Local News

Mite Bites Plague Fayetteville Family

Posted November 2, 2007 6:25 p.m. EDT
Updated December 16, 2014 9:09 a.m. EST

— Imagine waking up to something biting you all over. That scenario was a reality for one local family, who said their house was infested with bugs that were hard to kill.

Piles of clothing, blankets and kids’ toys marked "contaminated" told of the nightmare that has plagued the family for the past five weeks. The problem started with birds.

“It’s gotten so bad, we were throwing things out,” said the mother of two. “I felt like something was in my hair, and there was a burning sensation.”

She said she and her two children were covered in bites.

A North Carolina State entomologist said the culprits were bird mites - tiny bugs that can infest people’s homes when birds build their nests nearby. The birds, known as chimney swifts, nested in the family’s smokestack.

The birds are a protected species. It is illegal to disturb them while they're nesting, but the family said the birds were already gone when they discovered the nest.

Adult mites are only a half-millimeter long. They are white until they feed on blood, then appear red. They commonly infest bedrooms and bathrooms and are most active at night.

“I had to throw out all our blankets. We've had to throw out sweaters. They were nesting in the sweaters,” the woman said.

She bombed her house twice, poured Borax on the floors and even had the home professionally sprayed, but the mites kept coming back.

The bugs were so persistent that the family had to rip out the carpet. The man of the house came home from Iraq on emergency leave. On Friday, he declared war on the mites.

“It’s baffling to see how something that small can bite you and leave the type of marks and bruises (they've left) on my kids and my wife,” he said.

The bugs became such a problem that the family started using a spray to clean themselves and anyone else who went in and out of the house, just in case any mites were on them.

The family capped its chimney to keep the birds from coming back. While treatments continued, contractors inspected the home’s insulation to see if the mites had set up residence inside the walls.

As of Friday, the family was still staying at a local motel. The cost of replacing belongings and making repairs will be in the thousands of dollars, they said, and none of it is covered by insurance.