MITES AND BETILIDS

WHAT ARE PARASITES?

These are natural enemies of woodworms that need to attack the designated host to feed themselves and their offspring (such as Mites) or to complete the pre-imaginal development of subsequent generations (such as Betilidae).

WHY DO WE NEED TO PAY ATTENTION?

Woodworms and termites, as wood-eating insects, do not attack humans.
Mites such as Pyemotes and Betilidae such as Scleroderma, on the other hand, when they cannot find sufficient xylophagous insects (woodworms) to parasite, can attack humans.

How can I tell if I have been bitten by woodworm mites?

The bite generates a small, very itchy skin lesion (the itching can last up to two weeks), known in medical terms as a 'strofulo', which is a reddish raised lesion of the skin, often with a small central vesicle that quickly develops into a scab. In essence, a pimple with a dot in the centre. The mite usually stings humans repeatedly in the same area, causing several lesions close together in a row. The lesions appear from a few minutes to several hours after the bites (12 to 16 hours) and heal slowly. They mainly localise to the trunk, while the legs, hands and head are rarely affected.
It is very difficult to recognise whether the bites on the body were caused by this mite. This is due to the fact that:

  • The lesions caused by Pyemotes are similar to those caused by other mites and insects;
  • The mite is practically invisible to the naked eye;
  • Lesions do not appear immediately.
  • Many people believe they are bitten in places that are not infested with woodworm mites at all. For example, people who have an infestation in their homes think they are being bitten by something in their work environment because the lesions occur once they arrive at work! Often, however, the onset of lesions is triggered by temperature changes due to, for example, a hot shower or a sudden change in environmental conditions. In any case, these infestations usually occur in places where there is wooden furniture, beams or parquet flooring, so if you have any of these objects in your office it is possible that the infestation is localised there, otherwise you will have to look in your home.

    How can I tell if I have been bitten by Scleroderma?

    The venom injected with the stings is very active and, if one comes into contact with the female Scleroderma (males are not equipped with a sting), one can be stung in a very painful way: for example, working on tables or sitting on armchairs or chairs infested with woodworm, which in turn are attacked by Betilidae. The bite generally causes very obvious but localised papules, while allergic reactions may manifest themselves with widespread itching and swelling or even fever.
    WOODWORM MITE
    (Pyemotes ventricosus)

    The woodworm mite is a tiny arthropod related to ticks; as an adult it has four pairs of legs and a stinging-sucking mouthparts.
    It usually feeds at the expense of woodworms: it stings them and injects them with a poison that has a dual function, paralysing and digestive. Once the woodworm's tissues are liquefied, the mite sucks them up, feeding on them.
    When it cannot find xylophagous insects to feed on, it attacks humans.

    Bites from the woodworm mite cause small blisters on the skin that cause severe itching.
    BETHYLIDS
    (Scleroderma domesticum, Scleroderma brevicorne)

    Scleroderma are parasitoids belonging to the class of Insects (Hymenoptera, Aculeata, Betilidae). These insects, which live and develop at the expense of beetle and lepidopteran larvae, are very small in size and, being wingless and dark in colour, can easily be mistaken for ants. The females paralyse the host larvae by injecting a poisonous secretion with their spines; they then use them both as food and as substrate for oviposition. In woodworm-infested dwellings it is also common to find Scleroderma specimens that, if they cannot find sufficient xylophagous insects to parasitise, can attack humans.

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