Description of clover mites
Clover mites are very tiny arachnids that live and reproduce outdoors, but are frequently encountered as a 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 in color from rusty brown to dark red. A distinguishing characteristic is the very long pair of front legs that extend forward like antennae as the mites crawl.
Damage caused by clover mites
Clover mites are harmless. They cannot bite or sting; they do not infest stored foods; they cannot attack the house structure and furnishings. They are an annoyance and nuisance because of their presence and tremendous numbers. Clover mites reproduce outdoors. Every mite seen indoors has wandered in from outside.
Clover mites are plant feeders only. They feed 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.
In some situations it may be practical to reduce migration of clover mites into the house by removing the turfgrass and leaving a bare strip 18-24 inches wide next to the foundation. This technique is not always successful, as the clover mites may migrate over wood chip and rock mulches and through flower beds.
Management of clover mites
The traditional control for clover mites is to apply an insecticide spray as a chemical barrier around the house. Spray the bottom of 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. Application should be made as directed on the label and repeated after 2 weeks if mites persist. For more information on outdoor insecticides please see this article.
Clover mites already indoors can be removed from surfaces with a vacuum cleaner. Avoid wiping the clover mites as crushing them often creates an undesirable and durable brown stain. Household insecticide sprays containing pyrethrins can be used for short-term, contact control of wandering mites. For more information on indoor insecticides please see this article.
Do you live in Iowa and have an insect you would like identified?
The Iowa State University Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic will identify your insect, provide information on what it eats, life cycle, and if it is a pest the best ways to manage them. Please see our website for current forms, fees, and instructions on preserving and mailing insects.
Contact information for each states diagnostic laboratory for U.S. residents. If you live outside of Iowa please do not submit a sample without contacting the Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic.