Hi, welcome to the Wait But Why Shed mini-post “Your Life is Worse When You Know About Dust Mites.” After you read this, your life will be a little worse than it is now.
First, let’s discuss dust for a second:
Normally, if you think about dust in a room, you think, “Oh there’s a little dust in the corner over there and maybe some on that shelf up there.” But then once in a while, you see a beam of light at a certain angle and realize that the entire room is filled with dust and you’re living in a swarm of dust at all times. Those moments are a bit alarming, but I usually just kind of shrug and move on with things.
But if you learn more and think about it a bit, it becomes upsetting. There are a couple issues I’m currently having a hard time being fine with:
1) Dust is mostly dead skin flakes. Just kind of an unnecessarily icky thing for dust to be.
2) Dust is crawling with tiny tick-like, eight-legged bugs called dust mites. All it takes is a microscope to understand that a dust mite is an asshole:
Here are some facts about these monsters:
- They’re tiny (about a quarter of a millimeter in length) and translucent, so almost impossible to spot with the naked eye.
- They feed on your dead skin flakes, which are lying all around your bed because you’re a gross person.
- There are 100-500 mites in a typical gram of dust and up to 100,000 in a square meter of carpet.
- Their favorite place is your mattress. There are about two million mites crawling around a typical mattress.
- Their even favoriter place is your pillow. An average pillow is home to about 40,000 mites. According to mite expert John Maunder, if you’re using a six-year-old pillow, about one tenth of its weight will consist of dead human skin, living mites, dead mites, and mite shit.
- When people are allergic to dust, they’re actually allergic to mite poop, specifically a digestive enzyme found prominently in it. A female mite lives about 10 weeks, and in addition to laying 60-100 eggs in that time, she’ll shit about 2,000 times, and far more than 2,000 dust particles will be covered with her poop by the time she dies—the same particles swarming through that beam of light in your room.
So that’s what you can think about when you get into bed tonight. And when your kid is concerned that there’s a monster under his bed, you can explain that no, there are two million monsters in your bed, and then show him a picture of a mite.