Clover Mites

- A type of spider mite that may invade homes in spring -

Summary: This brownish-green spider mite sometimes invades homes in the spring, large numbers of mites can alarm homeowners. The mites are harmless, don't bite, but can leave stains when crushed. Mites develop and feed on plants that grow next to the home's foundation.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

How to identify clover mites

Clover mite (Bryobia praetiosa) is a brownish-green spider mite with unusually long front legs (see photo right). These long legs may be mistaken for antennae. Clover mites are small (1/25") and like other spider mites have a total of eight legs. When clover mites enter homes they can be mistaken for bird mites (bird/rodent/poultry/nest mites) because of their similar size and coloration. The best way to tell the difference is to look at the front legs under magnification - long front legs = clover mites, short legs = bird mites (see our article about using hand lens magnifiers for insect/mite identification).

If unsure about your id you can collect a few mites into alcohol using a damp cotton swab and take the sample to your local county Extension office (google your state, county name, and "Cooperative Extension" for the office in your area).

clover mite

Clover mite on small blue flower. Notice brownish/green body color and long front legs.

Clover mite control

Like other spider mites clover mites feed on plants. Large numbers can develop on so called "foundation plants" (both flowers and weeds) that grow next to homes. This is often the source of mites that subsequently enter homes. Since clover mites develop on the plants growing around the foundation the best way to reduce the number getting inside is to cut back or remove vegetation to at least 12", more is better.

There's usually no need to treat plants with insecticide since it is difficult for mites to move over bare ground. This "vegetation-free" zone will also help manage carpenter ants (see our articles about carpenter ants and carpenter ant control).

If insecticide treatment is necessary try insecticidal soap first as a low toxicity alternative to conventional sprays (see using insecticidal soap). Thoroughly spray plants that can't be cut back or otherwise managed. This treatment may need to be repeated several times at weekly intervals.

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