Cockroach Mites Bite Cockroaches and People

Several species of mites parasitic upon insects have been ascribed to the genus Pimeliaphilus, namely, Pimeliaphilus podapolipophagus (on darkling beetles), Pimeliaphilus triatomae (on kissing bugs), and Pimeliaphilus cunliffei (on cockroaches). When abundant, Pimeliaphilus cunliffei is capable of killing roaches within a few hours. Roaches seem to defend themselves against attack by Pimeliaphilus cunliffei mites, and will dislodge the mites or even swallow them.1 However, 25 mites on a cockroach could cause the roach to succumb to parasitism. The insect falls over on its back in about an hour and then thrashes about for approximately five hours before dying.

Pimeliaphilus cunliffei cockroach mites feed by locating a seta (hair-like structures) with their front legs and the base of the seta with their mouth parts. They then penetrate the exoskeleton at the base of a newly found seta with their chelicerae and feed on the roaches body fluids. The parasite may stay in this position for several minutes, then withdraw the mouthparts and move to another seta. The mites may continue feeding after the death of the host.2

The life cycle of Pimeliaphilus cunliffei> requires 28-32 days. The adult, which lives 2-3 weeks, produces 2 or 3 batches of eggs, usually 12. The just-hatched larvae feeds on cockroaches. These mites spend a great deal of time off their host and have been accused of biting people in addition to cockroaches.3


  1. Species of Pimeliaphilus (Acari: Pterygosomidae) Attacking Insects, with Particular Reference to the Species Parasitizing Triatominae. Irwin M. Newell and Raymond E. Ryckman
  2. Sensory behavior and electron microscopy of the cockroach parasite Pimeliaphilus cunliffei. WillBurn Lynn Laws
  3. The American Cockroach. K.G. Adiyodi

A mite, a member of the Class Arachnida, and the Order Acari. Mites have 2 body divisions including a combined head and thorax, or cephalothorax, which has no antennae, and an abdomen. They have 4 pairs of legs, sometimes three pairs when first hatched, and no wings.
Source: Janice Carr/CDC

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