AMARILLO — Some insects prefer winter’s cooler temperatures. One such species in the spider mite family, the clover mite, chooses to move around even if temperatures tell us winter is still here.
These small, red-green mites will come into homes from surrounding lawns and other areas of vegetation. According to Jim Allison, Potter County agent with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, the clover mite’s behavior is unlike most other species of spider mites that damage plants in the summer.
“Although the mites are small, they will be quite obvious when large numbers appear on your windowsill,” said Dr. Carl Patrick, Area Extension entomologist here. They have eight legs with front legs twice as long as the others. Infestations usually are confined to the sun-exposed south or west sides of buildings, and are most severe during late winter and early spring, Patrick said.
Adult female clover mites will lay small, round, red eggs in bark crevices at the bases of trees or in the cracks and crevices of buildings in the spring before temperatures reach 85 degrees. The eggs will stay dormant during the summer, and the adults die. Eggs hatch in the fall as temperatures drop below 85 degrees. The mites will feed and develop during the fall and the warm periods of winter, and as spring temperatures rise above 45 degrees.
This is when many of the mites inadvertently enter homes. Often described as “walking dust,” they do not feed on anything in the home but can leave a reddish-orange stain if crushed. Since clover mites enter homes through small cracks and crevices around doors and windows, sealing these areas will help keep them out.
According to Allison, the most effective prevention is removing grass and weeds for 18 to 24 inches around the foundation of the house. This area does not have to remain bare, for a number of ornamental plantings that are not attractive to the mite could be used in beds next to the foundation.
Chemical controls, such as miticides can be applied to lower exterior walls, the foundation and a 10- to 20-foot-wide strip of nearby lawn where the mites are found. Indoors use a vacuum cleaner to pick up live mites, seal the bag and dispose of it.