Sarcoptic Mange Mite

Sarcoptes scabiei

National Veterinary Institute, Uppsala, Sweden

Sarcoptic Mange Mites are tiny arachnids (cousins of ticks and spiders) that are parasites of mammals. They cause the disease known as "mange" or "scabies."

These mites are tiny, only 1/64 of an inch long. They are pearly white in color and oval-shaped. They have spines on their bodies and legs. They have no eyes.

Sarcoptic Mange Mites spend their entire life on their hosts. The host is the animal that the mite lives on.

Sarcoptic Mange Mites are parasites of squirrels, rabbits, foxes, dogs, humans, and many other mammals.

Identification and Diagnosis of Parasites of Public Health Concern

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Scarcoptic Mange Mites use small suckers on their legs to hold onto their hosts.

After mating, female mites burrow into the skin of the host. They use their jaws and front legs to cut the skin. They mites tunnel in the top layer of the skin only.

Inside the burrow, the female will lay eggs. She lays two or three eggs each day, for up to two months.

Mite larvae hatch from the eggs in three or four days. They immediately crawl out of the burrow onto the surface of the skin. The will stay here, using the host's hair as shelter. Both larvae and adult mites eat skin cells from their hosts.

Once a larva has eaten enough, it will molt (shed its skin). After it molts twice, it has become an adult.

Adult mange mites mate on the surface of the host's skin.

The disease caused by these mites, called "mange" or "scabies," starts with a substance from the mites' bodies. This substance causes an allergic reaction in the host's skin, and it becomes very itchy.

When the host scratches itself, it makes wounds that become infected by bacteria. The scratching also causes hair to fall out and animals with mange will often have bald patches.

Animals with mange sometimes suffer weight-loss, since they are so uncomfortable and may not be able to find food as well.

Sarcoptic Mange Mites spread when the host comes into contact with another mammal. If two animals mate, they can spread mites to each other. Or, if a fox eats a rabbit with mange, the mites may jump to the fox.

Sarcoptic Mange Mites live year-round, but are most common in the colder months.

Relationships in Nature:


Red Fox

Red Fox

Red Fox H

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel H

Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Cottontail H



Human H

Relationship to Humans:

People can be hosts of Sarcoptic Mange Mites. The mites may transfer from a pet (especially dogs) or another animal. Hunters sometimes get mange after handling a kill.

The best way to keep from getting mange is to take care of your pet. If your dog is scratching too much, or is losing a lot of fur, take it to the veterinarian. Also, do not put food out if you notice squirrels that may have mange. The food will attract other squirrels, and the mites may spread.

Most animals, if they are strong enough, can recover from mange. Humans can treat mange easily with medicine.


Sarcoptes scabiei


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