Tyrophagus putrescentiae is a cosmopolitan mite species. Together with the related species T. longior, it is commonly referred to as the mould mite or the cheese mite. The name translates from Greek to something like “putrid cheese eater.”
In the wild, T. putrescentiae occurs throughout the world in a wide range of habitats, including “grasslands, old hay, mushrooms, and the nest of bees and ducks”. Under ideal conditions, with temperatures above 30 °C (86 °F) and humidity above 85%, it can complete its life cycle in under three weeks.
It is a common pest of stored products, especially those with a high protein and fat content (meat, cheese, nuts and seeds, dried eggs, etc.). It feeds on the fungi that grow on the foodstuffs, and can become a pest of mycology laboratories.
Human health with regard to deleterious Mould Spores
Tyrophagus putrescentiae has been identified as the cause of human disease in different regions. It has been found to cause copra itch among people who handle copra in the tropics, skin and respiratory allergies among people handling raw hams in Italy, and dermatitis in an Austrian butcher’s shop.
Mould spores are found everywhere. Every day we are exposed to many different species, ranging from the common house mould Aspergillus Niger to the species found on decomposing foods.
People with a weakened immune system are naturally more susceptible to infection caused by mould spores, for otherwise healthy people they can sometimes cause symptoms ranging from unpleasant allergic reactions to symptoms such as itchy eyes, skin irritation to nasal congestion.
More serious conditions such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a lung condition caused by inhaled dusts, can also be attributed to air borne irritants such as mould spores.
Also known as Extrinsic allergic alveolitis, Bird fancier’s lung, Farmer’s lung, Hot tub lung, Humidifier lung
“Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is a rare immune system disorder that affects the lungs. It occurs in some people after they breathe in certain substances they encounter in the environment. These substances trigger their immune systems, causing short- or long-term inflammation, especially in a part of the lungs called the interstitium. This inflammation makes it harder for the lungs to function properly and may even permanently damage the lungs. If diagnosed, some types of hypersensitivity pneumonitis are treatable by avoiding exposure to the environmental substances or with medicines such as corticosteroids that reduce inflammation. If the condition goes untreated or is not well controlled over time, the chronic inflammation can cause irreversible scarring of the lungs that may severely impair their ability to function”. (Source)
It is not only mould spores cause an allergic reaction, the creatures that feast on them, mould mites can too. Closely related to dust mites, mould mites are often found within homes in damp conditions.
Pictured above, mould mites are tiny creatures only just seen with the naked eye and are white in colour.
Mould mites feed on mould and, whilst they don’t bite or otherwise cause any harm, can cause an allergic reaction.
This is because they are covered in long hairs which easily break off, become airborne and can cause a reaction when breathed in.
Mould mites can be tricky to get rid of since they multiply so quickly. Tackling the cause of the infestation – usually mould – is the easiest way to remove them.
Getting rid of mold mites requires getting rid of their food source. If they have nothing to feed on, they can’t survive and will no longer be a problem. So, to get rid of a mold mite problem, you need to handle your mold problem. If it is a small patch you can do this on your own using a water and vinegar solution along with physical scrubbing to kill and remove the mold. The mold mites will get scrubbed away with it. Any that remain will quickly die off. To ensure that no new mold mites appear, take steps to avoid mold growth in your home like using HEPA air filters and keeping moisture away.
Mold and mildew are natural byproducts of a humid environment — but that doesn’t mean you want to share your house with the spores. Rather than turning to harsh chemicals, such as bleach or borax, to banish mold, there are natural ways to kill mold at home that won’t hurt your family, pets or the environment.
Vinegar: Though you can dilute it with water to cut the pungent scent, vinegar works best as a mold-killer when it’s sprayed straight up from a bottle onto the offending area. Leave on for a few hours, then scrub the mold with a brush. If the vinegar smell bothers you, add a few drops of essential oil, but otherwise, know that the powerful scent will be gone when you return from running errands or going to work. Studies have shown that white vinegar kills 82 percent of mold spores, as well as viruses and bacteria. Vinegar also can prevent mold if you spray it on surfaces and leave it to dry.
Tea tree oil solution: Tea tree oil, though effective as a natural mold remover, is more expensive than some other eco-friendly remedies, but just two teaspoons of tea tree oil mixed with two cups of water can last you a while. Spray the solution onto the mold spores but do not rinse. Tea tree oil also has a strong scent, which will dissipate within a few days.
Citrus seed extract and water: Unlike vinegar and tea tree oil, citrus seed extract (such as grapefruit) does not have an odor. Dilute about 20 drops of extract with 2 cups of water, mix in a spray bottle and spray onto the mold. As with the other solutions, do not rinse.
Hydrogen peroxide: Spray three percent hydrogen peroxide from a bottle onto the moldy surface and leave on for about 10 minutes. Scrub clean, then wipe with a damp cloth to remove residual mold spores. You can also use hydrogen peroxide and vinegar together, and then store the bottle in a dark area (as light breaks down the potency of the hydrogen peroxide).
Baking soda is the go-to natural cleaner for everything, so you shouldn’t be surprised to see it here. (Photo: geo-graficka/Shutterstock)
Baking soda: Used with vinegar and water or alone with water, baking soda is effective at removing mold naturally. Dissolve baking soda into water or water-and-vinegar solution, and spray onto surface. Let it sit, then scrub and wipe with a damp cloth. Baking soda is a natural disinfectant and very mild, so this solution will clean mold without leaving behind a scent.
How do you prevent mold naturally? Wipe damp surfaces frequently, run a dehumidifier (or try these DIY approaches), spray vinegar onto damp surfaces such as showers when you’re through, and, above all, be vigilant about leaks. Mold is natural, but in the house, not so much.
Control excess moisture first
The most important thing is to locate and fix the sources of moisture that are promoting mold growth. This can be as simple as fixing a leaky pipe to something as complicated as sealing a damaged foundation. Often the appearance of mites is seasonal being highest when outside conditions are wet. Mites also sometimes can alert you to a leaky pipe or leaky door seal on a dishwasher. Just remember – when these mites are found think “where is the moisture coming from?“!
These mites can also be very common in damp coastal climates or in areas with high seasonal rainfall. In these cases dehumidifing the air may be your only option. Central heating, which tends to dry the air, may help as well.
Keep your home well ventilated. Regularly opening windows will help to remove the moisture
Choose antimicrobial products – BioCote technology creates products that unsightly and unpleasant mould such as Aspergillus Niger cannot survive.
Use organic essential oils or organic anti-allergy bedding to protect mattresses, duvets and pillows from mould spores and mites
Use extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom to reduce the risk of damp
Tackle visible mould right away and wear goggles, rubber gloves and a mask whilst cleaning to avoid inhaling any spores.
Are Mold Mites Bad For My Health?
In short, mold mites are no worse for your health than the mold which they feed on. With that being said, you should take care to rid your house of them should you find an infestation. Unlike bed bugs and many other insects, mold mites don’t bite. In fact, they aren’t “dangerous” to humans at all. What you may notice are symptoms like allergies. Mold mites’ bodies are covered in long hairs that are used for sensory perception. However, these fall out and become airborne, polluting your home’s air. Breathing them in can lead to respiratory symptoms like coughing, sneezing, or a sore throat.
How Do I Identify Mold Mites?
As mentioned earlier, identifying mold mites with the naked eye is practically impossible. However, if you notice a patch of mold growing somewhere in your home, you may be able to spot an accompanying mold mite colony. The tiny insects are typically white or tan, and you can see them when they accumulate in an area. Although to your eyes they will seem like only a discolored patch, a high definition camera may be able to spot them. Try taking a picture up close and then zooming in all the way. You may just see the tiny mites and confirm that they are feasting on the mold growth.
What about Insecticides for Mold mite control in homes ?
Insecticides are generally not needed nor are they very effective. Once the source of moisture/mold is eliminated the mites will go away on their own.
Tyrophagus putrescentiae was first described by Franz von Paula Schrank in 1781, under the name Acarus putrescentiae. This original description covered both a mite and a springtail, collected from garden soil, flower pots and rotting leaves at an undisclosed location in the Austrian Empire, and provided too little information for the mite to be confidently assigned to any family. In 1906, Anthonie Cornelis Oudemans treated A. putrescentiae as a species “indeterminabilia”, but designated it as the type species of his new subgenus Tyrophagus.
The identity of Schrank’s species was not fixed until Phyllis Robertson revised the genus Tyrophagus in 1959, and designated a neotype of T. putrescentiae from Oudemans’ collections. The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature approved an application to place Tyrophagus putrescentiae on its official list of approved names. In 2007, it was discovered that Robertson’s concept of the species in fact covered animals belonging to two distinct species, and that the Tyrophagus putrescentiae had been chosen from the much rarer species. A petition has been made to the Commission to stabilise usage by applying the name T. putrescentiae to the common species; the rare species would then be known as Tyrophagus fanetzhangorum.
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- Gary R. Mullen & Barry M. OConnor (2009). “Mites”. In Gary Mullen, Gary Richard Mullen & Lance Durden. Medical and Veterinary Entomology (2nd ed.). Academic Press. pp. 423–482. ISBN 978-0-12-372500-4.
- Pavel B. Klimov & Barry M. OConnor (2010). “Acarus putrescentiae Schrank, 1781 (currently Tyrophagus putrescentiae; Acariformes, Acaridae): proposed conservation of usage by designation of a replacement neotype” (PDF). Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature. 61 (1): 24–27. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-26.
- ^ Phyllis L. Robertson (1959). “A revision of the genus Tyrophagus, with a discussion on its taxonomic position in the Acarina”. Australian Journal of Zoology. 7 (2): 146–182. doi:10.1071/ZO9590146.