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Inspection and Identification

photo of a wooden floor with one wooden leg of a beige couch and a flat, white piece rectangle in the darkness under the couch
A glueboard placed under a couch away from the reach of children and pets. Photo: NYSIPM. Click photos to see enlarged versions.

As with other pests, the first step in eliminating mites is to determine the species and identify why they are present. One choice is insect sticky traps/glueboards that capture mites moving about in the home. The best type for trapping mites are paper trays with an adhesive. They can be purchased online, laid flat in areas where mites have been observed (as long as they are protected from children and pets). Mites will get stuck on the glue, as well as other small insects. Another option is wiping mites up with a damp paper towel.

close-up of a reddish, oval-shaped insect with 8 legs and long mouthparts
This tropical rat mite looks like an engorged tick. Photo: Kevin Carrillo.

Next? Have them identified by a qualified professional (NOTE: Pest management companies, friends and social media such as Facebook, may be unreliable sources of identification, especially for mites), such as the Cornell Insect Diagnostic Lab. Once mites are properly identified, follow the steps below to eliminate different mite issues.

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Biting Mites

Biting mites arrive on their hosts - rodents or birds. In order to survive and reproduce, these mites need their specific hosts. Therefore, it is essential that you find the rodent or bird host, including bird nests found near windows and air conditioners, and safely remove them.

Rodent Mites

These mites become a problem when rodents are living in the home (walls, drop ceiling, attic, basement, etc.). An integrated approach is needed to remove existing rodents and to prevent new rodents from entering the building. For more information about rodent management, visit the Mice and Rats page. Once the rodents have been removed, the mites will soon die. Visible mites can be “cleaned up” with soapy water or a surface cleaner. Alternatively, a pest management professional can provide a treatment to kill the remaining mites if needed.

photo of rodent snap trap with different parts labeled as the bait try, pedal, sensitive setting, spring, arm bar, and kill bar
Anatomy of a Snap Trap. Photo: NYSIPM

Population Reduction: Rodent management through trapping is recommended instead of baiting. Rodents that consume a lethal dose of bait can die in hidden areas, making it difficult to find and remove their carcasses. Rodents killed on snap traps are easy to find and can be removed quickly.

Rapid removal is important to prevent mites from leaving a rodent’s body in search of another host. Visit our YouTube Channel for information about rodent trapping.

Nest Removal: If there is a large population and persistent nesting sites, it will be important to find and remove the nesting material.

Gray mouse pups looking out from a nest made of white fluffy material on a small wooden shelf.
Peromyscus mouse pups in a nest. Photo: NYSIPM
  • Mice: House mice tend to nest in areas of warmth near their food source: motors (refrigerator), ovens, hot water heaters, radiators, etc. Search for voids near these areas, including under cabinets, in drawers, storage boxes, insulation, and other protected, dark places. Look for a softball sized collection of soft materials surrounded by mouse feces. Field mice (white-footed mice and deer mice) also nest in protected places, but not always near a heat source. They can be found in garages, attics, exterior walls, basements and other areas away from human activity that allow easy access to the outdoors.
  • Norway Rats: This species of rat is the common pest in New York and the Northeast (roof rats have a subtropical distribution, are found in warmer climates and typically along the coast). Norway rats prefer to burrow in the soil, but can make nests in protected indoor spaces too.
Photo shows several paper boxes on a metal rack. In the center of a photo, the handle of the box has been enlarged and brown staining from rodent sebum is present below the opening.
Rats prefer to nest in the soil, but will take advantage of voids near a food source. Photo: NYSIPM

When cleaning out a rodent nest, be concerned about breathing in hazardous materials associated with the droppings. You will want to wear an appropriate mask (N95 or better, which can be purchased at most hardware stores. Keep in mind that facial hair can interfere with the proper fit of a mask), eye protection, gloves, long-sleeved shirt, pants and close-toed shoes.

Nest material should be placed in a sturdy plastic bag and knotted at the end with as little air inside as possible. This should be disposed of outdoors in a refuse receptacle. Additional guidance can be found on the CDC’s website for rodent cleanup.

Exclusion: Prevent new rodents from entering the building by sealing all openings on the exterior, or by sealing openings between rooms and floors on the interior. Some professional pest management companies provide this service for a fee. You can learn more about pest exclusion on the Scientific Coalition of Pest Exclusion’s website (NOTE: it is best to remove all rodents before performing exclusion).

Bird Mites

These mites are a problem when birds nest on or inside a building. As with rodent mites, bird mite problems are often resolved by eliminating the nest, and “cleaning up” remaining mites with soapy water or a surface cleaner. For more information about bird management, visit the Birds page.

photo of an air conditioner in the window of a brick building supported by multiple wooden boards upon which two grey speckled birds are perched
Pigeons, house sparrows, and starlings are not protected by law. Photo: hobvias sudoneighm, Flickr

Nest Removal: Removal of bird nests is the most important step to dealing with bird mites. Nests may be hidden in soffits, attics, behind siding, or in difficult to reach places such as second story window sills, below window air conditioning units, or above light fixtures. Removing the nest will eliminate the majority of mites, and those left behind will soon die without their bird hosts (see recommendations above for removing rodent nests. Keep in mind that ladder safety is a critical component of nest removal). A pest management professional can be hired to provide a treatment to kill the remaining mites if needed. New York regulations regarding the handling of bird nests can be found here.

Exclusion/Prevention: If birds consistently nest in the same location each year, consider exclusion to prevent future nesting. Effective bird exclusion requires expertise, skills, and tools of a qualified wildlife management professional (see Tips for Selecting a Pest Control Service when searching for a qualified professional). For more information about bird exclusion, visit the Birds page.

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Nuisance Mites

When dealing with clover and concrete mites, the best approach is exclusion and other physical barriers to entry.

Clover Mites

Problems with clover mites are associated with over-fertilized or over-watered lawns. Therefore, managing a healthy lawn instead of pursuing a lush lawn can prevent the buildup of large populations.

Exclusion: Mites are tiny arthropods that can fit through very small openings. Because of this challenge, physical exclusion with sealants must be detail oriented, and is best suited for specific areas where mites are a problem (determined by monitoring with sticky traps). Pay special attention to cracks and crevices in the foundation, at the sill plate and around windows and doors.

Barriers: Barriers can reduce the number of mites that enter the home. Vegetation Free Zones, 18 to 36-inch bands of crushed stone (one-inch diameter) with no plants around the perimeter of a structure may reduce the number of mites indoors.

Removal: if mites enter the home, a vacuum can be used to suck them up. Consider using a knee-high stocking inside the tube to prevent infestation of the vacuum (see page 46 of How to Get Bed Bugs Out of Your Belongings). Because of their red color and soft bodies, other methods of cleaning up mites can result in red smears.

Pesticide Applications: if populations are high, consider hiring a pest professional to treat the exterior foundation of the homes, focusing on cracks and crevices where mites enter. The use of pesticides for mites can be tricky so it is best to consult a professional.

Concrete Mites

These mites rarely enter homes because their primary food source is pollen and other debris that lands on outdoor surfaces. In most cases, accurate identification of indoor mites will reveal that they are actually clover mites. Concrete mites may enter near patio doors or fireplaces. They do not bite and they can be cleaned up and excluded.

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Plant Mites

bottom of a faded greenish-grey leaf overed with small yellow and black mites and white and yellow specks
Twospotted spider mites. Photo: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

If your pest is identified as spider mites, search indoor plants for yellow spotting on leaves called ‘stippling,’ the tiny mites or their eggs, or webbing. Remember to look on both surfaces of the leaves, as mites and the eggs tend to be on the bottom side.

Keep Plants Healthy

Plants that are stressed (lack of water or nutrients) are susceptible to mite problems. Keeping plants healthy can make them less susceptible to mite problems. Do not fertilize plants during a spider mite outbreak because extra nutrients can help feed the mites.

Horticultural Oils and Soaps

These products kill mites, and are less potent than broad-spectrum pesticides that can cause mite outbreaks for outdoor plants. Follow labels instructions, including treatment of all leaf surfaces and crevices where leaves attach to stems.

Biological Control

If plants are kept outdoors, consider biological control. This approach uses populations of natural enemies to treat pest populations. Biological control agents for spider mites can be purchased online and released onto plants.

Cutting, New Growth or Disposal

In cases where plants are heavily infested and severely damaged from spider mites, it might be possible to cut the plant at its stem to allow for new growth. However, there is no guarantee the plant will survive. Disposal of infested plants is also an option. In either case, cut plant material or the entire potted plant should be bagged so that mites are not dispersed when moving it to the outdoor garbage.

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Dust Mites

According to the CDC, you can protect yourself from allergic reactions from dust mites and their droppings by:

  • "Us[ing] allergen-proof mattress and pillowcase covers to make a barrier between dust mites and yourself
  • Avoid[ing] down-filled pillows, quilts, or comforters
  • Wash[ing] your bedding weekly and dry[ing] it completely
  • Vacuum[ing] carpets, area rugs, and floors regularly using a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter
  • Keep[ing] relative humidity levels in the home low, around 30- 50%"

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