I occasionally get calls from people who are getting bitten by something in their yard. We don’t have chiggers that bite people in New Mexico, so I was never sure what was biting them, although in some cases it could be biting midges (flies in the family Ceratopogonidae).
Now I know what the problem is, as someone brought me some mites to identify. Her exterminator told her they were clover mites (Bryobia praetiosa), but clover mites don’t bite. The mites she brought to me don’t have a good common name. A few folks back east call them “concrete” mites. They belong to the genus Balaustium in the mite family Erythraeidae.
There are four species of Balaustium mites in North America. They are known from California, Texas, parts of Canada, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. They are probably found throughout the country.
At least now we know they are found in New Mexico. These mites feed mainly on pollen, so when we have moderate or high pollen counts, they come out in large numbers.
You can see them running around on sidewalks and patios feeding on pollen. They will be found on all surfaces where pollen lands, including lawns. Balaustium mites also bite and they can cause a rash.
These mites have a natural resistance to pesticides. In fact, there are no pesticides labeled for use against these mites, as they haven’t found one that works. The good news is that you can kill these mites with homemade remedies.
If you are getting bitten outside, I would recommend hosing off all sidewalks and patios to wash any mites back into the yard.
If you have to work in the yard, you can spray it with a mixture that will work on any mites. Mix 4 tablespoons of buttermilk with a cup of all-purpose flour and a gallon of water and spray any area you need to work in. The mixture will suffocate any mites it comes in contact with.
You can also dust any areas of the yard with food-grade diatomaceous earth. You can get it at a feed store.
Pesticides are useless in dealing with these mites and potentially dangerous to you, your family and your pets.
These mites will also come into homes if there is a lot of pollen near the home. All you have to do is wipe them up with soap and water.
When the pollen season is over, the mites will become predaceous and feed on other species of mites, including spider mites, so they can actually be beneficial in some circumstances.
If I had to give them a nickname (that sounds better than common name, which isn’t really common), I would call them pollen mites. It makes much more sense than “concrete” mites, which sounds a bit ridiculous.
I am working on a non-toxic pest management book for gardens, lawns and house plants. I will be including this mite in the book. Although it doesn’t harm plants, it can be annoying by biting the homeowner. This book will be free for the asking as my other ones are.
I am also identifying household and garden pests for anyone in New Mexico. That service is free also.
If you have any pests, pack them in a vial or container and put them in a box or bubble envelope. Mail them to me at 6804 Fourth St. NW, No. 134, Los Ranchos, NM 87107. Be sure to include an email address so I can contact you with the identification of the pests. Also, if you have any pest questions, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org