Barely visible to the naked eye, mites have eight legs and a round body, and are seldom noticed until they have built up sufficient numbers to be a major infestation. They are not insects but are arachnids, related to spiders.
The typical mite emerges from its tiny egg in a dark crevice as a six-legged nymph, growing by a series of moults and acquiring another pair of legs in the process. Some species can survive starvation for up to six months.
Most houses have the House Dust Mite which lives on our mattresses, feeding on tiny particles of shed skin. The Furniture Mite occurs in damp upholstery. The Flour Mite infests damp cereals or pasta and causes “Grocer’s Itch”, in people who handle infested commodities.
Mange in pets is caused by mites; and the Itch Mite or Scabies Mite causes the disease of scabies by burrowing into the skin, causing an irritating rash.
Bird Mites frequently enter houses from old nests of sparrows, starlings or house martins, or from poultry. Harvest Mites may bite people if brought in on the coats of dogs or on clothing. The most conspicuous mite that enters houses is the Red Spider Mite, a plant feeder which comes indoors in spring to seek egg-laying sites and again in autumn to hibernate.