What Do Mites Look Like? A Quick Visual Guide

folder_openAcari, Arachnida
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Mites are tiny creatures that are often difficult to see with the naked eye. However, when you take a closer look at them, you’ll notice that they have a unique appearance that sets them apart from other small organisms. Despite their small size, mites can cause irritation and discomfort to humans and animals alike.

To get an idea of what mites look like, imagine a spider but much smaller. In fact, mites are related to spiders and share some of their characteristics, such as having eight legs. Their bodies are typically oval-shaped, and their size can range from 1/32 inch or 0.8 mm for straw itch mites source to microscopic, depending on the species.

Some mites, like the red concrete/sidewalk mites source or the bright-colored clover mites, can be observed in outdoor environments. Meanwhile, other mites, such as dust mites, thrive indoors and are often invisible to the human eye. Recognizing the appearance of mites can help you better understand these tiny yet impactful organisms.

What are Mites

Mites are tiny arthropods that belong to the class Arachnida, which makes them relatives of spiders and scorpions. They are much smaller than insects and are often microscopic. As members of the animal kingdom, mites can be found in various habitats all over the world.

Although mites are arachnids, they differ from their cousins in a few key ways. For example:

  • Mites often have a softer body, while spiders and scorpions have exoskeletons.
  • Mites have a highly adaptable body shape, ranging from round to elongated.
  • Unlike other arachnids, some mites can be parasitic, living on or inside other animals.

Here are some characteristics of mites:

  • Usually have four pairs of legs.
  • Can be beneficial or harmful.
  • Some feed on plants, while others eat dead organic material.
  • Many species are harmless, but a few are pests or parasites affecting humans, animals, and crops.

Some well-known types of mites include:

  • Dust mites: Microscopic mites that live in carpets, bedding, and furniture, feeding on dead human skin cells. They can cause allergic reactions in some people.
  • Flour mites: Small mites found in stored grains and flour products. They can cause contamination of food and infestations in factories or homes.
  • Varroa mites: Harmful parasites on honeybees that can cause a decline in their population.
  • Spider mites: Tiny pests that can cause serious damage to various plants, including houseplants and garden plants.

In conclusion, mites are diverse and ubiquitous arthropods with a wide variety of habits and characteristics. While some are harmless, others can pose risks to humans, animals, and plants. Being aware of these tiny creatures and their potential impact on your surroundings helps to better manage their presence.

Physical Characteristics of Mites

Mites Under Microscope

Mites are tiny creatures that are often microscopic in size. This means that, for most species, you’ll need a microscope to observe their full details. When placed under a microscope, you’ll notice some mites have a red color, like clover mites. Mites typically feed on various organic materials, such as dead skin cells or hair follicles, depending on the species.

Microscopic examination also reveals mite features, like their legs and body segments. Some common characteristics of mites include:

  • Oval or round body shape
  • Eight legs, similar to spiders and ticks
  • Two main body segments, like ticks

Comparing Mites to Other Insects

Mites belong to the class Arachnida, which also includes other creatures like spiders, ticks, and scorpions. This sets them apart from insects like ants and roaches. Here’s a comparison table showing some differences between mites and these other creatures:

Features Mites Ants Ticks Spiders Roaches
Body Segments Two Three Two Two Three
Legs Eight Six Eight Eight Six
Size Microscopic Visible Visible Visible Visible
Color Varies (e.g., red) Varies Varies Varies Varies

Keeping in mind these differences can help you distinguish mites from other common pests. It’s essential to identify them correctly to apply appropriate pest control measures where necessary.

Common Types of Mites

Dust Mites

Dust mites are tiny creatures that thrive in warm, humid environments. They usually live in house dust and feed on dead skin cells from humans and pets. You can’t see them without a microscope, but they can cause allergic reactions in some people. A few common species of house dust mites are Dermatophagoides farinae and Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus.

To minimize your exposure to dust mites, keep your home clean and well-ventilated. This helps to maintain a balanced humidity level that discourages dust mite growth.

Scabies Mites

Scabies mites (Sarcoptes scabiei) are tiny parasites that burrow into the skin and cause a highly contagious skin infection called scabies. The symptoms of scabies include itchiness, redness, and inflammation. Scabies mites can spread through direct contact with an infected person or contaminated items, such as clothing or bed linens.

To prevent scabies, maintain good personal hygiene and avoid sharing personal items with others. If you suspect that you have scabies, consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Demodex Mites

Demodex mites are microscopic organisms that can be found on human skin. There are two main species that affect humans: Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis. They usually live in hair follicles and sebaceous glands, feeding on oils and dead skin cells.

Most people have some Demodex mites on their skin, and they typically do not cause problems. However, in some cases, an overgrowth of these mites can lead to skin issues such as rosacea, dermatitis, or blepharitis. To keep your skin healthy, maintain a regular skincare routine and consult a dermatologist if you experience any unusual skin symptoms.

Remember that mites are diverse creatures with varying habits and effects on humans. By understanding the common types, you can better protect yourself from potential harm and maintain a healthier living environment.

Mites and Human Interaction

Mite Bites and Symptoms

Mites are tiny creatures that live around us, and in some cases, they can affect humans. For instance, the itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei) causes scabies, a condition characterized by intense itching and skin rashes. When you come into contact with these mites, they can bite and burrow into your skin, leading to an infestation source.

If you are experiencing an infestation, there are several symptoms to look out for, such as:

  • Itchy bumps or welts on the skin
  • Rashes and dermatitis
  • Sneezing and nasal congestion
  • Cough and wheezing source

The face, particularly the area around the nose and mouth, is a common site for itch mite infestations source. Keep in mind, though, that mite bites can also occur on other parts of your body.

Since some people are more allergic to mite bites than others, reactions may vary. In more severe cases, hives or allergic dermatitis may form source.

To prevent mite infestations, you can take several precautions. Washing your bedding, clothing, and personal items regularly and vacuuming your home can help reduce the number of mites present. Additionally, maintaining a dry indoor environment discourages mite proliferation.

In summary, it’s essential to be aware of mite infestations and their potential impacts on your health. If you suspect an infestation or are experiencing symptoms, consult a healthcare professional for guidance and treatment options.

Mites in Household

Mites on Furniture and Bedding

Mites are tiny creatures that can infest your home, especially in areas where they can find food and shelter. Some common places where you might find mites include carpets, furniture, bedding, and mattresses.

When it comes to furniture and bedding, some species of mites, such as domestic mites, are known to cause allergic reactions and other health issues. These microscopic pests may invade your furniture or beddings, feeding on dead skin cells and other organic materials.

To identify mites on your furniture and bedding, look for spots or markings that could indicate their presence. If you’re dealing with an infestation, you might also notice itchy skin or respiratory issues. Regular cleaning and proper maintenance will help keep your home inhospitable for mites.

For your carpets, it’s essential to vacuum regularly, preferably using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. This helps remove mites and other allergens, contributing to a cleaner and healthier living space. Make sure to pay special attention to areas that may accumulate more dust, like edges and corners.

Mites can also be present on or near rodents, so keep in mind that dealing with a rodent infestation may require addressing any mite problems. Properly sealing your home, securing food sources, and using traps or repellants can help you discourage rodents and the mites that come with them.

In short, keeping mites at bay involves:

  • Regular cleaning and maintenance of furniture and bedding
  • Vacuuming carpets, especially with a HEPA filter
  • Addressing rodent issues if present

By taking proactive steps and staying vigilant, you can reduce the likelihood of mites infesting various areas in your home.

Preventing and Treating Mites

Cleaning and Mite Prevention

To prevent mite infestations in your home, focus on regular cleaning. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Vacuuming: Frequently vacuum carpets, rugs, and upholstery to remove mite allergens and eggs.
  • Dusting: Regularly dust all surfaces, including shelves, baseboards, and window sills.
  • Mopping: Mop hard floors with a damp mop to pick up lingering mites.
  • Air conditioning: Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to maintain low humidity levels, as mites thrive in high humidity.
  • Bedding: Wash bedding in hot water at least once a week to kill mites and remove allergens.

Medical Treatments for Mite Bites

If you suffer from mite bites or an allergic reaction to mites, consider the following treatments:

  • Over-the-counter treatments: Use hydrocortisone creams and antihistamines to reduce itching and inflammation.
  • Corticosteroids: In more severe cases, a doctor may prescribe corticosteroids to help with inflammation.
  • Decongestants: Decongestants can help relieve nasal congestion caused by mite allergies.
  • Avoid scratching: Scratching mite bites can lead to infection, so try to resist the urge to scratch.
  • Baths: Take a soothing bath to help relieve itching and inflammation from mite bites.

Pest Control for Mites

Professional pest control can help with mite removal if infestations persist despite your prevention efforts. When considering pest control for mites, weigh the pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Effectively removes mite populations
  • Can stop the spread of mites in your home
  • Prevents further allergenic effects

Cons:

  • Can be costly
  • May involve the use of chemicals
  • May require multiple treatments for complete removal

Remember, by regularly cleaning your home, seeking medical treatment for mite bites, and considering pest control when necessary, you can effectively prevent and treat mite infestations.

Mites and Other Animals

Mites on Plants

Mites are very small arachnids that can be found in various environments. As you might know, they are particularly common on plants, where they can cause damage to their hosts. For example, spider mites are notorious for feeding on plant cells, leaving behind stippling patterns and even killing the plant if left unchecked. Clover mites, on the other hand, primarily feed on grasses and clover, hence their name.

Mites can also be found on animals, particularly rodents and birds, where they can become parasitic. For instance, some mites may invade and parasitize the bodies of mammals or feed on their blood. However, be aware that not all mites are harmful. On the contrary, some species like predatory mites are beneficial, helping to keep the populations of harmful mites in check by preying on them.

To help you identify and understand the differences between some common mite species, here’s a comparison table:

Mite Species Host Impact Appearance
Clover Mite Grass, Clover Moderate damage Reddish, oval
Spider Mite Plants Severe damage Greenish, round
Predatory Mite Mites Beneficial Similar to spider mites

Some key points to remember about mites:

  • Mites are arachnids, not insects.
  • Mite species can differ in their host preferences and impact.
  • Not all mites are harmful; some can actually be beneficial.

A friendly reminder: When you find mites on your plants or animals, it’s essential to take the appropriate steps to control and prevent further infestations. For plants, you might want to consider using organic or chemical controls, while for animals, consult a veterinarian for proper treatment options. Just remember that early intervention is crucial in protecting your plants and pets from the adverse effects of mites.

Potential Dangers of Mites

Mites can pose several potential dangers to your health and well-being. They vary in shape and size, but many are so small that they are difficult to see with the naked eye.

When it comes to health risks, one major concern is bites. These bites can cause skin irritation and may lead to infection if not properly treated. Biting mites can also be a source of parasitism, as certain species can live and feed on their human host.

In addition to bites, mites are well known for causing allergic reactions. For example, domestic mites are a common source of allergies. These reactions can be triggered by exposure to their feces and byproducts, which can lead to symptoms such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, and contact dermatitis.

Mites are also linked to the transmission of fungi. In this case, soil mites can carry fungal spores on their bodies, accidentally transferring them to humans when they come into contact with our skin. This fungal exposure may cause infections or exacerbate existing conditions.

While not all mites pose a direct threat, some can indirectly cause harm by upsetting the balance of the human body. For instance, a high concentration of mites in your mouth or throat can lead to inflammation and irritation, potentially affecting your overall health.

Here are some key points to remember about the potential dangers of mites:

  • Mite bites can cause skin irritation and infection
  • Domestic mites are a common source of allergies
  • Mites can transmit fungi, leading to infection
  • High concentrations of mites in the mouth or throat can cause irritation

Being aware of these potential risks is crucial in order to take the appropriate preventative measures and maintain a healthy living environment.

Interesting Facts About Mites

Mites are tiny creatures that are often difficult to spot with the naked eye. They come in various shapes and sizes, and can be found in many different environments, such as soil, plants, and even on your skin. Here are some interesting facts about mites that you might not know:

  • Mites begin their life cycle as larvae. They hatch from eggs and then undergo several stages of development before becoming adults. In some species, the life cycle can be completed in just two weeks.

  • These tiny creatures feed on a variety of organic materials, such as dead skin and plant matter. Some species, like dust mites, thrive in your home by feeding on the dead skin cells that you shed.

On the other hand, some mites are considered beneficial because they help control pests. For example, predatory mites are arachnids that feed on other, harmful mites. Here are some key features of predatory mites:

  • They belong to the spider and tick family (arachnids)
  • Predatory mites look almost identical to their prey, but they move more rapidly
  • They consume dozens of pest mites every day, helping to control populations

Mites, such as Sarcoptes scabiei, can also cause health problems in humans and animals. This particular mite is responsible for scabies in humans and mange in dogs. However, it’s important to note that most mite species are harmless to humans, and some even help maintain a balanced ecosystem.

In conclusion, mites are incredibly diverse and have a variety of roles in our world. Some can be troublesome, while others are essential predators keeping other pests in check. So, the next time you encounter these tiny creatures, remember that they play a vital role in our environment.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Mites

 

Mites in worm farm?
Location: Hawthorn, Melbourne, Australia
January 13, 2011 9:33 pm
Dear Bugman
I’m wondering if you can help me identify these bugs which seem to be taking over my worm farm? The worms look a little distressed (crawling up to the very top and down to the very bottom of the farm) but not too worried (none have escaped yet.
Do these bugs feed on worms? Bite humans?
Thanks for your help!
Signature: Jess

Mite

Hi Jess,
Identifying Mites to the species level, or even family level is something well past our means and requires the expertise of an acarologist, however we will post your excellent photos in the hope that someone with more knowledge in the field than we possess might someday provide an answer to your questions.  It does appear that you might have two different Mites in your worm farm.

MIte

Letter 2 – Mites in Telephone: Culture Mites

 

mites in phone?
January 21, 2010
First, let me say I know all about delusionary parasitosis. what I’m about to describe differs in that I have no sensation of anything “crawling on me…”
I enjoy insects of all kinds. they do not creep me out at all.
So here’s my question; I have an old fashion telephone, the kind with a handset and the curly wire. If I look into the earpiece I see several pale colored creatures that I’m guessing are mites. they move slower than spider mites and are slightly smaller. It takes a magnifying glass to see them well. There are also afew in the cradle where the phone rests, but they are mostly concentrated in the ‘vents’ of the earpiece. Again, I have never found one on me, and there is no itching. The only other place I’ve seen one of these was walking across the page of a library book. I know what a psocid looks like, it’s not the same. Please tell me what these are, why they are in my phone, and can they effect me or cats. I’m keeping the phone in a plastic bag until I find answers.
thanks
darn! it won’t let me submit my question without a pic…so, sorry, but this pic has nothing to do with my question. It’s obviously just some nice bees in a cactus flower. no need to id.
just wondering
north california

Dear just wondering,
Without a photo, it is difficult to say.  We suspect probably book lice.
http://bugguide.net/node/view/18966/bgimag
e

Culture Mite

Thank you, but it turned out to be Acarus siro …the phone was on the floor, and there was a piece of kibble cat food in the carpet just COVERED with ’em.
I vaccumed really well, spritzed the carpet with isopropel, and put the phone in the freezer.
My question now is; how long should the phone stay in the freezer? will over night kill them completely?
I love your website. Thanks for all your necessary and educational (and fun!) writing.

Thanks for the followup.  We are posting your letter with a photo from our archives of a Culture Mite, Acarus siro.  We posted this image in 2005.  Regarding freezing, we believe the longer the better.

Letter 3 – Mites crawling on Skin in South Africa

 

What is this a spider or a mite
December 21, 2009
Dear Sir … for the last compile of days we have been finding these running all over our skin. What are they, and are they harmful, and where do they come from?
The are smaller than a pin head, and move very quickly so taking good photos was a challenge. I hope you can help.
Thank you
Bernard
South Africa

Mite
Mite

Dear Bernard,
We can confirm that this is a Mite, but we are unable to provide any additional information.  Many Mites are found in the home.  Mites might infest pests and food products depending upon the species, and that identification would take a degree of expertise that we do not possess.  Perhaps an acarologist will be able to provide us with information if one happens to read this posting.

Mite
Mite

Letter 4 – Mites

 

Mites under a microscope!
Location: Western NC
December 2, 2010 8:52 am
An individual at my school came in yesterday with a hair mousse bottle almost completely encrusted with these little fellows. According to her, they’re all over her electronics and hair care products, but no where else.
She thinks they may have come in on a used rug or carpet one of her family members recently purchased, but cannot be certain. Their population seems to have exploded overnight.
I tried to aim my little camera into the ocular to take a photo, but couldn’t focus things properly. The photo does hive an outline of the creatures though. I forget the magnification setting I had selected, but I *think* it was 250x. The mites could only be visibly discerned as tiny white specks.
Any ID help is appreciated.
Signature: Jacob

Mites

Dear Jacob,
Even with your wonderful photo, we do not feel qualified enough to provide an identification for you on these Mites, but perhaps one of our readers will supply an identification.

Letter 5 – Mites

 

HELP…bugs on our newborn’s head!!!
Hi Bugman,
My wife discovered the attached on our newborn son’s head. It doesn’t look like lice (at least to the layperson), but it’s the size of a pinhead. These pictures were taken from a 30X stereoscope. What are they??? Are they "dangerous"??
Please help,
Thanks,
Mark & Gina

Hi Mark and Gina,
You really need to pay a visit to the doctor. I can’t tell you exactly what kind of Mite has infested your child, but it doesn’t seem like a good thing.

Hi Bugman,
We solved the mystery…it’s bird mites. It appears that when young birds leave the nest there is nothing to feed on so they migrate into the house. According to the University of Madison, they only live a few days & the best remedy is to remove the source (the old nest). Thanks for the help & quick response.
Mark & Gina

Update from Barry M. OConnor (05/23/2006)
Mites on newborn’s head (6/21/05). Another Ornithonyssus. This is a parasitic mite in the family Macronyssidae, genus Ornithonyssus. These are the most common "bird" or "rodent" mites you mention. These are similar to the Ophionyssus mentioned above in living in the nest material and feeding on the host blood. Ornithonyssus sylviarum (the Northern fowl mite), O. bursa (the tropical fowl mite) and O. bacoti (the tropical rat mite) all occur in California; the first two are parasites of a wide variety of birds, the last parasitizes rodents, commonly commensal rats. All readily bite people when the normal host is no longer around. The remedy is to locate the bird nest or get rid of the rat problem.

Letter 6 – Mites in the Mustang

 

strange car infestation
Hi.
A few months ago, I was constantly bothered by the sensation of bugs walking on me. We’ve had a lot of ant problems at our house, and frequently there would indeed be an ant walking around on me. But the problem continued even in the absence of any visible ant or other bug. Finally I stormed into the bathroom to take a good look in the mirror and find out what was walking on my face. I found a barely visible bug on my cheek, which I removed with Scotch tape. Not only would I be appalled to find that I had lice, but these bugs do not fit the description of lice. They are far smaller than a sesame seed, which is usually used to describe the size of a louse. Nonetheless, I had to do something; as I was shopping for lice spray at Walgreen’s, one of these bugs walked out onto my thumb, which provided a perfect opportunity to test the spray. It appeared to kill the bug, so I sprayed my couch, mattress, and pillows, and washed everything. The next day the problem seemed reduced but I still felt crawly. During the evening I got in my car to drive across town, and I found bugs walking across a map I had just printed out and thrown on the passenger seat a few minutes earlier. I checked some other papers on the seat and realized that my car was infested with these things. I couple of weeks earlier, the carpet behind the driver’s seat had become soaked (with clean water) when I started to wash the car without realizing that the window was down slightly. Could this have caused the proliferation? Hm. I was forced to set off a full-room insect fogger inside my Mustang convertible, despite warnings that the product isn’t to be used in a room smaller than 5′ x 5′. I taped protective plastic over the speedometer window and the radio beforehand. I’m happy to report that the bugs were eliminated, the car unharmed, and even the "pine" smell dissipated in a couple of weeks. Of course, a convertible is easy to air out. I attached pictures of these creatures taken through a microscope. The object in the main shot is the point of a thumb-tack for scale; these bugs are probably the smallest I’ve ever seen. The bugs’ legs are longer than was immediately apparent; you can see them better in one of the shots. I live in L.A. Thanks for any insight!
Gavin Stokes

Hi Gavin,
We checked with Eric Eaton who concurred you have some species of Mite. He recommends contacting an Acarlogist at Ohio State University if you need to know the species.

Letter 7 – Mites in the Pantry

 

Please Identify
Hi
We found a lot of these small white bugs – they are about the size of small specks of salt/pepper in a wicker basket which has been in a dark cupboard. They also seem to move very slowly. We threw away the basket, and were wondering if they will multiply, and if there is anything that we can do to get rid of them. Please could you identify and advise ?
Many thanks
Pali Rao

Hi Pali,
These are Mites of some type, most probably Food Infesting Mites. Certain species can cause problems in humans. They are linked to a malady known as Baker’s Itch.

Update from Barry M. OConnor (05/23/2006)
Mites in the pantry (12/16/05). This is probably a predatory mite in the family Laelapidae. Species of Stratiolaelaps and Cosmolaelaps are not uncommon in the "house dust fauna" and eat the other mites.

Letter 8 – Mites on Harvester

 

Red dots on daddy longlegs
Dear Bugman ,
I saw this daddy longlegs in a trumpet vine flower near Richmond , VA. Not all that interesting except he (or she) had several red dots attached to his legs. What are those dots? Babies, eggs or some kind of mite? I find your website very informative since I discovered it a few days ago.
Gregg

Hi Gregg,
You are correct with the Mite choice. Your photo is superbe.

Update from Barry M. OConnor (05/23/2006)
Mites on harvester (6/28/05). These are parasitic larvae in the family Erythraeidae, genus Leptus. Leptus species can be found parasitizing a wide variety of arthropods in their larval stage. Post- larvae are predatory.

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
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5 Comments. Leave new

  • The first photo appears to be a mite in the family Parasitidae. These predatory mites are often found in compost such as worm beds. They’re probably feeding on nematodes or other mites, not on the worms themselves.

    Reply
  • These are “mold mites”, family Acaridae, genus Tyrophagus. The most common species, Tyrophagus putrescentiae, is found in many places around houses or stored food products. They will feed on molds or on many kinds of raw or processed foods.

    Reply
  • Jess, thank you so much for posting photos. I have been searching all day for a photo of the bug I am dealing with, and thank you bmoc for your comment. I was about to give up and believe that this was D. Gallinae. I have these mites living in the space between my patio and the house and they are becoming a nuisance, coming in and out of the back door and some coming into the house through the kitchen sink. They seemed to arrive at the same time as the springtails this year and do tend to follow them. I have had three of the second photo of the large red mite in my house and they also came in with the others. Most websites I have found name them as Phytoseiulus Persimilis, but I have also seen a few mentions of them as the common red spider mites. I am no expert, just trying to solve my own bugs problems, but thought I would share.

    Reply
  • Not sure about the upper left hand pic But the rest r bird / rat mites. Sadly the info available to doctors is outdated. Unless they dig a little deeper
    Four years doctors have believed that Birdmites. don’t infect or in the first humans and that’s what they’ve been telling us. As it turns out bird and wrap might both canon first humans and their home their environment can become completely infested. We have been told that Birdmites. cannot reproduce if consuming human blood as their food source. Turns out that these mites aren’t that particular and can reproduce off of any blood of most warm blooded animal

    Reply
  • That is an avian mite. Most likely O. Bursa, but could be D. Gallinae.

    Reply

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