My friend Sharon recently asked me what the little “bugs” were that were crawling on her windowsills and counters. I asked her if they left a rusty red stain when she squished them. “Yes!” Clover mites have invaded her home.
Clover mites are a common occurrence each spring in Northern Nevada. While they are quite annoying, they do not bite humans or animals. They don’t transmit diseases and don’t feed on household furnishing or foods. They are a temporary nuisance. They appear suddenly and then are gone.
Clover mites are relatives of spiders rather than true insects. They have eight legs rather than the six that insects have. These pests are smaller than a pinhead. They range from reddish-brown to olive, to orange or green-brown in color. The young and the eggs are bright red. Overwintering eggs of clover mites hatch in early spring. These pests become active when temperatures are between 50 to 75 degrees. They generally invade on the warm side of the house as spring temperatures rise.
As their name implies, clover mites thrive on clover, but they also love our well-fertilized spring lawns. They will eat dandelion, strawberry, iris and a few other plants too. Plants unattractive to mites include geranium, zinnia, wallflowers, marigolds, salvias, roses, mums and petunias.
To prevent mites from getting into the house, begin by modifying their habitat. Remove all grass and weeds from 18 inches to 24 inches around your home, especially on the south, southwest and east sides. Cover this area with pea gravel or put in some of the plants I mentioned above that mites don’t like. The mites can be sprayed with insecticidal soaps or washed off with soapy water from surfaces outdoors.
One way to get rid of clover mites indoors is to vacuum them up, seal the vacuum bag thoroughly and dispose of it away from the house because they can escape from the bag. Another is to wipe them up with a soapy rag or sponge. Be careful not to crush them to prevent staining surfaces. Avoid using insecticides indoors particularly on kitchen counters.
The next Grow Your Own class will be “Growing Organically” on May 8, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, 2621 Northgate #12, Carson City. Contact Teri Spraggins at 887-2252 or email@example.com to sign up.
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-887-2252.