Mite is a collective term for an entire group of arthropods. There are many varied species of mites, and most homeowners probably know of mites only an insect pest of garden plants. But occasionally, certain species of mites can bite humans. Mite bites rarely cause anything but minor irritation, but it is still important to know what causes mites to travel onto humans from grass and what to do when someone is bitten.
The mite species most likely to attack and bite humans are colloquially known as chiggers. Chiggers are not actually adult mites but are the larval form of the type of mite sometimes called a red bug. Adult red bugs frequent lawn grass, so people are likely to be bitten by chiggers when walking through grass, particularly overgrown, unkempt grass and weeds. Typically, a chigger will attach to a human host and suck bodily fluids for about four days, at which point they drop off and molt into adult form. While feeding, chiggers inject a salivalike fluid that causes skin irritation and a raised red welt at the feeding site.
In addition to the raised welts, chigger bites cause itching that can persist for a few days after the chigger has dropped off its feeding site. Chiggers are not known to carry any diseases, so washing a bite site with hot, soapy water and applying an antiseptic can provide itch relief and prevent infection.
Scabies and Other Hazards
Different species of one type of mite, Sarcoptes scabei, can cause the condition known as scabies. Mites belonging to this group burrow into the skin — typically the webbing between fingers, the bend of the elbow and knee, the penis, breasts and shoulder blade — and can easily be transmitted from one person to another through close, personal contact. Symptoms from scabies mite infestation (rash, intense itching) do not appear until a month or longer after the mite has taken up residence in the skin, making recognition of an infestation more difficult. Contact a medical professional if you suspect someone in your home has been attacked by a scabies mite; treatments usually involve a topical pesticide application to kill the mites.
Preventative steps can go a long way in protecting the inhabitants of your home from problems associated with mites. Keep grass mowed close and remove weeds when they pop up in your lawn; this removes preferred habitation sites for mites. A miticide — a pesticide targeted specifically at mites — can be applied to heavily infested areas. Always follow the labeled application instructions meticulously.