Clover mites are very tiny arachnids that live and reproduce outdoors, but are frequently encountered as an accidental invader household pest in early summer and in the fall when they migrate into dwellings by mistake. They are only 1/64th inch long, soft, oval, and flattened from top to bottom. They vary from rusty brown to dark red. A distinguishing characteristic is the pair of very long front legs that extend forward like antennae.
Clover mites cannot bite or sting, they do not infest stored foods, and they cannot attack the house structure and furnishings. They are a nuisance or annoyance when present in large numbers.
Clover mites feed only on sap from grasses and clover, and are especially numerous in lawns with a heavy growth of succulent, well-fertilized grass. They do not cause any apparent harm to turfgrass.
The traditional control for clover mites is to apply an insecticide spray as a chemical barrier around the house. Spray the foundation, the crevice between the foundation and the ground and the lawn for a distance of 6 to 10 feet out from the foundation. Successful chemical control requires a very thorough treatment. Insecticides labeled for outdoor perimeter treatment usually provide adequate control. Read and follow label directions and repeat after 2 weeks if mites persist.
Carefully pick up clover mites already indoors with a vacuum cleaner. Avoid wiping as crushing the mites creates an undesirable and durable brown stain. Household insecticide sprays containing pyrethrins can be used for short-term, contact control of wandering mites.
This article originally appeared in the April 20, 2001 issue, p. 41.
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