There are thousands of mite species, the majority of which measure less than 1 mm in length. Like other arachnids, their bodies are comprised of the prosoma and abdomen, and mites bear four pairs of legs.
Beginning as eggs, these arachnids develop through larval and pupal stages prior to full maturation. They can survive on land and in water. Although most mites are not harmful to animals, some species are parasitic in nature.
Parasitic mites that attack animal hosts can cause severe skin irritation known as mange. Bird mites are similarly bothersome to poultry, while spider mites are destructive to crops. Some parasitic species are more dangerous than others, as they reside within the respiratory tracts of their hosts. Others, such as chiggers, can transfer dangerous diseases.
Mite signs depend greatly on the species of mite. Most mites are difficult to see clearly without magnification. However, their movement across a surface can sometimes be detected. Some species of plant-feeding mites produce webbing and silk like spider mites. They also can cause discoloration of leaves and eventually leaf drop. Other mites like the clover mite can easily be seen due to their bright red coloration. Mites that feed on animals and people can possibly cause skin irritation. However, there are many other causes for skin irritation, and a physician would be needed to determine the actual cause.
Mites are a diverse group of animals. Some mites are predatory and will feed on other mites. Others are detritivores and feed on decaying material. Other mites feed on plants and can become agricultural pests. Lastly, some feed on animals.