You cruel creature, little mite of a thing with a heart the size of a fullstop.

JAMES JOYCE (1882-1941)



Mighty Mites

Mites are arachnids and are related to spiders rather than insects. There are species of mite that only live in the noses of seals, only on the legs of chickens, only in the ears of porcupines and only up bats' arses.
One trait that many of them have in common is 'mate-guarding': choosing an immature female and jealously making sure nobody else goes near her, then mating with her as soon as she moults into adult form, before she knows any better.

There's one mite whose females produce a clutch of eggs, one male and the others female. The male hatches first, then goes around mating with all of his sisters in turn, before dying. The punch line is that all of this happens inside the mother's body, so the male hatches, has sex with all his sisters, and dies before he is even born.

There’s a mite called Macrocheles rettenmeyeri, which has one of the oddest adaptations in nature: it attaches itself to the base of an army ant’s leg, and acts as the ant’s foot (or like a boot, perhaps). The ant walks on the mite, the mite drinks the ant’s blood, and everybody is happy. 

Up to ten percent of the weight of a two year old pillow can be composed of dead mites and their droppings.

Altenburger cheese gets its sharp flavour from Acarid Mites. The cheese contains thousands of mites and if you're not used to it, it can cause stomach problems.  The cheese sometimes has a grey, dusty covering; this is actually dead mites cast skins and faeces.

Face Mites

Mites are everywhere, including on your face, however much you wash it. It’s quite difficult to find them: only 14% of people have face mites that are visible, even under the microspcope. There are at least two species of face mites

When looking at the DNA from one of our face mite species, Demodex brevis, it was found that those from China are genetically distinct from mites from the Americas. East Asians and European populations diverged over 40,000 years ago and it looks like their face mites did as well.

Mites have no anus, so when they die a lifetime’s supply of stored waste is left behind: analysis of this residue reveals that 100% of people have face mites.

By late adulthood, most people (at least 2/3rds, but some scientists think 98%) also have eyebrow mites burrowed into their brows. They just sit there eating cast-off skin cells, and don't do much harm as a rule.


In Africa the immune system is too busy chasing after worms to bother going after house dust mites.

Mitey Incas

Mites have been used to track the fall of various civilizations. By looking at how populations of mites have changed over the centuries, one can deduce when civilisations grew, migrated and died out. For example, the Incas herded llamas. By studying fossilised mites that thrived in the dung of their livestock, scientists could record the numbers of mites and obtain a plot with a very distinctive pattern. There was a huge increase in the number of fossil mites as the empire expanded from the Cuzco area in the early 1400s and a sudden drop in numbers corresponded with the collapse of the native population after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.

Mitey War

In 2001 the Democratic Republic of the Congo planned to start a mite-war in order to save its cassava crop. The plan was to fly in thousands of predator mites on a chartered plane to do battle with cassava green mite.

They, and a number of other African nations used the method, and it appears to have worked very well.

We’ve been imbibing the tea mite, Tuckerella japonica, in our cuppas for about 3000 years.


Book scorpions patrol piles of old books eating up dust mites.

Mites have been found on every mammal species looked at  except the platypus and its relatives.


The honeybee tracheal mite is small enough to raise a whole family in a bee's respiratory tube.

Funkotriplogynium iagobadius is a mite named after James Brown, from 'Iago', James and 'badius', brown.

An acarologist is someone who studies mites.

A typical used mattress has between 100,000 to 10 million mites inside it.

A single human pore might be home to up to 10 mites.