Mite specimens

Get up close

Zoom in to these stunning mite images to reveal tiny details on their bodies. Find out more about these specimens in the slideshow descriptions below.

Mite captions

These are all scanning electron microscope (SEM) images except for the follicle and bat mite specimens, which are taken from a light microscope.

Clover mite, Bryobia praetiosa
Clover mite, Bryobia praetiosa

SEM image of a clover mite, a common mite found on grasses and many herbaceous plants. During early summer, clover mites often swarm over walls and buildings looking for crevices to lay their eggs in.

Follicle mite, Demodex uncii
Follicle mite, Demodex uncii

Compound light microscope image of a follicle mite. Follicle mites are worm-like microscopic mites. They live in the follicles and sebaceous glands of mammals, including humans.

Red mite of poultry or chicken mite, Dermanyssus gallinae
Red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae

SEM image of a red, or poultry mite. Adults first appear white, but gradually turn reddy black as they engorge with blood. Females are about 1.5mm long when fully fed.

House dust mite, Dermatophagoides farinae
House dust mite, Dermatophagoides farinae

SEM image showing a house dust mite. This image has been artificially coloured using a computer. Unlike pollen, house dust mites are a cause of respiratory allergies all year round. They live in bedding, soft furniture and carpets.

Bat mite, Paraperiglischrus rhinolophinus
Bat mite, species of Paraperiglischrus

The shape of this bat mite body, with the bulge behind the legs, shows it’s of the Paraperiglischrus genus of mites. This mite is usually a parasite of horseshoe bats. Males of this mite species live on the wings of the bat, while females and young mites prefer the tail membrane.

Box mite, specie of Phthiracarus
Box mite, species of Phthiracarus

SEM image of a box, or armadillo mite. When attacked, they protect themselves by folding their legs up into their body and bringing down the hinged ‘lid’ covering their mouthparts to close the ‘box’. Large numbers of box mites live in forest soil.

Scabies mite, Sarcoptes scabiei
Scabies mite, Sarcoptes scabiei

SEM image of an itch or scabies mite, a parasite that infests a wide variety of mammals, including humans.

Cheese mite, Tyrolichus casei
Cheese mite, Tyrolichus casei

SEM image of a cheese mite. These creatures are generally considered to be a pest. However Milbenkäse, or mite cheese, made in Würchwitz, Germany, is ripened in boxes with cheese mites to give flavour.

Varroa mite, Varroa destructor
Varroa mite, Varroa destructor

SEM image of a varroa mite. It is an external parasite and transmitter of viruses that attack adult honeybees and their developing larvae. Infestations can cause weakness, a shortened life and sometimes deformities. 

What are mites?

Mites are among the most diverse and successful of all the invertebrate groups. They are found all round the world and have exploited an incredible range of habitats. However, because of their small size - most are less than a millimetre long - they tend to go unnoticed.

Where do mites live?

Many mites live freely in soil, on vegetation or in water (both salt and freshwater), but there are also large numbers of species that live as parasites on plants and animals.

How many species are there?

There are about 50,000 described species of mites and scientists believe that we have only found 5% of the total. The oldest fossil mites are around 400 million years old.

Mite research at the Museum

Museum mite expert Anne Baker centres her research on the taxonomy of mites found in agricultural habitats.

It is important to be able to identify the different species so that, for instance, pesticides are not used on beneficial mite predators. To help researchers and non-mite experts recognise any specimens they find, Anne has published a user-friendly guide to mites and ticks of domesticated animals.