COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Researchers at Ohio State University have uncovered some curious behavior among common household dust mites that may one day suggest a better means of exterminating them.
Researchers have long known that dust mites die without adequate moisture. Now a study has revealed that males of the species employ a special trick to survive dry spells -- they cluster together to conserve water.
If researchers can figure out what makes dust mites cluster, they might be able to find new ways to kill these microscopic insects, which excrete proteins that can trigger asthma and allergy attacks in people.
Glen Needham, associate professor of entomology, explained how dust mites are vulnerable to changes in moisture. Because of low humidity, the average home is not a friendly place for mites -- its like a moonscape, he said. One of a dust mites major challenges is to keep from drying out.
We think that when dust mites cluster together, moisture gets trapped between them, so theyre better able to survive low humidity in groups than they would be by themselves, said Emmett Glass, research associate in the Department of Internal Medicine and leader of the study. The work appeared in a recent issue of the journal Experimental & Applied Acarology.
Researchers have known for about 30 years that dust mites snack on naturally-shed human skin cells, and about 25 years ago, Ohio State entomologists discovered that dust mites dont drink water, they suck molecules of it from the air. They also lose water from the surface of their hard outer shells. Thats why dry environments are particularly inhospitable to dust mites.
During a routine examination of laboratory colonies of mites, Glass noticed
that males tended to cluster together while females traveled solo. Along
with Jay A. Yoder, assistant professor of biology at The Illinois College,
the Ohio State res
Contact: Glen Needham
Ohio State University