Red Mite

What is meant by the common name “red mite” ?

Common and colloquial names are frequently confusing and misleading since they often describe different insects or other Arthropods. This topic will address three mites that are sometimes called red mite or red bug.

Clover mites: Tetranychidae sp.

During the early to mid spring, this mite is commonly seen climbing up the sunny side of buildings and houses. They will crawl inside the structure and show up around the windows and windowsills. Clover mites are a major nuisance when they get inside, but are not blood feeders, so their red color is simply the result of the mite’s body pigmentation. If crushed, they will leave behind a reddish stain. Clover mites feed on grasses and clover.

Chigger mite: Trombicula sp

The immature, larval stage of the chigger mite is also reddish in color and is very small. The chigger larvae are usually encountered in wooded areas, pastures and locations with tall grass and weeds. Chiggers feed on people and a variety of other animals such as snakes, birds and other small mammals. The mite’s larvae penetrate skin and inject a secretion that breaks down and digests the skin cells. The mite larvae then suck up the digested material. Chigger larvae do not burrow into the skin or suck blood, as do some other species of parasitic mites.

Southern red mite: Oligonychus ilicis

This mite species infests trees and plants that do not loose their leaves in the winter. Examples of such host plants are azaleas, rhododendrons, hollies, roses, yews and broad-leaved evergreens. An important symptom of mite damage is leaves that turn grey or brown and prematurely fall from the plant. Heavy, unmanaged populations of southern red mites will eventually kill the plant.