedures such as opening a window to ensure adequate ventilation and wearing long-sleeved shirts and gloves to avoid it coming into contact with the skin.
Call in the Pros
If all else fails, or if the extermination process seems too challenging or complicated, don’t hesitate to call in the pros. It may be more expensive than treating the mites yourself, but it certainly beats spending the next few months being bitten!