Tiny bugs crawling out of my Macbook
June 8, 2015 3:18 PM   Subscribe

In the last two days I've noticed about a dozen tiny, almost microscopic bugs crawling around, into and out of my Macbook Air keys. I'm freaking out, not only because I'm worried they're going to destroy the laptop but because this could potentially be a bigger problem in the house.

Here are two videos I took:

They're really, really small, to the point that looking at pictures of mites online is proving useless to identify them. Maybe bird mites? Dust mites?

What can I do in the short term to get rid of them from the Macbook? Should I call pest control immediately? Thanks!
posted by rbf1138 to Science & Nature (10 answers total)
Yikes! Could you maybe wrap the laptop in something to protect it from moisture and put it in the freezer overnight? I have no idea how safe that would be for the mechanics, though. The first thing I'd do is take it outside and blast the hell out of it with about 20 cans of compressed air.
posted by _Mona_ at 3:38 PM on June 8, 2015

I would try to put some double sided tape down by the keys so you could trap one of the suckers and get a better identification.

And yes, I would be blasting the machine with compressed air and maybe taking a good vacuum to it as well.
posted by brookeb at 3:52 PM on June 8, 2015

Response by poster: Minutes after I posted this I went outside to water our Boston ferns. In one of them, there's a finches nest with babies in it. Every day for the past week I've parted the leaves to get a look at them, and today right after looking at them I looked down at my hands and there were mites all over them! They're so small I couldn't even feel them.

So now that I know the source, and the type, what do I do, aside from not touching that plant again? After the birds leave should it be thrown out? Do I need to be concerned I've brought them into the house and they'll continue spreading?

In the meantime I'll get the Miele out and vacuum the keys.
posted by rbf1138 at 4:09 PM on June 8, 2015

IAMAE (I am not an entymologist), but I should think that the inside of a macbook air is a poor habitat for most creatures. They might initially like the warmth, but a need for food (probably fern-based) means they'll soon leave. You might need to keep an eye on that plant and perhaps give it a big clean after the birds go - and, sadly, you should probably stop sneaking peeks at the finches, as you might scare off the adults. But I am also not an ornithologist!
posted by The River Ivel at 4:14 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Are they book lice? If so they're harmless but super annoying to get out of a house once they have a real foothold.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:54 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

My first guess would be one of the Cheyletiella species, but I'm not positive because those usually trace back to a very specific animal host. You could follow the sticky tape approach and have the mites evaluated by an exterminator (who might "overdiagnose") or an entomologist at a local uni / cooperative extension (who might be more accurate).

But generally, has it recently gotten quite humid where you are? If so, this may be self limiting. A lot of mites have a burst of activity in the humid transition from spring to summer, and then are kept limited as natural predator populations catch up with the boom.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 7:09 PM on June 8, 2015

Are you sure it was mites from the birds and not fern spores? Seems very unlikely that there would be bird mites covering the ferns.
posted by Specklet at 7:52 PM on June 8, 2015

It is also quite possible that they are aphids or spider mites, both common insect infestations for ferns and relatively harmless.
posted by valoius at 8:00 PM on June 8, 2015

Unless I'm missing something -- you could take your computer to a computer shop and ask them to open it up and clean it. They could leave a small amount of an insecticide substance inside the case.
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:20 PM on June 9, 2015

Probably spider mites, but yeah, impossible to tell from the video. I would favor _Mona_'s suggestion of freezing the whole thing overnight. Get your freezer as cold as possible. IAAE-- and we freeze things when we're trying to rid them of infestations of arthropods.

I mean you also could wait for them to just die, which they almost certainly will, but you probably do not share my crazy, and would not find it super adorbz to watch little critters mosey in and out of your keys.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 3:15 PM on June 14, 2015

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