Roses are Red, Mites are Too (AKA: What should we do?)
It’s that time of year again when the tiny little red things show up. I’ve been seeing it in facebook posts and in other groups. Sometimes they are called red velvet mites, redbugs, spider mites, and more. All incorrectly.
They are actually clover mites. They are a bit of a pain, particularly when customers keep calling about it because they keep coming. Often, they are ALL over the place. It’s not just one or two, it is thousands. And when you squish them, it leaves a tiny red mark on your wall. I get why people don’t want them inside.
Thankfully, these are completely harmless. At least to people, pets, food, and from a disease standpoint. Even to the plants they feed on, the damage is rarely severe, in fact, it is rarely seen even in high infestations. As the name suggests, they do feed on clover. Roses, lawn grasses, and many other plants are also favorites of theirs. Thinking about residential customers, these are a lot of the plants that they may have planted right up against their homes. Even commercial customers can have many of these plants in the landscaped areas around their sites. The mites naturally wander to the outer walls, then wander inside when they find openings.
They need specific conditions to be active and eating and reproducing. They emerge in the spring when these conditions are ideal. In the summer, it gets too warm, and often too dry, so they go dormant. Sometimes there will be a small emergence in the fall, but mainly, when people see literally thousands of them, is in spring.
Of course, all of this is great, but what do we do about them??? Like all pests, we do want to look at all the aspects of an integrated plan. However, exclusion is hard. Look at these things: they are TINY!!! While I am all for sealing up openings, finding every single little crack and crevice these mites can squeeze into is impossible. That being said, it should still be done. Sealing as much of the structure as possible will prevent some from getting in, and it will also help with all other pest issues.
Sanitation is always important with pest issues. So just clean up all their food sources, right? Good luck telling a homeowner to rip out all their plants around their home. Or a commercial property to do the same. However, some strategic pruning, and keeping a “vegetation free border” around a structure can help to reduce the number of clover mites crawling on a structure. It won’t stop them completely, but every little bit helps. That vegetation free area can also create a micro-climate that is dryer and more open which forces them back to more humid areas. Instead of having a heavy rose bush up against a home, you now have an open area the sun hits which is warmer and dryer so the mites stay away.
Next up is treatments. There are not a lot of pesticides labeled for clover mites. Many of our pesticides are designed for insects and are just not as effective for spiders, scorpions, and mites. A perimeter treatment can be done on a structure as long as the label allows for it. That can reduce some of the wandering mites. It is important to focus on lower areas and anywhere there may be an opening, like doors and windows. Treating the vegetation can be an option too. Make sure you have the correct license (in many states you need a lawn and ornamental license) to treat vegetation. As always, read and follow all label regulations.
Good news for people dealing with heavy clover mite “infestations”: it is temporary. These are only active for a few weeks, maybe a month before they go dormant and the populations decrease. Let your customers know what you have done, and that they should wait for a few weeks before calling you back out. Setting the expectation that this problem will not go away overnight is beneficial and in the meantime, they can work on sealing cracks and crevices and trimming vegetation away from their structure.
Clover mites are a very seasonal issue. That means you should be able to plan for it; be prepared with a protocol as well as customer education pieces. Like all seasonal pests, some years will be worse than others and we can’t prepare for that. If you want help with preparing protocols (including the best treatments to use) and customer documentation for clover mites or any other pest, we help companies with that, contact us!
Lagniappe – I know this post is on clover mites, but red velvet mites are pretty awesome.
360 PFCS – your urban pest control consultants.