The Flash and Fizzle of Clover Mites
Memorial Day was a blaze of red, white, and blue in Maryland backyards, but hopefully not too much red. Were you a homeowner who noticed annoying red clover mites all over your patio picnic? You were not alone. Many homeowners have noticed these annoying springtime pests enjoying our dry, mild Maryland May weather. Both factors are important for clover mites. The current drought in Maryland allows them to move with greater dexterity through the dense turf that they adore, and the temperature allows them to cavort in advance of their summer hibernation.
Clover mite eggs hatch in the spring and fall and an eager generation or two of adults emerge to spend spring together wandering in annoyingly large groups seeking areas that are Goldilocks-warm, neither too hot nor too cold. They are sunshine-y insects, preferring areas of direct sunlight in proximity to their food sources of clover, dandelions, grass, salvia, and other weeds and flowers.
If you spot these little red nuisances, and have extraordinary vision, you will be able to count eight legs. You may mistake the front two legs for antennae, as they are twice the size of the others and extend forward past the head. But legs they are, sharing the eight-legged status with their relatives, spiders and ticks. Adult clover mites will live for about two weeks outdoors. They do not bite or sting, and therefore emerge as merely a nuisance rather than an active threat.
Clover mites are parthenogenetic pests, meaning that they have the fascinating ability to develop from unfertilized eggs, making the clump of adult clover mites covering your windowsill entirely female. Female clover mites will lay 70 eggs each, and the adults that emerge from those eggs will be genetically identical to the mother. Natural cloning in action; isn’t Entomology the best? Eggs deposited towards the end of the spring will linger until fall, hatching when the weather is once again agreeable to them.
Happily, we may soon see the end of these annoying pests as summer arrives. Loathe to tolerate high temperatures, clover mites aestivate in the summer months. That is, clover mites enjoy a summer siesta, hibernating in the hot weather, until fall returns with its cooler climate. It is a flash of red, leading to a fizzle as the heat takes care of these pests…if only temporarily.
Clover mites are relatively helpless indoors, unable to nest and reproduce inside. In short order, they will dehydrate and die. Still, an interior clover mite problem is an annoyance, particularly if DIY smashing techniques end up with red stains on furnishings. Control is best achieved through vacuuming with an appropriately strong, preferably bagged, tool.
Outdoors is the best place for professional control, addressing infestations on the perimeter of the building, developing from siding or wall voids, or creeping in from well-tended grass. Lush, over-fertilized grass is a particularly attractive locale for clover mites, who thrive in the nutrient-rich environment.
If you like a green lawn, but don’t like clover mites, a professional pest control application is your best bet to prevent these little red pests from intruding on your patio time. They are very controllable, and your red, white, and blue celebrations can stay properly festive without these little intruders.
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