An image of an organism is going viral on social media, with users claiming it to be the micrograph of a mite called Demodex that lives on the human face and eyelashes.
What is a Demodex mite?
Demodex mites, which also go by the name face mites or eyelash mites, usually appear just on the face, especially around the eyelids and eyelashes. They are microscopic eight-legged organisms that live in or near hair follicles of mammals and typically come out at night to feast on dead skin cells before retreating to their hiding spots to lay eggs. They are found in all adults, according to a study in PLoS One, a peer-reviewed scientific journal. An article in Verywell Health suggested that they don’t usually cause any problems until they overgrow and cause a condition known as demodicosis, characterised by itching and sores.
According to WebMD, there are two different types of Demodex mites that live on the human body, the Demodex folliculorum and the Demodex brevis. D. folliculorum mites are around 0.3-0.4mm long, while the D. brevis is slightly smaller at 0.15-0.2mm. Demodex, a genus of tiny parasitic mites, are among the smallest of arthropods and its prevalence in healthy adults varies between 23%-100%, revealed another study in the Indian Journal of Dermatology.
Newschecker ran a reverse image search of the photo, which led us to multiple websites that indicated the organism was a silkworm or silk moth caterpillar. The websites can be seen here, here, here, here and here.
The caption of the second picture says it is a silk moth caterpillar at 31:1 magnification, while the Science Photo Library (first picture), a science and medical stock photo agency, describes the picture as a silkworm head captured by a SEM (scanning electron microscope). According to the description on pixels.com, which has the same photograph, “Silkworms (Bombyx mori) are the larvae (caterpillars) of the silk moth.”
We then ran keyword searches for “Demodex mites + eyelash mites + face mites”, which threw up multiple images, none of which resemble the viral photo. The pictures can be seen here, here and here. Under a microscope, the mite looks slightly transparent and is covered with scales, as proved by the screenshots below. It has an elongated body with two segments, confirming that the viral image is not of a Demodex mite.
The viral image of “Demodex mite” was found to be a micrograph of a silkworm.
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