We're not alone in bed.
Never, no matter how much we would want it, or no matter how lonely we are, we are never alone in bed. What's more, in our bed, we are always in the minority, at least if we consider numbers. I don't mean the odd flea or even rarer bed bug, I'm talking about the millions of little spider-like animals that share our beds, called mites. These little animals are everywhere, in fact it is hard to imagine a place on earth that they would not occupy. Everywhere that is inhabited by higher animals, where they have their burrows or nests, they are joined by mites. And, as our houses are nothing more that an adapted burrow, it is not strange that they can be found in all houses around the world, regardless of climate, lifestyle, architectural form or customs.
Several dozens species of mites can be identified. In Europe, the most common is the
Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus. The animal itself can surely only be attractive to house fauna specialists, for the common man it usually provokes
amasament or fear. Luckily, the mite cannot be seen with the naked eye, they are tiny as well as
The animals are very small, a grown adult measures a mere 0.3 to 0.4 mm, and weights about 0.3 micrograms. They don't bite, or sting, or drink blood, they simply eat all of the organic remains that are produced, and as a byproduct create an awful lot of droppings. In fact, a single mite in it's 100 day lifespan can produce
feaces weighing approximately 200 times as much as the animal itself. It this is translated to humans, it would equate roughly to 150 kgs of
feaces daily! I doubt that any toilet would be able to handle such volumes. It is because of these very droppings that we have trouble co-existing with mites. The droppings are deposited in 2000 small portions, which are dispersed with the smallest movement of air. These droppings are responsible for various allergies, asthma attacks and the like.
The mites feed on various organic wastes, and in particular love shed skin cells, dandruff etc. which are basically found everywhere. The average person can daily produce 1 to 2 grams of
shed skin cells, this is enough to feed 1.5 million mites. It almost seems
unbelievable, but it was counted by the Germans, so it must be true..
In a two-person bed, there can be up to 200 million mites, and a two year old pillow can contain up to 10% of live and dead mites and their droppings. What's even more interesting is that they occur in larger numbers in marrital beds. Obviously they like
DNA. I guess it makes sense, in marital beds, things sometimes get splashed around.
In the end, the picture is not all bleak, is it not better to live in a heap, rather than all alone? However, the company is too numerous, and even worse, currently, there is no safe method of fighting the mites. But this matter will be tackled some other time.
picture: Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus