18 Apr

If You Suffer From Arachnophobia, You ‘Mite’

Not Want to Read This

Invading our homes and bedrooms, they creep and crawl around with eight legs. Using sharp, piercing mouthparts to suck fluids, their victims become viscera Slurpee’s. They can be found all across the world and chances are they’ve even been to the moon. In case you’re still imagining a spider, you can stop. This isn’t about those eight-legged creatures, but another. Sharing many of the same traits, Demodex mites are microscopic bugs that are closely related to spiders. Two species D. folliculorum and D. brevis live out their entire lives, entirely on… humans. Ever heard of eyebrow bugs?

Say Hello to my Mite-y Friend

Demodex mites get their common name, eyebrow bug because they live inside the hair follicles of you face. You need a microscope to see them. One of the mite’s favorite spots is along the base of eyebrows, but can be found anywhere there is growing hair. If that doesn’t give you the shivers, just wait. Demodex mites are finger shaped with eight stubby legs, a mouth with 5 to 7 claws designed for tight gripping, and a retractable needle like mouth part used for piercing and sucking.

What do they do?

Demodex mites do three things:

  1. They crawl. Their stubby legs won’t allow them to go very fast, it takes Demodex 12 hours to move from your ear to the edge of an eyebrow. Eyebrow mites are photophobic, light immobilizes them. When you’re sleeping the mite is moving.
  2. They eat. What they eat isn’t completely understood; Demodex isn’t the best studied bug. There are numerous ideas. Some think that they eat the oils secreted by the human body. Eyebrow mites don’t like dry areas; they favor the face since it’s the oiliest. Others speculate that the mite uses its retractable needle to pierce the cells around the hair follicle and suck out the juices. Either way, Demodex is eating something on your face.
  3. They mate. A favorite hangout spot is at the base of hair follicles. The micro-mites hook up, copulate, then the female burrows into the follicle or a pore and lays her eggs. In two days the eggs hatch, five days later they become adults and then live for another week. The mite’s entire life span is about two weeks.

Do I have them?

If you are under the age of twenty there is a 4% chance that that you have Domodex invaders. On the flip side, if you’re over the age of 70, then there’s a 99% chance that you and your eyebrows are not alone. Since the mites are not transferred at birth, scientists speculate that Domodex is transferred from parents to children. You can thank mom and dad.

Are they bad?

That answer isn’t simple. Before you boil your eyebrows, know that the mite normally doesn’t cause harm. Demodex lives its life crawling, eating and mating on the human face generally without effect. There are exceptions. The skin disorder, rosacea, is thought be caused by eyebrow mites and in cases where the human immune system is weakened, Demodex numbers skyrocket.

There are no treatments for eyebrow mites; they are something evolution has given us. If you feel overwhelmed and itchy, now might be the time to take that vacation and forget about the things that use us for food.

Demodex folliculorum (SEM)

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