Heat-seeking clover mites completely harmless to us all

By Jim Hurley - Nature Trail

Published 23/07/2016 | 00:00

Clover Mites love heat and hundreds of they may be seen on a sunny days running about on walls and other surfaces that have warmed up.
Clover Mites love heat and hundreds of they may be seen on a sunny days running about on walls and other surfaces that have warmed up.

Clover Mites are all over the place at the moment. They are extremely common and it is not unusual to see hundreds of them crawling over surfaces.

If you haven't spotted them to date, it is because they are extremely tiny and are easily overlooked. A small one has a body about the size of the full stop at the end of this sentence. A really big one is not much larger, always less than a millimetre long. The image above shows one crawling across fine sand; the grains of sand give an idea of the tiny size of the creature.

They have two body parts; a tiny head and a very swollen stomach part. And they have eight legs, four on each side. So they are related to spiders. They are not insects. Insects have three body parts and six legs.

The Clover Mite gets its name from its preference for eating clovers. Young ones are a brilliant orange-red in colour. As they grow old they tend to look more brownish-red. If you accidentally squash one on a white background it leaves a characteristic red streak and stain. The stain is not blood; it is from the pigments in the mite's body fluids.

While Clover Mites are associated with clovers, they eat a wide variety of plants. They can infest lawns and while they do no harm very heavy populations are said to give well-fertilised grass a stippled and silvery appearance.

They love heat and hundreds of they may be seen on a sunny days running about on walls and other surfaces that have warmed up.

A well-fertilised lawn can support a large population of Clover Mites. If the lawn runs up to the warm south-facing wall of a house it can attract mites and provide easy access resulting in mites being found indoors.

While their presence may prove a little disarming in homes, they are completely harmless. They don't suck blood like ticks do. They don't bite or sting either people or pets. They are not known to carry any diseases. They don't eat or destroy human food. They don't make holes in furniture or clothing. They don't cause structural damage.

All they are after is heat. And indoor heat is their downfall; it causes them to die from dehydration within a few days. Their life span is about two weeks. A male Clover Mite has never been recorded. The entire population is female, all laying fertile eggs at will.

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