The clover mite – what a blood sucker

The Clover Mite, the notorious blood sucker of my childhood
The Clover Mite, the notorious blood sucker of my childhood

I was struck the other day by the number of tiny red “blood suckers” crawling around on my window sills and walls. It seems to me that I haven’t seen these tiny creatures in years, or maybe I just haven’t noticed them. Squishing them and the red streaks they leave are a distinct nostalgic memory from childhood summers along with Soda Stream, Wimbledon and rounders.

This time round curiosity got the better of me and I turned to my ”Complete Irish Wildlife” to find out more. Turns out that the book isn’t as complete as promised and could be renamed “Almost Complete Irish Wildlife”.

Further digging was needed. It turns out that the bloodsuckers are clover mites or to give them their scientific name, Bryobia praetiosa. They are harmless mites that spend their short life on the hunt for heat. As the common name suggests they are predominantly found on lawns where they feed on clover and other plants. They scurry around on walls and window sills soaking up the heat that’s been absorbed from the Sun. They live for about one month. The mites have a neat trick in that they have dispensed with the need for males and so all the mites are female and don’t need males to reproduce which makes each mother and her many offspring clones of each other.

They are completely harmless to animals and despite their appearance don’t feed on blood. They can however damage lawns and crops if they infest in great numbers. Occasionally they come into homes, but usually die within a few days if they do. Keep an eye out for them in the coming weeks and be sure and point out these little blood suckers to any impressionable young children in the vicinity.