Wood Mites: Did Your Christmas Tree Bring Unwelcome Guests?
Updated: Jul 7, 2022
Over the last couple of years we’ve covered the topic of mites quite extensively- focusing on everything from mite habitats and mite feeding preferences to the 1,001 mite species now populating the planet. (You can learn about all of them in our Complete Guide to Mites!)
But there is one member of the species that, so far, we haven’t talked about: the lowly wood mite! I say ‘lowly’ because despite its being hardy, and hard to eradicate, we seem to pay it little mind. Of course, that probably has a lot to do with the fact that the wood mite (like so many mites) is virtually invisible ̶ and it doesn’t attack humans, for the most part!
When Wood Mites Are a Problem
But wood mites can be a real problem! Below is part of an email that was sent to a UK-based help column (yes, they’re reach is international!):
“On . . . the floor and bedside cabinet . . . there [were] quite a few of these little mites
crawling all over the top and inside a couple of the drawers; there [were] more in the
outlet . . . we hoovered . . . whole cabinets, inside all drawers, carpets, beds and
moved everything that was nearby and sealing them in Ziplock bags, my PS3 remote
had about 30 of the little buggers . . . inside the bag, it's still in there and awaiting to
be stripped down, the sky remote also had them in, as did other remote controls.”
You can see why the writer was so concerned!
However, before you reach for your trusty bug killer, you should know that wood mites are absolutely harmless bugs that just happen to like living in old, damp wood piles (there’s no accounting for taste, I suppose).
Wood Mites in Your Home
However, they can, and do, make their way into homes, as the above letter demonstrates. If they do, then expect to find them on your furniture, in your carpets and rugs, on curtains, throughout your bed linen and in just about everywhere else in the house.
How Do Wood Mites Get In Your Home?
If you use wood-burning stoves, or simply use log or two to start a coal fire in your hearth, there’s a very good chance that those wood mites came from your store of wood outside, or from the cords you bought at the hardware store. You also have to be careful at the holiday season because wood mites will hitchhike into your home via that lovely Christmas tree that adorned your living room all month. Don’t throw caution to the wind - you’re better off doing a proper clean up once the holiday season is over. Vacuum well, clean the drapes, and use a safe disinfectant like Sterifab on your carpets and furniture.
But even if you don’t have a Christmas tree in your house, remember, if you visit friends who do, it’s easy to pick up unwanted travelling companions!
Tip: Wood mites are often found in gardens, on house plants, and greenhouses. So, in addition to being brought in from the wood pile or on the Christmas tree, they can also find their way into your house on a house plant. Check those pots if you find wood mites anywhere.
How to Identify Wood Mites
It doesn’t help that these troublesome pests are extremely small, measuring no more than 0.09 inches in length. Apart from their white color, what makes them distinctive ̶ and easier to identify ̶ is the fine silken thread they tend to leave behind, especially on plants.
While wood mites are really harmless (because they don’t bite, and unlike termites, don’t cause structural damage), they can pose a problem for people who suffer from various allergies. They’re hard to see, but these mites sport very long body hairs, which are shed frequently. The hairs have proven to be allergen carriers, which of course, affects anyone in the house who suffers from allergies.
How to Get Rid of Wood Mites
If you’re absolutely sure that you have a wood mite infestation, there are a few things you can do to reverse the situation.
Here’s how to get rid of wood mites - for good.
Find out where they’re living. First of all, the clue to dealing with wood mites is their preferred place of residence: piles of damp wood and behind moist tree bark.
Get rid of moisture and mold. The common factor is moisture; more specifically, the mold that usually grows in these conditions. Obviously, you need to get rid of any mold you might find, but just as important is finding the source of the moisture.
Clean your house from top to bottom. You need to thoroughly clean your house, literally from top to bottom! Vacuum your bedrooms and mattresses, methodically, then vacuum all the floors, carpets, rugs and mats in your home. And don’t forget to clean under sofas, behind curtains and shutters, as well as shelves. Mop the floors with very hot water and a dependable floor cleaner and wash all your quilts, duvets, pillows, blankets, and other bed coverings, then put them in the dryer ̶ on as high a heat as the materials permit ̶ for at least 45 minutes.
Apply a nonresidual pesticide. As you might imagine, we think that Sterifab® is your best bet. It’s both a pesticide and a disinfectant that kills other critters that might be lingering in your home. Plus, as a disinfectant it eradicates micro-organisms, prevents fungal growth, and snuffs out mold and mildew. Best of all, its nonresidual, so you can sit on your couch 10 minutes after applying the stuff!
A Note About Moisture and Pests
Keep in mind that houses with excessive moisture levels are usually home to more than one invasive pest. This is one of the reasons that we suggest that if you have wood mites you call a Pest Management Professional (PMP). The fact is that a PMP is trained to assess any pest infestation situation, tell you how serious it really is and what needs to be done. Also keep in mind that trained PMPs are able to detect pest problems that you may not have been aware of and tell you what needs to be done.
As one source put it:
“[A PMP will] identify the pest; locate its source and eliminate if possible; reduce
conditions that contribute to the migration, feeding and reproduction of the
pest; use chemicals as a last resort; choose correct chemical for the job.”
How to Prevent Wood Mites from Returning
As we said earlier, moisture invariably draws wood mites to its source, in this case your house. Taps and water lines are the most likely culprits ̶ and easily fixed ̶ but you also need to examine the foundations of your house for any points where water may seep in. Your roof should also receive the same degree of scrutiny.
However, if you happen to live in an especially humid area, or at least one that is naturally moist conditions, you might consider using a dehumidifier (or two) or installing central heating to keep the air permanently dry.
Weather-permitting, you should also examine whatever plants you have in your garden. If they are infested with mites your best bet ̶ unfortunately ̶ is to remove the infected plants, bag them in plastic, and throw them in the garbage. It is extremely hard to displace wood mites once they have gotten a foothold (so to speak) on a plant.
Second Time’s a Charm...
As a homeowner you may not want to hear this, but you can’t be sure that those wood mites, nor any of the other pests your exterminator discovered, will not return. Chances are good that they will. But this is not your fault, nor that of your pest control professional. It’s in the nature of wood mites. All mites, in fact! Plus, lots of other unwanted ‘interlopers’ too.
Just stay alert and keep your eyes open.
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