Mites are tiny arthropods related to spiders and ticks. Some will bite humans, a few are mere nuisances, some attack plants, and some can trigger an asthma attack. There are even predatory mites that can help in the garden by eating other insect pests.
What do mites look like?
Identifying which type of mite you have can be tricky due to their small size, but is a vital first step in determining what steps to take when you find them in your home.
Mites are arachnids closely related to ticks, but generally smaller in size, making them difficult to identify without magnification. While they technically have two body regions, visually it looks like a single body with legs and mouthparts.
Mites can be pests for different reasons. The common mites are categorized below by the damage they cause.
When populations are large, or the primary host dies (rodents and birds), or the host vacates the nest (birds), rodent and bird mites can search for a meal from other warm-blooded animals, including people and pets. Fortunately, although these mites can bite people and pets, they are not able to reproduce without their primary host. In other words, rodent mites will not survive and reproduce by feeding on humans alone.
Clover mites develop in areas with lush vegetation, including well fertilized lawns. They enter homes when outdoor conditions are not suitable, including high or low temperatures and wet or dry conditions. Clover mites do not bite humans or cause any damage indoors, but they are considered a pest because of their presence.
Concrete mites are less likely to end up inside homes, but are also considered a nuisance pest. There is some evidence that they can bite people, although reports are limited. Therefore, both clover and concrete mites are considered nuisances.
There are a large number of mites that will feed on plants and most of them will be found outdoors. Spider mites are a specific type of mite that feed on plants, both outdoors and indoors. High densities of spider mites can cause plants to look yellow, and can lead to plant death. Spider mites get their name from the production of a webbing material that is left on leaves when populations are high.
On one hand, dust mites do us the favor of eating the vast amount of skin cells that fall off us every day. On the other hand, their bodies and droppings have been shown to be an asthma trigger. Cleaning and sanitation can help, but eradicating dust mites from homes is an unreasonable goal.
These mites are rarely a problem in the home.
Chigger are a type of mite found exclusively outdoors. They live in a variety of habitats, from moist forests to maintained golf courses and lawns. In the US, chiggers are found in humid and warm regions, particularly the Southeast (Delaware and south) and Midwest. They are not currently a pest in New York. What are sometimes called chiggers on Long Island and the lower Hudson valley are actually the larval stage of ticks, most likely lone star and Asian longhorned ticks, highlighting the importance of accurate identification.
Straw itch mites
Straw itch mites are a type of biting mite that can be found in hay and other stored grains. They actually serve a beneficial role as predators of other arthropods, but can be a nuisance for farmers processing these items.
Paper Mites Do Not Exist
Paper mites is a term sometimes used in office settings where people have the sensation of being bitten in copy rooms and other supply areas. There are numerous potential causes for these sensations, including exposure to dry environments, tiny bits of paper, and static electricity. This is not to say that biting insects cannot occur in offices, but paper mites are not a real thing.