Introducing Rat Mites: They’re Even Worse Than Bedbugs

Adult Rat Mite. LM
Photo: Biodisc/Visuals Unlimited, Inc.

On Tuesday, a paper dedicated to examining the unique disgustingness of New York City’s rats was published in the journal mBio, immediately prompting anyone with a weak stomach to run for the nearest trash bin. Among the findings, researchers discovered 18 unknown viruses living within New York’s rat population. But one thing the paper didn’t mention? Rat mites. They’re a thing, and they’re worse than bedbugs. Here, an explainer for your nightmares.

What are rat mites?
Rat mites, scientific name ornithonyssus bacoti, are tiny parasites that live on rats and inside their nests and feed off of rat blood. But sometimes, when they can’t find rats to infest, they resort to making a meal out of the blood of humans. They’re super tiny — barely visible, really — and love to bite you in your sleep.

Rat mites are capable of surviving for long periods of time without a host and can also travel several hundred feet from a rat or rat’s nest to find a new host. Considering that in New York, you’re basically always at least several hundred feet from a rat, that’s really terrifying! They’re also “one of the most common house invading species.” Okay, great.

How can I tell if I have rat mites?
When rat mites bite your skin, they cause dermatitis similar to bedbugs: You may notice raised, red, itchy bumps on a specific section of your skin.

How do I know if I have rat mites or bed bugs?
The best way to discern whether you’ve been infested by bedbugs or rat mites (or … good God … both) is to use a sticky trap to capture a sampling, then have them inspected by a pest-control company. The experts will be able to determine what exactly you’re dealing with and tailor their attack plan accordingly. 

How do you get rid of them?
If you have rat mites, it means you have rats. I know! It’s horrible, but you have to locate the rat’s nest and destroy it in order to get rid of the rat mites. Basically, get an exterminator to kill the shit out of those rats and wipe out their disgusting, disease-ridden rat home. Once you locate and eradicate the rat population, you have to make sure you seal off any entry points the rats may have used to get into your apartment. Then, disinfect your home using a pest-control spray, or save up and call an exterminator because you do not want to mess around with rat mites.

Can rat mites spread all those gross rat diseases?
Luckily, no — or at least, not yet. According to Pando, no cases of rat mites spreading diseases to humans have ever been documented, but “scientists have been able to facilitate rat-mite-to-human disease transmission in a lab, so better leave New York and all your dreams and ambitions behind now just to be safe.”

Why are rat mites so much more disgusting than bedbugs?
Because they come from RATS. Do I even need to explain how disgusting rats are??


Meet Rat Mites: They’re Even Worse Than Bedbugs