Concrete Mites!

These photos together display the microscopic size of these little guys, and their large population. They were crawling about on every square foot of that concrete fence.

 

As everyone knows by now, I love bugs. And my fascination was very lucky during a recent visit to a National Gard training area in Oregon called Camp Rilea. While there I fortunately stumbled upon a bunch of little guys that I have been trying to accurately photograph for quite some time. I have seen these creatures numerous times before on locations ranging from my property in Washington state to my sister’s home in New York and at last the weather, sunlight, and my shutter speed were correctly aligned. The size, ceaseless movement, and habitat of these arachnids is extraordinary. What on earth are they doing? What do they eat? And why do they seem to love concrete so much? Many people know about mites but do not like them, a reasonable emotion. In general mites are parasitic animals that bite down on other small invertebrates and live off their blood. And that is the truth for all mites and ticks. And you thought you were making easy money! But what about these microscopic sized “concrete mites”? Why are they wiggling about on slabs of concrete when most other animals seem to dislike that material? The research I did answered these questions but not entirely to my satisfaction. Most sources claim that they are looking for insect eggs or other itsy bitsy living things to eat, even other mites But I thought there was something more to be discovered about them. Why do they seem to like concrete so much? One source I reviewed, from Ohio State University, gave a very reasonable explanation – they eat pollen, too! Now if you have hay fever as I do, the “June Bloom” in the part of Oregon I was in informs you immediately that pollen is exploding from the pine trees there. And it probably lands on slabs of concrete – a great banquet for these little mites if that is part of their diet. And considering their tiny size, cracks in the concrete could be a safe place to lay their eggs. So look very closely at the flat concrete spaces around your home or elsewhere and you may see these fast moving intriguing arthropods. Don’t be afraid of them. Unlike ticks, mite species are not harmful to humans. Mites prefer biting down on insects, spiders, and even vegetation. Ticks are bigger, and prefer the blood of larger animals including humans – as anyone who has had lyme disease will verify.

Primary References:

Pacific Northwest Insects – Merrill A. Peterson (a great book!)

Buckeye yard and Garden Online   Ohio State University

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