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 FLORIDA Lice, Mites, & Ticks
 A source for information on beetles


Lice, Mites, and Ticks


 Hosting a tick is the price dogs or, less commonly, cats may pay for investigating shrubbery, brush, or wild undergrowth. Ticks have a four-stage life cycle, and immature ticks often feed on small, wild animals found in forests, prairies, and brush. Adult ticks seek larger hosts like dogs and cats who venture into these habitats. Tick exposure may be seasonal, depending on geographic location. Ear mites are common in young cats and dogs, and generally confine themselves to the ears and surrounding area. Mites are tiny and individual mites may be seen only with the aid of a microscope. Your pet can pick up ear mites by close contact with an infested pet or its bedding. Lice are optimal model organisms to study the ecology of contagious pathogens since their quantities, sex-ratios etc. are easier to quantify than those of other pathogens. The ecology of avian lice have been studied more intensively than that of mammal lice. Lice (singular: louse) is the common name for over 3000 species of wingless insects of the order Phthiraptera; three of which are classified as human disease agents. They are obligate ectoparasites of every avian and mammalian order except for Monotremes (the platypus and echidnas), bats, whales, dolphins, porpoises and pangolins.


Bed bugs infest homes, hotel rooms, and apartments by hitching rides on luggage, furniture, and other items carried from an infested room to another location. It takes but one female bug or a few eggs deposited onto a bag to begin a new infestation elsewhere. Typically, an infestation begins in a single motel/hotel room or apartment and then spreads to neighboring units. Bed bugs spend the day resting in cracks or voids of furniture or walls.  Positive identification of bed bugs is important because their close relatives, bat bugs and swallow bugs, can easily be confused with them. Misidentification can lead to unsuccessful control efforts.

Evidence of bed bug activity includes live and dead bugs, dark spots on a mattress, box springs or bed frame, blood spots on sheets, and empty tan colored skins that are left behind when bed bugs shed their skins to molt into the next stage.

Bed bugs are very difficult to eliminate, therefore consultation with an experienced pest control professional is highly recommended. Successful control depends on finding every crack or void where the insects are harboring and removal of the bugs by vacuuming or treatment of the harborage with an appropriate product. Overlooking even the smallest crack in furniture may lead to a persistent infestation; therefore, beds, nightstands and related furniture often require disassembly and careful inspection. Carpets may need to be gently lifted along the edge and the space beneath treated. Baseboards, door and window frames, and any visible crack will require treatment in infested rooms. Should furniture be moved from an infested unit to another unit, it should be carefully inspected and cleaned or treated as necessary to prevent the spread of bed bugs to the new room.

Furniture that is to be thrown out needs to be defaced such that it is unusable and/or marked as infested with bed bugs. People should take care when purchasing furniture at garage sales and should carefully inspect all sides for evidence of bed bugs. Picking up furniture that is seemingly in good condition left on the street for trash pick-up is not recommended.


Fleas are ectoparasites of animals, meaning they live on the outside of the body and need to feed on the blood of these animals in order to produce eggs. Because fleas usually feed and lay their eggs while the pet is sleeping, the pet's resting areas are where the most fleas will be found. Many pets acquire fleas outside in the yard. Research has demonstrated that urban wildlife, such as raccoons and opossums, are commonly responsible for introducing these insect pests onto residential properties where the pets can encounter them. Controlling a flea infestation successfully requires four steps:

  • Preparation for treatment. 
  • Treatment of pets. 
  • Treatment of the inside premises. 
  • Treatment of flea activity sites outside. 

Obviously, the pet is critical to minimizing flea infestations and regular grooming helps to limit fleas on the pet. For this reason, customers need to keep the pet groomed and treated with on-animal flea control products. Step One. Any flea treatment will be less effective if the home is not prepared properly by completing the following steps:

  • Remove all items, such as toys, clothes, and pet food from all floors. 
  • Remove all items from under beds and in the bottom of closets. 
  • Wash or replace pet bedding. 
  • Vacuum all carpets and rugs thoroughly, including beneath beds and upholstered furniture. 
  • Clean all wood, tile, and linoleum floors by sweeping and mopping. 
  • Clean concrete floors with soap and water in the garage,basement, or enclosed patio where pets rest or stay. 
  • Remove all pets including birds and reptiles. Cover fish tanks with a damp towel and turn off the air pump. 
  • Replace any pet bedding outdoors and make all shaded areas, crawl spaces, etc. available for treatment. 
  • Arrange to be out of the home for several hours until the treatment has thoroughly dried. 

Step Two. The homeowner needs to arrange for treating the pet. A number of on-animal treatment products are now available. Treatment of pets should be done under the direction of a veterinarian.

 Step Three. In homes that have an active flea infestation, a residual treatment combined with an insect growth regulator should be applied. A professional can best accomplish this treatment by using specialized equipment. Efforts should be focused on the areas where pets rest or sleep. These are the sites where the most fleas will be located.

 Step Four. Outside, treatment should be applied to shaded areas and beneath shrubs and decks where pets rest or sleep. Again, a professional has the right equipment to provide this treatment effectively.


The human head louse is almost exclusively found living within the hairs of the human head. Lice can survive short periods on hats, brushes, combs, pillows or towels. They will, however, die within 24 to 48 hours off the host. The presence of head lice is a medical issue and should be diagnosed and treated by a physician. Typically, a physician will prescribe a louse control shampoo or similar product. Also, a fine-toothed comb may be used to help remove lice and some nits from hairs. It is important to note that the label directions of any louse control product should be strictly followed. Reports of concerned or panicked parents applying such products daily or at higher than label-directed dosages have occurred. Such misuse of these products is potentially unsafe for the lice-infested person; much like taking a higher dose of medication than recommended by a physician is unsafe.A pest management professional can do nothing to help in dealing with this insect. The premises do not require treatment. Noninfested family members should not share combs, brushes, hats, towels or bedding with an infested person until that person’s louse infestation has been eliminated. Use hot water and detergent to wash bedding, clothing, towels, etc. that have been in contact with an infested person. Combs and brushes can be boiled for a minute or so in water and then washed thoroughly with soap and water.





Am. dog tick



About 1/4-inch in length.


Dark reddish-brown.

 Like all ticks, the American dog tick is a bloodsucking ectoparacite. It is often referred to as a wood tick because it is found in wooded areas where mammalian hosts such as deer, raccoons and possums live. It lives near bodies of water where animals drink as well. Ticks require a blood meal at each stage of life in order to grow, and the female must engorge herself with blood to obtain the nourishment necessary to produce the thousands of eggs she lays. Despite the large number of eggs produced, only a small percentage will make it to maturity. Ticks do not embed their entire head into a host, only the mouthparts. To keep the blood from clotting, the tick will inject an anti-clogging agent. Bites from the American dog tick, along with other closely related species, can sometimes cause a severe reaction. Called tick bite paralysis, it only occurs in a relatively small number of people. These ticks also can transmit diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease. Important Note: If you develop a reddish rash around the site of a tick bite, suffer arthritis-like pain in one or more joints, or have flu-like symptoms that come and go after recently being bitten by a tick, see your physician. The migrating, “bulls-eye” rash is a key symptom of Lyme Disease, and occurs in about 60 percent of people contracting the disease. The rash may not appear as the first symptom. Flu-like symptoms, fatigue, neck and head pain, and other symptoms may occur first or in lieu of the rash. Visit the Center for Disease Control at for a full description of this disease.

bed Bug



Up to 1/4-inch in length




It is likely that bed bugs are the most commonly known ectoparasites to humans. Nearly every child has heard the reminder, “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite!” Prior to World War II, bed bugs were fairly common in homes. Due to the introduction of modern pest control products in the 1940s, this insect faded from the American scene, and has only recently reappeared as a unique pest problem in buildings. These parasites are blood feeders, and they crawl into beds during the night while their victims sleep. The bite is painless and a number of bed bugs may feed for an extended period of time on any area of exposed skin. The resulting bite wound may show generalized minor swelling into a raised bump followed by itching. Commonly, skin reactions to bed bug bites may not show up for 1-2 weeks after the bites. Fortunately, bed bugs do not carry or transmit any human disease, but the mere presence of any blood-feeding insect is disconcerting, at best.

Eggs are deposited in small cracks in the bed frame, mattress seams, or in baseboards, trim or furniture near the bed. The first instar nymphs that hatch from eggs are tiny, no larger than a letter on a penny. Five nymphal stages occur to reach the adult stage and each requires a blood meal. The nymphs and the adults reside near one another, hiding in such cracks awaiting nightfall when they might venture out to feed. In some cases, the offending bed bugs are harboring many feet from the bed in cracks in furniture, baseboards, doorframes, or even within voids in the wall. If populations become large, or when a host becomes scarce because no one sleeps in the bed for a period of time, bed bugs may crawl into other rooms or squeeze through walls to enter neighboring locations. They may also be transported from place to place hiding in furniture, clothing and blankets.

Bird Lice



Varies depending on species; usually 1/8-inch or smaller in size.


Depending on the species, the color varies from tan to brown to creamy white.

A number of species of lice infest various types of birds. The picture represented here is only one species. On farms, lice that infect poultry are known to sometimes become a problem in barns, and they can bite humans who work with the birds. More commonly in homes and commercial buildings, lice that infest pest birds, such as pigeons and sparrows, may find their way into living spaces of homes. Although such lice are incapable of living off a human host, they have reportedly bitten people in a few, rare cases. Usually, one or more specimens are discovered on a windowsill, on the floor, or possibly on a desk or table where they have exited the ceiling or wall and have dropped to die. Generally, such cases result from birds nesting in the attic, walls or on the outside edge of the building roof. Lice typically leave the bird’s nest and wander after the host birds have left. Occasionally, however, bird activity within a commercial building (e.g., a church bell tower) that has been allowed to persist can create an infestation of lice and other bird ectoparasites to the point that some begin to wander in search of new hosts.

Bird Mite



Bird mites are tiny; the size of a pin head or possibly smaller


Varies, usually dark, but possibly creamy white, depending on the species

 A variety of mite species infest different types of birds and other animals. There are more species of mites that are not ectoparasites, but rather are pests of trees and other plants or live freely in the soil. Mites are one of the more difficult arthropods to identify, therefore requiring specimens be sent to a university with a qualified acarologist – an entomologist who studies mites. Knowing the type of mite involved is critical in determining the source of the infestation. (For example, mites occurring from the nests of rats or mice are also possible, though rare, in buildings.) On farms, mites that infest poultry sometimes become a problem in barns or can bite humans who work with the birds. More commonly, in homes and commercial buildings, mites that infest pest birds, such as pigeons and sparrows, may find their way into living spaces of homes. Some cases of mites biting humans in buildings have been reported.

Deer Tick


Tiny in size with adults measuring 1/8-inch, while young nymphs may be pinhead-sized.


Dark brown to black body and darker legs. 

 Like all ticks, the black-legged tick is a bloodsucking ectoparacite. Ticks require a blood meal at each stage of life in order to grow and the female will engorge herself with blood to obtain the nourishment necessary to produce the thousands of eggs she will lay soon. Commonly known as the deer tick, black-legged ticks have a two-year cycle beginning in the spring when the female tick deposits her eggs. Despite the thousands of eggs produced, only a small percentage will survive to maturity. Black-legged ticks are the primary vector of Lyme Disease in the Eastern U.S. and are common in wooded areas and fields where mammalian hosts such as deer, rodents and humans live. The tiny larvae get their first blood meal from rodents, mainly the white-footed mouse, Peromyscus leucopus. Ticks imbed their mouthparts, not their entire head, as some commonly believe, into their host. They inject an anti-clogging agent to keep the blood from clotting so they can feed. During feeding, black-legged ticks may inject the spirochete bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme Disease. Due to the small size of this tick, its presence can go unnoticed for several days if the tick is attached in an inconspicuous area of the body, such as on the back or under the hair on the head. This increases the potential for transmission of disease if the tick itself is infected. Lyme Disease -- Lyme disease was first detected in 1976 in Lyme, Connecticut when an unusually large number of children suffering from similar symptoms came down with an unidentified illness later found to be transmitted by the black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis. In 1981 the causative pathogen, a spirochete named Borrelia burgdorferi, was isolated and confirmed as the cause. Studies have shown that 90 percent of the black-legged ticks may be infected with B. burgdorferi in parts of northeastern states. Lyme Disease most often begins with the appearance of a spreading rash at the site of the bite. This rash, called erthema chronicum migrans or ECM, is seen in about 60 percent of patients. Most victims of Lyme Disease report a flu-like illness at first, and often dismiss the symptoms as a “24 hour bug,” overexertion or lack of rest. Lyme Disease is very difficult to diagnose because each victim’s symptomatology can be different. Three distinct stages of Lyme Disease have been described, but these stages may not appear in all patients, may overlap, or often may occur out-of-sequence. The different stages may mimic the symptomatology of other diseases further conflicting correct diagnosis. Stage One involves the ECM rash and the flu-like illness. Stage Two involve neurological and cardiac problems. The disease can cause malfunctions in the electrical signals to the heart and has caused doctors to install pacemakers in some patients. Stage Three results in arthritic conditions in various joints. Unlike typical arthritis, Lyme Disease may only affect one side of the body or only one or two joints. Black-legged ticks are also carriers of a disease called human granulocytic erlichiosus or HGE. Some persons infected with Lyme Disease have also contracted HGE, possibly as the result of the same tick bite. For more information regarding tick-bourne diseases, visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control .

Clover Mite



Clover mites are tiny, the adults being smaller than the head of a pin.


The larve of the clover mite, freshly emerged from eggs, are bright red. The older stages and the adults are darker reddish brown.


Clover mites feed on plant fluids, such as grass, and are common outdoors around most buildings. During the fall, however, the mites may crawl onto building foundations in large numbers and deposit eggs within cracks found in the building exterior. In the spring, the tiny red larvae hatch and may crawl up the foundation and through cracks around windows and in walls and then into the building. Dozens, sometimes hundreds, of these mites then may be seen on window sills, curtains, and on walls. When smashed, a red stain may result that may be difficult to remove from fabrics. Inside, the mites cannot find food and will soon die. These mites do not bite people or pets.

Head Lice


Up to 1/8-inch in length.


Grayish-white in appearance.



The occurrence of head lice is somewhat common among school-age children, particularly those in elementary schools. Younger children are more likely to wrestle, hug, sleep close together, or share hats, clothing, and brushes and combs -- all methods by which head lice might be transferred from person to person. For this reason, head lice are a concern to most parents. Head lice begin their lives as eggs or “nits.” The term “nitpicking” originated from the painstaking efforts required to go through a person’s hair to remove head lice and their eggs. The female louse attaches each egg to the base of a hair near to the scalp. One female can deposit 80 to 100 eggs during her lifetime. Nits are somewhat oval and have a cap on the top through which the nymph will emerge. They are often confused with globules of hair spray on hairs, but an experienced eye can easily distinguish the difference. If the nit is found one inch or further from the scalp, it is likely already hatched or is dead. The eggs hatch in approximately seven to nine days and the nymphs begin feeding on blood through the scalp. The nymph will molt three times before maturing into an adult -- a process completed in eight to nine days. Adults may live about three weeks or a bit longer. Because lice generally feed at night, infected persons will experience the most discomfort and itching while trying to sleep.

Pubic Lice



About 1/8-inch in length.


Ranges from tan to grayish-white.


Pubic lice are ectoparasites that feed on the blood of humans. They have six legs and are crab-like in appearance. The front two legs are larger with crab-like claws at the ends designed to grasp hairs. Known as crab lice, they are most commonly contracted via sexual contact. Very rarely will they transfer to another person from shared towels, clothes or bed linens. A common misconception is that they can be contracted from toilet seats. Not only can this louse not survive long off the host, but also it is incapable of crawling or holding onto smooth surfaces such as toilet seats. The adult female lays eggs, called “nits,” which she attaches to the bases of hairs near the body. Nits are usually oval in shape, yellow to white in color, and are very difficult to see with the unaided eye. The tiny nymphs hatch in about one week and then begin to feed. They mature into adults in about 7 days. Pubic lice must remain on a host human to survive. Should they fall off the host, they will die within 24 to 48 hours.

Pubic lice are found most often on the body in the genital area on pubic hair. Occasionally, they may be found elsewhere, such as armpits or facial hair, including mustaches, beards, or eyebrows. The presence of pubic lice is a medical issue and should be diagnosed and treated by a physician. A pest management professional can do nothing to help in dealing with this insect. Because the lice cannot live if they are not on a host, a home does not require treatment. Bedding, clothing, towels, etc. that have been in contact with an infested person can be washed in hot water and detergent for sterilization. Cleaning with any standard bathroom-cleaning product can sanitize the shower and bathroom.

Soft Tick


About 1/4-inch in length.


Varies depending on species from sandy brown, reddish brown to dark brown.


 Soft ticks differ from the hard ticks in that their body shape is oval and the head and mouthparts are hidden underneath the body. Soft ticks also are more flesh-like in appearance and do not have the hard, flattened exterior of ticks such as the brown dog tick, American dog tick, and similar species. The most commonly encountered soft ticks around buildings are those that infest birds belonging to the genus Argas and those infesting rodents of the genus Ornithodoros. Rodents transmit the spirochete that causes relapsing fever in the western U.S. Cabins, rural homes and other secluded buildings that become infested with rodents may potentially house Ornithodoros soft ticks. Should the rodents leave or tick populations become too high, the ticks may attach themselves to persons residing or sleeping in infested buildings. Bird or fowl ticks of the genus Argas may be encountered on farms where poultry are kept or in buildings infested by pigeons that carry the pigeon tick, A. reflexus. These ticks are quite mobile and may crawl significant distances seeking hosts, such as invading a structure on a farm or moving down through a building from pigeon roosts.



Tiny insect; only one to five millimeters in length.


Varies, depending on species. Most are dark with whitish or translucent wings that are long, thin and fringed with long hairs. 


Thrips primarily feed on plants, although some species are predaceous or feed on fungal spores. These insects are usually seen in buildings only when the populations on landscape plants grow large. Thrips may be attracted to buildings by the heat or coolness given off or by other factors. Once on a building, their tiny size gives them easy access inside -- insect screens pose no barrier to them. These insects are important because they will bite people even though they do not feed on blood like mosquitoes and mites. It is unknown why they bite when they land on exposed skin, but the resulting bite can produce a stinging sensation and be quite painful. Often, bites occur to people sitting or working outdoors near plants which harbor the thrips. They may fly onto a patio or deck, then land on a person and bite. As a result, they have been known to disrupt dining experiences on restaurant patios.

Shrubs and other landscape plantings attract thrips to and around buildings. Once thrips are identified as the culprit, the plantings they infest will require treatment. Such treatment is completed by a tree and shrub company, such as TruGreen. Pest control companies do not typically carry the necessary licenses to treat plant pests, but some pest control companies will be licensed and offer such services. It is recommended to consult a professional for advice.

Images and information derived in part or in whole from Trueman's Scientific Guide to PMO 6th ED

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