What are scabies mites? Mites are members of the arachnid family or in other words the spider family or more specifically the acarid family. Mites are not insects. They are very small compared to the average spider. Like spiders they contain eight legs. Mites are non-parasitic or parasitic. Parasitic mites, such as the ones that cause scabies, attach themselves to their hosts and feed off of them. Mites live in various areas such as in soil or water, on plants, and on animals.
The round-bodied mites that cause scabies (Sarcoptes Scabiei) are sometimes referred to as itch mites. They are very small and usually not easily visible with the naked eye. It is the female mites that burrow into the skin and are primarily responsible for scabies. The burrowing usually takes place quickly after infestation of the host. The male mites generally remain on the surface of the skin. The mites are attracted to the host because the host is warm and gives off a scent that the mite enjoys.
The mites need a host to survive because of their sensitivity to the external environment. Otherwise they will die within two to three days. Without any scabies treatment being used, the scabies mites can live for up to a month on the human host. Lack of treatment also means the mites have the opportunity to lay eggs in the skin burrows they have created and these eggs are also scabies causes because they will hatch and produce more mites in the skin. After laying eggs, the mite dies shortly afterwards. However, two to three days after the eggs have been laid, they will hatch. The young mites or larvae do not stay under the skin but instead move to the skin’s surface where they will mature into adults. This maturation process for the scabies mites takes about two weeks. The adult female mites then burrow into the skin to lay eggs and this cyclical process continues until the scabies mites and scabies eggs are killed.
If the mite was obtained from contact with an animal, it can only survive a few days on the human host and it is not able to reproduce or lay eggs. Generally, mite types stay within their own host species. In other words, mites that usually infest dogs, cats, or other animals, stay within their own species to survive. A dog mite will not survive well on a host of different species such as a human. The mites obtained from animals can still cause some scabies symptoms such as itching and a skin rash for a couple of days, but the scabies rash and skin problem does not progress beyond this short time period, even without any scabies treatment.
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