rodent mite or two (or more...). It's one of those problems that most of us don't think about - when we consider pest control, we focus so much on figuring out ways to get rid of the rodents themselves that we don't think about what the rodents could be bringing into the house.
Mites are very small but can be seen with the naked eye. They're typically around 1/32 of an inch long and look like a large dust speck that's red, brown, black, or white/translucent (except that these 'dust specks' crawl!). Although rodent mites prefer rodents, if a rodent isn't available the mites may instead bite humans.
Luckily, while mite bites may be irritating and unpleasant, they don't often transmit diseases or pose a health risk to humans. There is a risk, however small, that mites feeding off infected rodents could possibly transmit diseases to humans. Mite bites generally cause skin irritations, rashes, or blisters and give that "creepy-crawly" feeling. It's when these skin irritations appear that people typically realize that there could be mites in the house. Depending on individual sensitivity, skin irritations may even need to be medically treated.
One reason not to use poisoned baits or rodenticides to kill rats inside the house is that the rodents may end up dying somewhere inaccessible. Not only does this cause odor problems, but it can make mite problems worse too - now the mites, with no live host, have to find another source of food - and that could be humans or domesticated pets. They may end up in hard-to-reach places while crawling to find a new host. That's also why it's also important to properly dispose of dead rodents immediately.
Even if you have live rodents in the home, you can still experience rodent mite problems. If there just isn't enough food to go around for all the mites that are present, they will leave to find another host - and that could be you, your family, or your pets. Even with humane pest control methods that involve live traps, it's still best to remove the rodents quickly.
Mites need to be physically removed once rodents have been eliminated from the house. Wearing heavy-duty rubber gloves and a dust mask, look for rodent nests and generously spray them down with a mixture of 10 parts water / 1 part bleach. Let it soak for 5-10 minutes. They can then be discarded into a plastic bag (double-bagged is best) and securely fastened before being taken to an outdoor garbage bin. Note: do not sweep or vacuum loose rodent debris! Read up on how to safely clean up rodent feces and debris.
If you see mites on a hard surface, you can dampen a cloth with the bleach solution and wipe them up. You can also vacuum them up if your vacuum has a bag. Once the mites are in the bag, they will need to be immediately frozen so that they don't crawl out again, or the bag immediately discarded in an outdoor garbage bin that is to be emptied shortly.
Note that a bagless vacuum is not ideal for this task - when the canister is emptied, the dust and mites may become airborne and inadvertently get shaken or scattered out again. If you only have a bagless vacuum, remove the dust canister after vacuuming and spray the inside with the bleach solution or a commercial disinfectant before wiping it out (don't shake the contents out). Vacuuming should be done every day for two weeks. Mites can live for about 10 days without a host.
There are also commercial mite sprays available. These sprays can be used instead of the bleach solution. You can also spray these solutions into cracks and crevices and other areas where rodents may have occupied. Check the label to see if the spray can be safely used on couches, beds, even rugs and carpets. Be sure to also check safety information for whether the spray can be used around children and pets.
Severe or repeated mite infestations may require the use of a fogger to get into those hard-to-reach areas, or the help of a professional pest control service.
Rodent mite cleanup isn't something most of us automatically think about when we're dealing with rodents. The problem is usually noticed after rodent removal is completed. Taking action promptly is critical when dealing with mites to prevent the problem from becoming worse.