Mites have a way of being creepy-crawly despite also being tiny. Clover mites, with their reddish appearance, can be especially off-putting. These pests aren’t harmful to your health, but they may still infest your home and damage your lawn and garden.
What Are Clover Mites?
Clover mites (Bryobia praetiosa) are a species of mite that feeds on plants. They’re distantly related to other arachnids like spiders and ticks. In spring, fall, and during cool summers, you may find clover mites crawling along your walls, doors, and windows.
What do clover mites look like? Clover mites are one of the larger species of plant-eating mites, with adults usually measuring between 0.03 and .033 inches (.75-.85 millimeters) long. Their bodies are oval-shaped and range from reddish-brown to dark greenish-brown in color. They have feather-like scales on their abdomens.
Like other arachnids, clover mites have eight legs. Their front pair of legs is so long, though, that they are often mistaken for antennae. These front legs are usually twice as long as the other pairs of legs.
Clover mite life cycle. There are no known male clover mites. Female mites lay their eggs via parthenogenesis, that is, without mating.
Clover mites lay their eggs in cracks and crevices on foundations, around window frames, beneath siding, and sometimes under loose tree bark. These eggs are bright red, round, and .004 inches (.12 millimeters) in diameter. The eggs overwinter until spring, and will hatch toward the beginning of April, or when the temperature has reached at least 45°F (7.2°C). After hatching, clover mites go through a larval stage and two nymph stages before reaching adulthood.
In the larval stage, the clover mite’s body is bright red and disc-shaped. The larvae have six legs. When they reach the nymph stages, they have eight legs, like the adults.
Adult clover mites usually live for about two weeks, and each mite lays about 70 eggs. When the summer temperatures get too hot, both adults and eggs will go dormant until the cooler fall temperatures arrive.
What do clover mites eat? Clover mites are plant eaters, and get their nutrition from sucking the juices from plants. As their name suggests, they prefer to feast on clovers, but they’ll also eat lawn grass and certain types of ornamental trees and shrubs.
Where Do Clover Mites Live?
Clover mites can be found throughout North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe.
You are most likely to find clover mites on heavily-fertilized lawns. They seem to prefer plants in nutrient-rich soil. They may also be found on plants such as:
- Shepherd’s purse
- Various ornamental flowers
Signs You Have Clover Mites
When clover mites get in your home, they don’t tend to cause many problems. The only way you’ll know they’re there is if you see them.
Outdoors, you may notice small silver streaks on leaves or flowers that the clover mites have been eating. If the clover mite population is large, they may start to kill grass and plants. Your lawn may start to get brown spots that look similar to the way your grass looks after winter (winter kill).
Why Do You Get Clover Mites?
There are a few reasons that you may find clover mites in your home:
- The weather outside has become too hot or cold, and so they move indoors for better temperatures
- They lay their eggs in cracks and crevices of buildings, and may accidentally make their way inside
- The mites have lost their food source or habitat
- There is too much lush foliage up against your home, giving mites an easy way to migrate
If you’re finding an abundance of clover mites outdoors, there may be a few things attracting them to your lawn in particular:
- Your lawn is brand new
- You recently added a heavy amount of fertilizer to your lawn or garden
- Your lawn has an abundance of plants that they like to feast on
- You have a lot of lush foliage
Health Risks of Clover Mites
When crushed, clover mites leave behind a red stain. This stain comes from the red pigment in the mite’s body, but it’s often confused for blood. This may lead people to assume that the mites are bloodsuckers, but they aren’t. Clover mites only feast on plants and don’t bite and don’t transmit diseases.
In fact, as far as indoor pests go, clover mites are relatively mild. Not only do they not bite, but they won’t infest your food, they won’t eat your clothes or carpets or drapes, and they don’t damage infrastructure. Their most egregious crime seems to be leaving that red mark behind when you crush them, which can stain light-colored objects like walls and fabric.
Clover mites won’t last very long once they’re indoors. They can’t reproduce in indoor conditions, and they’ll usually die of dehydration after a few days.
How to Get Rid of Clover Mites
While it’s nice to know that clover mites aren’t harmful to your health, most people still don’t want them in their homes. There are a few things you can do to prevent clover mites from coming indoors:
- Seal up holes and cracks around doors and windows and in your foundation
- Create a grass-free zone 18-24 inches wide around your home, especially on the south, southwest, and east sides
- Cover the grass-free zone with mulch or pea gravel, as the mites struggle to walk across these
- Use an over-the-counter outdoor mite insecticide on the foundation
- If you spot mites in your home, the best way to get rid of them is to vacuum them up. Make sure to empty the vacuum away from buildings
- Indoor pesticides are usually not needed. If the infestation is so bad that you feel you need it, choose a pesticide specifically for indoor use and specifically for mites. Lightly spray crawling mites.
If you choose to use pesticides, follow all instructions on the labels, keep out of reach of children, and properly dispose of all containers when finished.
If mites are destroying your lawn, there are a few ways you can get rid of them that will also help stop them from getting inside. Additional watering can help prevent clover mites. You can also plant flowers and shrubs that aren’t attractive to clover mites, such as:
If you are still finding yourself with an abundance of clover mites indoors, you may need to call in a pest control specialist.