The Mighty Mite

Appearance and Behavior

The mite species are very small, most of them are less than 1mm in length. They have 8 legs, and their bodies are divided into two parts, prosoma, and abdomen. Despite popular opinion, mites are not insects, but arachnids. They have diverse habitats, including salt water. Some are plant-feeders, while others are predators or parasites.

a red velvet mite on a tree

Red Velvet Mite by Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University,

Red velvet is a common predator mite, which is much larger than the average mite and can grow up to 1/5 inches in length. It is often seen roaming around on the ground.

Spider mites are often wrongly classified as spiders because of their web-weaving ability. They depend on plants for their nourishment. They encompass a plant with webs and live on them in groups. However, they don’t hunt prey in their webs like “normal spiders” do. The sole purpose of these webs is protection. Spider mites come in various colors. Red spider mite, white, yellow and green two-spotted spider Mites are all quite common.

Ear mites are invisible to the naked eye. They nest in an animal’s ear but don’t bite. However, their extended stay can cause itching, which can lead to the development of bloody scrapes. In severe cases, chronic infections also develop.


Signs of a mite infestation vary from species to species. Most species are invisible to the naked eye. However, you can detect them across a surface due to the characteristics of their movements.

Some plant-infesting species weave silk-like spider mites. They cause senescence and deteriorate plant health.

Clover mites are easily identifiable because of their scarlet-red coloration.

Mites can cause damage in a variety of ways, from producing mild irritation to contaminating stored grains and cheese products. Their bites cause little to no pain. However, prolonged itching may result in a serious bacterial infection. Some species of dust mites can even aggravate asthma.

Mites cause serious harm in some cases. Species like Chigger mites are infectious and cause acute skin irritations, known as mange. The preferred host of bird mites is poultry, whereas spider mites lay waste to crops.


The intrusion of mites into your home depends on the species. Dust mites always reside in your homes, whereas legions of clover mites get access through tiny openings. Ripe fruits and trees tempt them. Chiggers and bird mites are given a free ride by pets.


Mites producing a “stippling” effect when they suck plant juice. If you notice faded or pale leaves in your home or garden, look for red or black dots on the posterior portion of the leaves to affirm the presence of mites.

Some mites develop tumors on plants, called gals. Most gals arise as a result of an insect invasion. However, if you cut a gall and find no insect living in there, it is suggestive of the presence of a gall mite is invisible to the naked eye.

Ear mites are highly contagious and spread rapidly spread from pet-to-pet. This is why it is advised to have your pets regularly checked up by a veterinarian.


Mites do not undergo metamorphosis. However, their transformation into an adult is unique. A newly hatched mite has only six legs and is called a larva. After initial stages of molting, it has eight legs and is called nymph, which then transforms into an adult with eight legs.


The number of eggs a female lays varies from species to species. Eggs are laid on the host.


The eggs hatch into Larvae, which nourish on skin cells and not blood. In some species, like Trombicula Autumnalis, the larva is patristic. This stage of a mite’s life cycle lasts around 4 days.


After a dormancy period of 24 hours, eggs molt into nymphs. They undergo two stages as a nymph, and both of them combined last for 3 days.


Finally, the adults transform or “molt” into adults. The adult is either a burrowing mite or a surface mite based on the species of the female.

History And Purpose Of Mites In The Ecosystem

Mites play diverse roles in an ecosystem. Researchers discovered mites running up and down a hummer’s beak in an orderly fashion. They found out that these mites reside in a hummingbird’s nostrils and help it to get nectar from flowers.

Sarcoptes is a mite that caused the red fox epidemic. It chews into a mammal’s skin and causes bacterial infections and permanent hair loss. As the red fox population declined, the eastern cottontail population soared.

Mites need a vehicle for dispersal because they lack wings. Walking to suitable locations helps, but is largely ineffective and tedious. It can only be used to access nearby locations. Some species find a high spot and let the wind carry them away. Parasitic mites disperse from host to host. The mite firmly attaches itself to the host with the help of suckers or claspers and gets transported from one place to another. Mites which employ suckers are merely hitchhikers and do not pose any threat to their temporary host.

Facts About Mites

  • 10,000 to 1 million dust mites can live in a single mattress, depending on its age. Dust mites don’t bite humans. Some people have reported red itchy bumps on their skin as a result of mite bites. However, they have most probably been bitten by bed bugs and not mites.
  • Dust mites are allergenic and are especially harmful to an asthmatic patient.
  • The dust mite normally doesn’t nest in human hair. However, there’s a special type of mite, known as follicle mite, which resides in thick hair. Its mode of dispersion is dust and wind.
  • Dust mites can be killed through numerous methods. Extreme heat, cold and chemicals are effective ways of getting rid of them. Natural remedies, such as eucalyptus oil or tea tree oil are also mite exterminators.
  • Dust mites cannot be detected on the skin because of their small size. However, they don’t pose a serious harm to you, so there’s no need to worry about them ― unless you’re ailing from asthma, then it is advised to take necessary precautions.