Jeffrey Hahn, Asst. Extension Entomologist
Some people have been experiencing clover mites around their homes recently. Identification is important as they could be misidentified as other types of mites or even very small ticks. Clover mites are about the size of a pinhead (about 1/30th inch long) and are reddish or brownish in color. They have a round body and eight legs with the first pair of legs particularly long. People find them on the outside of their homes as well as around windows.
Clover mites feed on grass and clover during summer (they are not pests on these plants). They take shelter in and around buildings during the fall. You might see them then but they are much more commonly noticed during spring. They can potentially occur in very large numbers around buildings and have no problem getting inside, especially around windows, because of their small size. They love being in the sun and are most common on the south sides of homes. Fortunately, clover mites are not harmful to people or our property. However, they can stain surfaces if they are crushed.
If you are not seeing many, the best bet is physical removal. Use a vacuum cleaner or gently wipe them up with a damp cloth to help minimize crushing them. Clover mites are a temporary problem that will go away on its own when the weather become warmer.
If you having a problem with large numbers entering your home, you can treat the foundation to deter them with an insecticide containing bifenthrin (be sure it is labeled for spraying the outside of homes). You can also consider hiring a professional pest control service to treat your home's exterior.
If you deal with this problem most years and are looking for a more sustainable approach to managing them, you can try maintaining a barrier of clean, bare soil around your home, i.e. free of grass and leaves. Clover mites generally do not cross such a barrier. This barrier should be about 18 - 24 inches wide. If you do have annuals, perennials, or shrubs planted in this zone, have them far enough apart so the clover mites can not easily bridge across this barrier. Landscape rock apparently is not enough of a deterrent to keep clover mites away from buildings.