Microscopic bugs are invisible insects that are hard to detect with the naked eye.
These bugs are so tiny that when they bite, you wonder what’s biting you that you can’t see.
I’ve been in this situation many times. But, as a seasoned entomologist, I know for sure that in what circumstances microscopic bugs are going to bite me.
And what I need to do to protect myself from their bites.
In this guide, I’m going to reveal the secrets of protecting yourself from microscopic bugs that bite.
I’ll also reveal those invisible bugs and the environments when they’re most likely to leave behind mystery bites.
List Of Microscopic Bugs That Bite
Below is the list of invisible bugs arranged in ascending order with respect to their body size.
Let’s get into when and where these microscopic bugs bite, their side effects, and the solutions to protect yourself from them.
Demodex mites are a species of microscopic mites that live on human hair follicles.
Every human has these mites. But itching and rashes begin when the number of these mites increases.
Demodex mites live on skin, hair, and pores on cheeks, eyelashes, forehead, ears, and nose.
These mites don’t cause any harm. But when there are too many of them, they cause a condition known as demodicosis.
There are two species of demodex mites that live on humans – demodex folliculorum and demodex brevis.
The former lives in the hair follicles of eyelashes. They feed on the dead cells on the human skin.
The latter, demodex brevis, feed on the greasy oil that hair follicles produce to keep them healthy and moist.
These mites are impossible to detect with the naked eye.
Under the microscope, demodex mites are transparent with scaly bodies. Their bodies are long and have two segments.
The first segment, which is the biggest one on their bodies, has eight legs and a mouth.
The interesting part is that these mites are inactive when you’re going about your day. They come out of the follicles and pores when you’re asleep.
Kristen Fischer from WebMd authored an in-depth article on demodex mites which you can refer to know more about these mites and their impact on your health.
She says that too many demodex mites on our skin indicates that our immune system isn’t functioning well.
And seeing a doctor is your best option to treat demodicosis.
Scabies mites are parasitic mites that can live in human skin.
These are the mites that burrow into your skin and lay their eggs underneath the skin’s layer.
Their drilling in the skin causes burrows that cause intense itching and rashes.
A scabies mite lays up to 10-15 eggs in the skin. When the eggs hatch, the newborn scabies mites remain inside the skin and worsens the infestation further.
The most common spots where scabies mites burrow are webbings between the fingers, genitals, breasts, and the skin on elbow and knee folds.
They can also target the skin on the face, palms, and wrists of the elderly and kids.
Scabies mites are difficult to see with the naked eye. However, if you observe them under a microscope, you’ll notice them as black round insects with eight legs.
The most sinister scabies species are the crust scabies, which are also known as Norwegian scabies.
Crust scabies get inside the human skin in large numbers. Their eggs and the overpopulation of scabies in human skin make the skin crusty.
You don’t get scabies mites from nature or from the outdoors. You get scabies from another person who already has scabies.
Prolonged skin-to-skin contact with the infected person and using their clothes are the primary ways scabies spread.
However, you’ll not get scabies by a handshake or a hug.
The best solution to scabies mites is seeing a doctor.
Mold mites live on the molds and fungi that form on the damp surfaces of furniture, walls, floor, cardboard boxes, and even fabric.
Mold mites are clear white with translucent bodies. But they can also be brownish, gray, and black too.
Mold mites get their colors depending on the color of the molds they eat. And you can’t see them with the naked eye.
However, if you notice a grayish dust-like appearance or stains on the moldy surface, then chances are those are mold mites.
Mold mites have oval bodies covered with hairy bristles which act like sensors. They’ve eight legs and these features are noticeable only under a high-resolution microscope.
Mold mites are a big problem in damp homes. Excessive moisture and humidity in the house cause mold mites.
What’s interesting is that mold mites don’t bite.
But their hairy bristles can cause intense itching and rashes on the skin if they crawl on to your body.
Another drawback of mold mites in the house is that they’re allergens.
Mold mites molt, which means they shed their skin to grow, and those shed skin particles get suspended in the air.
These invisible skin shells mold mites floating in the air can get into our respiratory systems triggering allergies like sneezing, coughing, runny noses, and itchy eyes.
The best way to get rid of mold mites is to remove the molds with a mold cleaner.
However, they’ll be back if you don’t solve the dampness problem in the house.
So, fixing water leaks, repairing damp and moldy walls, ensuring proper ventilation, and installing a dehumidifier in the house are essential to prevent mold mites.
The most common places where you’re most likely to have mold mites infestation are areas where there’s high water usage.
So, places like the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room are the go-to places for mold mites.
However, mold mites can be a home-wide problem if your entire house has dampness problems.
The worst feature of mold mites is that they multiply fast in room temperature and in humid conditions.
Dust mites are worse than mold mites. They’re the worst allergens in the home.
The problem with dust mites is that, thanks to their microscopic size, it’s impossible to get rid of them.
You can only control them.
Dust mites are impossible to detect with the naked eye when their numbers are small.
However, when their numbers grow, dust mites appear as a layer of white dust because of their white color.
Dust mites are active during the warmer days of the year.
They sneak inside the house through the small crevices on the walls, doors, and windows.
These mites will then settle down in the dusty and damp areas of the house.
Dust mites feed on dead dry human skin, which is known as dander.
So, it makes them highly likely to nest in beds, carpet, couch, and other upholstered furniture where it’s easy for them to access human skin.
Dust mites don’t bite. Their feeding on the human skin triggers allergic reactions in the skin.
These reactions appear as itchy red welts and rashes.
The worst part is dust mites can also get into the respiratory system and can cause allergic reactions like a runny nose, sneezing, and headache.
Dust mites can be lethal for asthma patients if they enter their respiratory system.
Only regular thorough cleaning of the house is the solution to dust mites.
Vacuum cleaning your bed mattress daily and washing the bed linens in hot water kill the dust mites in them.
You must also ensure that there’s no dampness or moisture problems in the house. Dust mites thrive in damp conditions.
So, fix the leaky pipes, and install dehumidifiers in the house to make your home repellent to these allergic mites.
Straw Itch Mites
Straw itch mites are invisible biting bugs that live in straw, hay, and grains. When humans handle these materials, the straw itch mites move onto humans.
That’s why people living in a farm, barn, or agricultural workers are most prone to get these biting mites.
Straw itch mites can also latch onto humans and travel to their homes. As these mites are microscopic. So seeing them with the naked eye is impossible.
Under high magnification, straw itch mites have rounded bodies with fine hairy bristles on their bodies and legs.
They’re off-whitish and they’ve eight legs.
The bristles help them to grip the straws or hay and to crawl on them.
The interesting fact about straw itch mites is that they don’t feed on humans despite being nasty biters.
Straw itch mites bite humans just to check if the thing they landed on is an insect larva that they eat.
So, all straw itch mites bites are interrogatory or incidental bites.
But the bites are certainly not pleasant. Intense itching, inflammation, and skin rashes are the fallout of the bites.
The bitten area develops small red bumps or blisters just like bed bug bites.
It’s not advisable to scratch the bitten wound repeatedly because it can cause skin rupture, leading to infection.
The best way to soothe the itching is by using peppermint essential oil on the bitten wound. However, it’ll be best to clean the bitten wound with warm soapy water before applying the oil.
Taking antihistamines can also help to reduce the itching.
The best solution to straw itch mites is to minimize contact with the infected materials.
If you’re a farmer or agricultural worker, then it’ll be best to wear protective clothing like full sleeved shirts or pants, gloves, and boots.
Keeping the hay storage areas clean and treating the straw, hay, and grains to remove insects and mites eliminates these microscopic biting bugs.
However, it’d be best to hire a pest controller if the infestation is severe.
Chiggers are larvae of mites belonging to the Trombiculidae family. Chiggers are also microscopic, but under magnification they appear as tiny red yellow or orange dots.
Chiggers have six legs and oval bodies making them appear like little red spiders under the microscope.
They reside outdoors in dense vegetation growing in shady and damp areas.
Humans and pets get chiggers when they walk through their habitat. These miniscule mites latch onto clothing, luggage, and fur to travel to your homes.
Chiggers are most active during late spring, summer, and early fall when the temperature varies between 77-86°F (25-30°C).
Chiggers on the skin or clothes will bite to feed on your skin. And they target the areas where clothing is tight.
So, areas like groin, waist, wrists, and ankles are most vulnerable to chigger bites.
Itching occurs a few hours after the bite. Red bumps, blisters, and rashes develop on the skin because of the skin’s reaction to chigger’s saliva.
Itching and skin irritation can last for several days. It takes a few days for the welts and rashes to go away.
Chiggers that latch onto your clothes or luggage will fall off and hide in your home.
Bed, carpet, couch and the cracks and crevices on walls and furniture can be their hiding places for chiggers in the house.
But the best part is that the chiggers in the house can’t multiply. However, they can mature into adult mites if they get consistent access to food, which is your skin.
And chiggers bite only at the larval stages. When they turn into adults, they don’t bite.
The best solution to prevent chiggers is refraining from going into their habitat especially during the summer.
If you’re an outdoors person like me, who likes to camp and hike during the summer, then it’ll be best to wear insect repellents on the skin. Wearing full sleeved clothing also denies them access to the skin.
Washing your clothes in hot water upon returning home is the best way to kill chiggers that might have latched onto your clothes.
However, keep in mind that you should put your clothes straight into the washing machine rather than keeping them in the bed or closet.
If you do, then chiggers from your clothes will hide in places like your bed where they’re most likely to have access to your skin.
Any small or thin gap or crack in the walls, beds, furniture, and floor can be a hiding place for chigger.
Also, don’t forget to take a warm shower with body soap to remove any chiggers on your skin.
Using miticide sprays on your luggage bags will kill chiggers, and other pests like fleas and ticks, which might have latched onto them.
Rat mites are parasites that live on rodents and in their nests. As they’re microscopic, they can be difficult to detect.
These mites primarily feed on their hosts’ blood, which is rodents like rats and mice.
Rat mites are white or pale and they turn reddish or dark after feeding on their hosts’ blood. They have eight legs and oval-shaped bodies that make them appear like small spiders.
Rat mites are present in homes with a rat or mice infestation. If the rats are there in the house, these mites won’t target humans for their bloodthirsty needs.
Rat mites become human biters when their primary hosts die or leave the house.
In the absence of a host, rat mites will bite humans. Their bites itch and, fortunately, don’t cause any diseases.
However, their bites can cause allergic reactions such as fever, redness, and swelling in sensitive individuals.
In normal cases, itching and red lumps are the primary side effects of rat mites bites.
The interesting fact is that rat mites can’t breed or multiply while they’re feeding only on human blood.
So, eventually they die off if they don’t get access to their host.
However, you must take measures to eliminate rat mites in the house. The best way is to eliminate any rat infestation in the house.
And follow it up with thorough cleaning of the home, especially the areas where the rats or mice had their nests.
Washing bedding and clothing in hot water kills rat mites hiding in them.
As these mites are microscopic, they can be hard to eliminate. So, it’d be best to hire a pest controller to get rid of rodents and their parasites in the house.
Just like rat mites are parasites on rats, bird mites are parasites on birds.
The sources of bird mites in the house are bird nests on your property and if you raise chickens, then you can have bird mites too.
Bird mites have similar features to rat mites. The only difference is that bird mites feed on bird blood rather than rodent blood.
But the similarity is that bird mites too can bite humans and feed on human blood in the absence of their primary hosts.
Their bites itch too, and you can experience flea bites like symptoms after bird mites’ bites.
Removing bird nests, sealing entry points such as cracks and gaps on the walls, and cleaning and disinfecting the areas where the birds nested are the best solutions to bird mites.
These biting mites can also track you to your bed. So, washing the bed fabric in hot water is vital to remove any bird mites hiding in them.
Like rat mites, bird mites too can’t reproduce if they’re solely feeding on human blood.
But hiring a pest controller to eliminate these pests is a better option than DIY way.
Baby Bed Bugs Or Bed Bug Nymphs
Baby bed bugs, also known as bed bug nymphs, aren’t your typical microscopic bugs.
But their tiny size and translucent bodies make them extremely difficult to spot.
The worst part is that baby bed bugs also bite. And they bite more often than adult bed bugs because the nymphs need regular bloodmeals to molt and grow.
There’s a myth that bed bug nymphs’ bites are smaller than adult bed bug bites.
Both adult and baby bed bugs bite multiple times, making the bite marks appear in a straight line or in clusters.
Baby bed bugs hide in the cracks and gaps on the bed and in the nearby furniture. Their body shape is oval and flat, just like their parents.
Baby bed bugs turn pinkish after feeding. It’s because you can see through their bodies the blood they have consumed.
The presence of baby bed bugs in the house is a bad sign of bed bug infestation.
It’s a clear sign that bed bugs are feeding and breeding in the house.
If you notice baby bed bugs in the bed, then take a steam cleaner and clean your bed with it.
Steam cleaners produce heat. And heat kills bed bugs in all life cycle stages, including bed bug eggs.
However, I highly recommend that you hire a bed bug exterminator to get rid of bed bugs in the house.
No-see-ums, which are also known as biting midges or punkies, are microscopic biting gnats that bite humans during the dawn and dusk.
These flies live near standing water, marshes, and mud which are their breeding grounds.
No-see-ums are those flies that you can’t see when they bite. And most bites occur during the summer months when people are outdoors in nature.
Their gray colored bodies are delicate and narrow. Transparent wings with dark patterns cover their entire bodies, making them appear black.
But these biting gnats don’t just limit themselves to the woods.
If your home has standing water bodies like a swimming pool, surrounded by dense vegetation and tall grasses, then you too can have no-see-ums on your property.
No-see-ums have sharp scissor-like mouthparts that they use to rip open the skin to feed on the blood.
And they not only target humans, but also animals too. That’s why they’re a big problem for livestock.
No-see-ums bites are intensely itchy because the skin reacts to their saliva. Red bumps, swelling, and rashes develop on the bitten area that causes serious discomfort.
But no-see-ums bites don’t cause any diseases.
However, it’s only the female no-see-ums that bite because they need the blood to develop eggs in their bodies.
The male no-see-ums only feed on flower nectar.
I always wear DEET-based skin friendly insect repellents when I’m outdoors hiking or camping during the summer.
Not to mention, clothing covering your entire body also helps to protect yourself from their bites.
If you’ve no-see-ums on your property, then highly recommend removing any excessive vegetation and eliminating sources of standing water in things like pots and garbage cans.
Excessive watering of the yard soil makes the soil moist. The damp soil attracts the female no-see-ums to lay their eggs.
Removing organic wastes, which are also their breeding grounds, such as rotting wood piles or leaf litter, denies them the egg-laying grounds that they need.
Avoid going out during dusk or dawn to escape their bites.
To prevent biting midges from entering the house and bedroom, install window screens with fines on the windows.
Just like head lice, pubic lice also feed on human blood. But they infect the pubic or genital regions of the human body.
There are significant differences between pubic lice and head lice. The first is the body shape.
Pubic lice have round bodies, and they appear like crabs under the microscope because of their large front legs that appear like crab claws.
They’re light gray. But they become reddish-brown after feeding on human blood.
Pubic lice draw blood in the same way that head lice do. They inject their saliva before sucking out the blood.
The pubic region itches a lot. And persistent scratching of the bite wound can cause skin ruptures, which can lead to skin infection.
The signs of pubic lice bites are blue spots on the bitten area. And of course, itching and skin inflammation.
Pubic lice are contagious. They spread from one person to another.
Sexual contact with an infected person is the most common way that pubic lice spreads.
However, using clothing of the infected person and sharing the infected person’s bed or towel can also cause pubic lice.
Pubic lice primarily live in the pubic region. But they can also live in the areas where hair is thick such as armpits and facial hair.
Shaving the affected area and then using a disinfectant can kill pubic lice and their nits.
However, severe pubic lice infections always need a professional doctor’s help.
Thrips are tiny yellow bugs that can bite humans. From yellow to black, there are many different colors of thrips in nature.
The yellow ones are the tiniest, and they’re known as Frankliniella Occidentalis.
These tiny thrips are plant bugs and grow up to 1/50th of an inch long. You may notice them, if you’ve got a good eyesight.
Yellow thrips inject their sharp mouth parts inside the leaves and the leaves’ veins to suck out the sap.
That causes the plants to lose vitality. When the yellow thrips’ numbers increase, they can cause intense damage to your plants.
Signs of damages on plants ranges from yellowfication of the leaves to the leaves withering off.
Yellow thrips are active in the hot and humid months. And they’re active in warmer states like Texas and Florida.
These tiny yellow bugs bite humans accidentally. When thrips land on you, they probe your skin with their mouth to find out if you’re it’s food or not.
On realizing that you’re not a plant matter they can’t feed, thrips drop off your body.
Thrips don’t inject anything inside you when they bite. You can get bite marks that are similar to rashes and lumps.
Green Lacewing Larvae
Green lacewing larvae are not typically microscopic.
But they’re difficult to spot because they camouflage well with their surroundings.
Green lacewing larvae are long legless insects with tapered bodies, resembling a small caterpillar or worm.
They’re brown or greenish brown with prominent, pincer-like mandibles that they use to hunt their prey.
Green lacewing larvae are beneficial insects that hunt and eat garden pests like aphids, white flies, and mealy bugs.
They rarely bite humans. However, if they get compressed against the skin, then they can land up an itchy and nasty bite.
Redness and swelling also occur on the bitten area but their bites don’t cause any diseases.
The likelihood of green lacewing larvae bites increases when you’re sitting or working in a bushy area where they hide.
I had a few lacewing larvae bite me repeatedly because I was working in my garden only in shorts and t-shirt.
But you shouldn’t make that mistake.
I learned the hard way that covering your skin as much as you can while at the outdoors, or working in the garden, during the spring and summer months massively reduces the chances of bug bites.
Head lice are oval-shaped parasites that live on the scalp. They’re grayish white with six legs and pair of claws to grab the hair strands.
Head lice feed on human blood that they suck out from the scalp. They inject their saliva into the scalp before feeding to prevent the blood from clotting.
Their saliva and their bite cause intense itching and rashes on the scalp.
If you itch your scalp continuously, then it can lead to inflammation of the scalp. Persistent itching can also cause open spores, which can get infected.
Head lice are more active when you’re asleep. So, sleep disturbances are common in people with head lice infestations.
Children are the most vulnerable to get head lice infestations. But adults can also have head lice problem too.
Head lice spread from direct head-to-head contact with an infected person.
Sharing personal items such as combs, hats, and hair accessories of an infected person can also facilitate the spread of head lice.
Not to mention, head lice can also spread from bed or couch of the infected person.
The best solution for head lice is to see a dermatologist. However, there are many over-the-counter medicines that can remove head lice and their eggs (nits).
There’s one reason for this microscopic bug to exist, and that’s unhygienic living conditions.
Body lice infest and lay eggs on the seams of dirty clothes. Like bed bugs, body lice need to feed on human blood to survive.
But the best part is body lice are not associated with everyday living conditions.
You’ll find these microscopic biting bugs in utterly dirty places with crowded living conditions.
As per CDC, “In the US, you’ll find body lice infestations in homeless people who do not have access to clean living conditions, daily bathing, and clean clothes.”
Symptoms of body lice are intense itching and rash.
Plus, repeated biting by body lice on the skin causes the skin to thicken and discolor. This condition is known as vagabond disease.
Body lice infestation is unlikely to be on a hygienic person who bathes daily, has access to clean clothes, and has a clean living place.
An adult body louse is whitish-grey, has 6 legs, and only grows up to 4 mm in size. It only crawls on the human skin when it needs its blood meal to survive.
Post-feeding, it moves back to the cloth where it hides.
The point to note is that the lice found on the head and scalp are head lice. Head lice are different from body lice.
Unhygienic living conditions caused by war, natural or artificial disasters, and civil unrest creates an ideal situation for the body lice to spread.
Under these unsanitary conditions, body lice also cause diseases, such as typhus and trench fever.
Body lice also spread through direct physical contact with people who have them or using personal items like the infected person’s clothing.
But body lice infestations in the US are limited to homeless people who don’t have access to basic hygiene like regular bathing, clean clothes, and clean living conditions.
In very rare cases, you’d notice tiny black bugs on skin in summer. These bugs are body lice.
They’ll latch onto you and on your clothing if you’ve been to an unhygienic dwelling in the summer months. Body lice will look like specks of tiny black bugs on your skin.
Not taking measures to get rid of them from your clothing and skin will cause severe bites from body lice.
Mysterious Factors That Appear As Bug Bites
Itching and rashes on the skin are not always because of invisible microscopic bugs.
Environmental factors, household products, and medical conditions can also cause bug bites-like rashes on the skin.
For example, I’m allergic to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) that is present in many bar soaps and liquid hand soap.
Whenever I washed my hands with certain brands that use SLS, I developed biting midges bites-like rashes on my hand. And those rashes itched a lot.
People with dry skin are more prone to get rashes and itchy welts without any pest bites or any chemical reactions.
Many pregnant women, especially in the final trimester of their pregnancy develop skin rashes that itchy red bumps that exactly look like bug bites.
Particulates in old fabrics, such as clothing, carpets, and drapes, can make your skin itch a lot too.
So, if you’re home doesn’t have any pests then you might want to dig deep into the other non-pest factors that are making your skin react.
Microscopic bugs exist in nature and in urban environments and escaping their bites is doable.
You need to know their habitat and the situations when they’re most likely to bite you.
For example, if you’re near a water body, like lake or stream, early in the morning in the summer, then chances of biting midges attacking you are high.
In the same way if you’ve been to an unhygienic place, like in a shelter for homeless, then you’re likely to get head lice or body lice.
So, keeping these situations in mind and taking precautionary steps will eliminate any chances of infection from these bugs.
What are your thoughts on microscopic bugs that bite? Are there are any other invisible bugs that bit you and this post didn’t include them?
Please let me know in the comments section below.
Dr. Thomas Orbert, the Microbial Maestro, dances with the tiniest of creatures as an entomologist extraordinaire! With a PhD in entomology, his passion lies in unraveling the secret symphonies of insect-microbe interactions. From minuscule marvels to captivating complexities, Dr. Orbert unveils the hidden world of bugs, igniting curiosity one buzz at a time!