Paper Mites – Bothersome Creatures That Don’t Exist


You may not have heard of paper mites before, or maybe you have. Odds are, you’ve never seen one, but you be told that these little critters are about, because people claim they are being bitten by them. You can search high and low however and you will never find one. You soon begin to wonder how such a creature can be such a problem if it is so small you aren’t even able to see it.


Mites that are no larger than the period on a typewritten page are capable of causing itching or a rash. Mites don’t always bite however. Sometimes they burrow, or they lay eggs and their larva are the source of the problem. If there are mites around you can usually spray or dust, and that takes care of them. Paper mites on the other hand seem to be immune to such treatment. How can one species of mite be so different from all of the others?


Carpet Mites, Cable Mites, and Paper Mites Make Up a Family


The answer is that these little creatures are an urban legend, or more to the point, an office legend. They simply don’t exist. They are in the same category as carpet mites and cable mites. People think they are being bitten by these creatures but those bites are either not bites at all or are bites caused by something else. If you spray your office a dozen times you’ll probably kill off every living insect, bug, or arachnid in that room and the next, but the little pests you are worrying about still seem to hang around. They don’t exist, but they still bite.


There is usually a solution, but finding that solution can take some time. You have to examine the carpet in the office. You also need to examine all smooth surfaces and office equipment. It is especially important that the air conditioning system and the heating system be looked into. See if anything in the office is made of fiberglass. Check out the office furniture upholstery. If you look long enough and hard enough you might find the source of the problem, and that source probably won’t be mites.


What About Fiberglass Mites?


It may be hard to imagine being bitten by inanimate, non-organic objects but it can happen. If you have ever attempted to put fiberglass insulation in place without wearing gloves and a long sleeved shirt, you may recall having been attacked by fiberglass mites. Of course there was not such thing. The rash you may have experienced, which might even resemble bug bites, was caused by tiny bits of glass that became embedded in the skin, causing irritation.


In an office environment, the problem is probably not going to be one of fiberglass, although it could be, which is one reason to take a look at the air conditioning system. The problem could be similar however, as it could be traced to airborne particles, some of which are quite capable of causing irritation when they come into contact with the skin. Dust and debris can be contributors. In an office which still makes significant use of paper, paper fibers might be to blame. There won’t be any carpet mites to be seen because they don’t exist either, but there could be a number of things in the carpet that are kicked into the air when the carpet is walked on.


If you have ever worked in an office environment where there is repair or remodeling work going on in the next room you may have noticed that some of your co-workers have suddenly come down with the sniffles, common enough if there is dust in the air, or experienced itching, rashes, or ‘bug bites.’  Once the work has been completed, the problem should go away, unless of course the clean up work was not complete, in which case any problems experienced could linger on.


HEPA Filters to the Rescue


There have been numerous papers written about this mythical mite. Few of them recommend spraying as a solution. Quite the opposite, in fact. One of the usual recommendations is to vacuum the entire area with a HEPA equipped vacuum. A HEPA equipped vacuum is one with a filter that does not allow particles that have been vacuumed up to be recirculated. The particles remain in the vacuum cleaner, where they are meant to be. Other steps can be taken as well, including providing a constant supply of fresh air and installing humidifiers if need be. Anything that minimizes particulate matter will be beneficial. One thing that is not needed is spraying with an insecticide. A carpet that has been sprayed a number of times with insecticide is not the healthiest item to have in an office environment.


If people tend to complain, either tell them that all of the paper mites have definitely been killed off and that their problem must be due to something else, or refer them to a reputable source that will prove to them that the creatures don’t exist.