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Discussion in 'Tarantula Questions & Discussions' started by Flower, Apr 16, 2009.

  1. Flower

    Flower Arachnoknight

    I picked up a Togo Starburst today. When I got home I noticed there where white mites crawling on the substrate and on a dead cricket in the enclosure. I put the spider in a new enclosure, which I was gonna do anyways. There seems to be no mites on it, just in the old substrate, which I threw away.

    I have heard mites on tarantulas as being so small they are hard to see and almost standing still. These were deffinately visable and definately moving -- sort of like rodent mites for those of you that have handled them -- they're common in LPS rats and mice.

    Should I be worried?

    The spider seems fine, and is really beautiful, by the way. :) I got it for $20...
  2. rvtjonny

    rvtjonny Arachnoknight

    had the same problem a few days ago in 3 of my 4 setups, everybody said its nothing to worry about but i freaked out and re did them all, new coco peat and washed everything good.

    read my post, some good stuff in there
  3. The typical harmful mites we get need a lot of humidity to live. Dry tarantula enclosures kill them off pretty well. Changing out the substrate works pretty well to eliminate them, and dry new substrate (with no carrion) keeps them from coming back.

    Mites suck, but in my experience it's more a problem in warm, humid roach enclosures, which also have starchy food in them.
  4. As with many of the "mite" posting here, the "white mites" you saw were most likely Colembolla - not mites at all, and not in any way harmful to the tarantula. I think most of the mite scares posted on this board are due to the fact that many people think that everything tiny must be a mite, and that all mites are dangerous to tarantulas. Both ideas are very wrong.
  5. Me myself, I wouldnt worry about anything you dont see directly on/attached to the tarantula itself.

    Bill, still waiting for an oppurtunity to get those ones to ya, they are still there on the sling but move around it quite a bit now.
    The sling has been in a dry empty cube, they still aint died.

    I been meaning to ask, I used to use diatomacious earth to rid my snakes of mites, would that stuff also harm the sling?

    For those that dont know, diatomacious earth has teeny tiny micro-microscopic particles that have very sharp edges that irritate the mites(and other insects I been told) and eventually causes them to let go and/or kills them.

    Heres an excerpt from wiki . . .

    Diatomite is also used as an insecticide, due to its physico-sorptive properties. The fine powder absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects' exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate. Arthropods die as a result of the water pressure deficiency, based on Fick's law of diffusion. This also works against gastropods and is commonly employed in gardening to defeat slugs. However, since slugs inhabit humid environments, efficacy is very low. It is sometimes mixed with an attractant or other additives to increase its effectiveness. Medical-grade diatomite is sometimes used to de-worm both animals and humans. It is most commonly used in lieu of boric acid, and can be used to help control and eventually eliminate a cockroach infestation. This material has wide application in control of insects of grain storage.

    Disadvantages of using diatomaceous earth for pest control include the health risk to humans (see below), and the harm it does to many beneficial insects, including predatory beetles and bugs and many detritivores.
  6. People, dont go rushing out to the fishstore and dunk your Ts in a bag of DE, I was just thinking out loud, it looks like it would do more harm than good to a T.
  7. Flower

    Flower Arachnoknight

    Yeah, I'm not too concerned because nothing appears to actually be on my spider. But I figured an ask was worth it just to be sure.

    The new Togo is sooo cute. I just spied it grooming itself. :eek:
  8. Looks like you answered your own question before I saw it.

    And - as has been posted elsewhere - parasitic mites do not require humidity to live. They get their moisture by drinking it from their host. A dry substrate might help limit their ability to breed - but if the environment is good for the tarantula, it will be good for the mite that parasitizes the tarantula. Keep in mind that parasites and their hosts co-evolve in the same environment. I live in the Sonoran Desert, and we routinely find insects with mites attached. A couple weeks ago we even found a mite - under a rock on the west facing slope of a dry desert hill - that had a parasitic mite attached to it. And in the same location we found a predacious mite on top of a rock in the noon-day sun.
  9. Hmm. Must not be the same mites that decimated my roach enclosures. Those started in the water dishes and stayed in the wettest areas, killed almost everything that was in the moist enclosures and never appeared in the dry ones. Then when I moved the roaches into a dry enclosure that is otherwise the same, the mites died off and never re-appeared.

    Mites are a diverse bunch. Basically anything we have to strain to see we call a mite. I'm pretty sure the ones in my enclosure were not parasitic per se, but the result was the same. They were really tiny and tan. I'm also pretty sure the mites I have experienced and worry about need a lot of humidity.

    Edit: I've never lost a T to mites. Maybe the ones that housed my roaches don't pose a threat to tarantulas. Maybe.
  10. Parasitic is a key word. There are some mites that cling onto spiders but cause them zero harm.
  11. I'm not an expert on mites, but my understanding is that common mites start out eating rotting stuff, bug leftovers, and grain (as in a roach enclosure) but then they multiply and get all over everything, and only eventually, when there are tons of them, they crawl in the booklungs or in their mouth, or something and get all over your pet or feeder, eventually causing their death.

    I'm pretty certain the mites that killed my roaches were not exclusive parasites--I'm not even sure how they killed them. But kill them they did, and they were caused more than zero harm.

    Someone in the other forum was saying white lice that are relatively faster moving are harmless, but the itty bitty ivory colored ones can become very harmful. Mine were ivory, so my experience corroborates that.
  12. Again, parasites co-evolve with their hosts. Roaches do live in damp areas, hence any mite that parasitizes them will prefer a similar habitat. These are not the ones that will parasitize tarantulas. IF they were parasitic! You can cultivate scavenger types of mites in damp containers, and they will certainly not do well in a clean dry container. But such mites will not "decimate" an enclosure - they'll only eat the garbage that's in there.
  13. Thers all kindsa crawlies in any substrate . . .

    Like I said, I dont worry about it till I see one attched to something alive.
  14. Well, I'd agree that you aren't an expert on them. (No insult intended - but you're right.) You're understanding of mite life cycles is incorrect. I guess the first point is that there is no such species as "the common mite". Instead, there are many thousands of species of mites, each with its own specialty. There are indeed parasitic mites that prey on tarantulas and other types of spiders - but they start off as such except at possibly a phoretic larval stage. And they don't multiply on garbage until they are so numerous that they swarm into a tarantula's book lungs.

    Without knowing what killed your roaches, and whether mites were involved in any way - or for that matter if the tiny animals present were truly mites - I really can't address this issue. It could just as well have been some caging conditions that allowed the "mites" to proliferate and those same conditions may have contributed to the death of the roaches. Again, without data, assumptions don't go far.

    Note that the emphasis on lice is mine. Lice are not related to mites. Very different animals. Lice are insects, mites are arachnids. And yes, lice move faster than mites.
  15. So you are a mite-xpert, then? It seems like you are being awfully dismissive of empirical evidence and very universal in your statements, which is not a characteristic of people who are actually experts, especially in a field where there are so many possibilities. Certainly not every tiny little critter is a "mite", and with thousands of species of mite and I'm sure many other species of small animals we might call a "mite" because we've never put them under a microscope I have a hard time believing you could know that what I have described cannot happen.

    What I saw was tiny little dudes, smaller than grains of normal sand, congregating around the water and food (which were close together). I thought it was no big deal. Later I saw them en mass on a roach that had died. No big deal, I thought, they are just scavenging. Some time passed and they were all over in there, especially on the roaches. When it happened to my Blaberus roaches I could see them constantly scraping their eyes and face, which were covered in the same little organisms. I know they were mobile (and not some fungus or something) since when I exposed the water dish to bright light, they all moved out of the light and after a few minutes congregated in the shaded areas. Then there were some mass die offs. I moved the living roaches to a new enclosure that was identical except drier. Some of the remaining roaches died, but the rest survived and are now making a comeback. The mites never appeared in the dry container.

    Is it possible that something was amiss in the container that caused both mite proliferation and roach death? Yes, but it doesn't seem real likely, especially since it happened twice, to different species, a year apart and in both cases there were no changes in their environment over time. Also I have had a number of colonies of different roaches over some time and never had significant deaths that were not preceded and accompanied by mites, nor significant mite infestations without roach deaths. If it is coincidence that the two happened at the same time, it's some coincidence. If both are caused by the same environmental factor, then my suggestion that you resolve the issue by keeping your pets dry is still valid, since that both stopped roach deaths and the proliferation of the pests I experienced. But I think that's the less likely case.

    Do mites start out in the water and food dishes and later move to the roaches? Yes, for sure. I saw that in both cases. I don't know by what mechanism the roaches died, but I know the mites were all over them for some time before they died. It seems to me that the mites were more than just casually involved.

    Wherever you got your information and whatever you know about mites, I hope it's not just enough to make you start to think that there are no more things in heaven and earth than are already dreampt of in your philosophy. On the boards we share experiences that we have had so others can learn. I think my experience is more useful to other hobbyists than your blanket statement that mites do not move from scavenging to clinging on our pets, that they can't hurt insects and spiders by entering booklungs (which I only suggested as a possible mechanism because I read it elsewhere), and your implication that the only mites we need worry about are exclusively parasitic in nature. And of course, I made no reference to the life cycle of mites except that they reproduce like no one's business. If you were thinking that I suggested that they scavenge in one phase of life and then move on to be a danger to our pets, you misunderstood what I said. In fact, what I meant was that the mites are not parasitic in nature, so if you have only a few on your pets it's no big deal, but when there are tons they can begin to get in the way of important body functions on the part of the roach. That's my proposed explanation for what I have observed. I don't think my circumstances were so unique that no one else on the boards has or will experience the same thing. And it so happens that I know the solution to the situation.

    The lice thing, of course, was a typo.
  16. biomarine2000

    biomarine2000 Arachnoangel


    I for one mean no disrespect or sarcasm if it comes across that way. I think since you seem to know the most about mites, maybe you should start a new thread about just mites. Type up some type of educational thread. Maybe we can get the mods to make it a sticky. It is extremely hard to find any revelant information about mites from anyone that actually knows what they are talking about, or even consistant in their explination. (And that doesn't mean anyone from this post). I am merely talking about other sites and searching for answers via search engines. I would love to have a lot of education about them.
  17. I have never claimed to be a mite expert, and I certainly am not one. But I do seem to have a better understanding of them than many of the people who post here about them. (And that's unfortunate - it reflects less on my knowledge than in other people's superstitions.)

    I do get involved with catching and documenting mites - more than I really want to, if the truth be known. But the result is that I am more familiar with them and know a little more about their natural history.

    I also have some familarity with insects, and with biology in general, which helps when I see descriptions of situations described on this board. And I've been keeping animals for about half a century, and have seen or made many of the mistakes that people here are making. Again, this does not mean I'm an expert, but I do have some knowledge and experience.

    OK. Now we can look specifically at your case. First, it's obvious that there's an environmental condition that allows this "pest population" to proliferate. Mites do not tend to bloom like this. Very likely you had Collembola, which would behave in exactly the manner you describe if your cage conditions were a bit too damp and there were decaying food left in there. They will not hurt your roaches, although I'm sure your roaches were annoyed to have these guys crawling all over them. (I would be too.)

    Collembola are very common animals, and if people on this board would take a little time to familiarize themselves with them, more than half the false alarms over mites would cease. It will vary in different parts of the country, but one place that I can always count on finding Collembola is in large flower pots or planters that have been kept damp. Water such a pot with enough water to flood it and Collembola will appear on the surface. Usually grey or white, and fast moving. They are scavengers on decaying material, especially plant material.

    Again, I'm going to say "no". What you saw were almost certainly not mites. You had a Collembola population, and that would start exactly the way you describe. They are so common that you probably always have a few living in your roach colonies (I've always got them in my cricket colonies). And when conditions allow, they multiply rapidly.

    I'll agree with you only half-way on this. Your experience would have done some good if you had recognized what the real problem was and reported it as such. But reporting it as a mite infestation and speculating on some unusual cause-and-effect perpetuated some of the superstitions that are already too abundant here. Sorry if I sound like I'm beating you up on this - I don't mean to dum on you or insult you. I'm really more interested in getting some more practical understandings out there.

    Also, my statement that these animals will not reach flood capacity and start moving into book lungs still stands.

    OK. But it was coser to the mark than you may have realized. The "lice" or "mites" were actually Collembola.

  18. No sarcasm taken. As I mentioned in my previous post - I don't claim to be an expert. But you are right - a sticky with some REAL info would be very useful. I'm willing to put something together - but it will take a while. When I do have something ready, I'll offer it. Meanwhile if someone else can take on such a project, go for it.
  19. skips

    skips Arachnobaron

    "Mites (Acari: Penthaleidae) are the most regular and important
    pests of canola in Australia, in a way analogous to the crucifer
    flea beetle, Phyllotreta cruciferae (Groeze), which attacks
    canola crops in Europe and North America (Burgess 1977).
    There are several species of mites that can incur severe damage
    to canola seedlings, threatening crop establishment across all
    production regions. Both the nymphs and adults rupture the
    surface of cotyledons and leaves, removing cell contents, and
    their infestations cause the plants to wilt and die, especially if
    environmental conditions are unfavourable for the growth of
    canola plants (Miles & McDonald 1999).
    The mite species attacking canola in Australia include the
    redlegged earth mite, Halotydeus destructor (Tucker) and at
    least three species of blue oat mites, i.e. Penthaleus major
    (Dug├Ęs), P. falcatus (Qin & Halliday) and P. tectus sp. n. (Qin
    & Halliday 1995; Weeks et al. 1995; Halliday 2005). Halotydeus
    destructor is known as the most destructive seedling pest
    of canola, as well as pastures and other winter crops, in southern
    Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales,
    and throughout Victoria and Tasmania. In some areas of South
    Australia, Victoria and New SouthWales, the complex of blue
    oat mites, especially P. falcatus and P. tectus sp. n., are also as
    problematical as the redlegged earth mite (Weeks & Hoffmann
    1999; Umina & Hoffmann 2004, 2005), whereas in Western
    Australia, the clover mite (Bryobia praetiosa) and the balaustium
    mite (Balaustium medicagoense) are important pests on
    canola seedlings (Stanley & Marcroft 1999; Micic 2005a).
    Because H. destructor is also well known as a major pest of
    pastures, vegetables and other crops in Australia, South Africa
    and New Zealand, its biology and ecology has been extensively
    studied and well reviewed (Ridsdill-Smith 1997). In comparison,
    the study of Penthaleus spp. has started only recently
    (Weeks & Hoffmann 1999). Three Penthaleus species are
    known to have some distinguishing characteristics in biology
    and life history, although they often coexist with H. destructor
    on the same crop plants in some areas of south-eastern Australia.
    While H. destructor only reproduces sexually, all three
    Penthaleus species are thelytokous parthenogens with the
    populations comprised of clones (Weeks et al. 1995; Weeks &
    Hoffmann 1998). Penthaleus major and P. falcatus produce
    diapause eggs almost immediately after emergence in autumn
    and continue to produce such eggs in early winter, although the
    first appearance of diapause eggs in P. falcatus is slightly later
    in the season than for P. major (Umina & Hoffmann 2003).
    Penthaleus tectus sp. n. produces diapause eggs even later than
    P. major and P. falcatus, but earlier than H. destructor (Umina
    & Hoffmann 2003). The diapause eggs of P. major and
    P. falcatus are laid on the soil surface and/or the base of
    plants (Umina & Hoffmann 2003). Penthaleus falcatus is the
    most common blue oat mite species feeding on canola, but it
    has a more specialised range of host plants compared with
    H. destructor (Umina & Hoffmann 2004). Penthaleus falcatus
    is also the most tolerant of these mites to pesticides whereas
    H. destructor is the most susceptible (Umina & Hoffmann
    1999; Robinson&Hoffmann 2001). Penthaleus falcatus shows
    advantages in competition with other blue oat mite species,
    including P. major and P. tectus sp. n. on canola (Umina &
    Hoffmann 2005), which may partially explain why it is more
    abundant on this crop, although interactions between these mite
    species and canola are not yet well understood."

    Australian Journal of Entomology Jul2007, Vol. 46 Issue 3, p231-243

    "Our research was designed to determine the effects of a mite complex consisting of the Banks grass mite (BGM),Oligonychus pratensis (Banks), and the two-spotted spider <em class="hilite">mites (TSM),Tetranychus urticae Koch, on <em class="hilite">corn yield and plant lodging. For BGM, mite days and damage rating for the whole plant and leaves in the lower third of a <em class="hilite">corn plant had the best correlation with <em class="hilite">corn yield. The best correlation with yield for TSM was plant damage ratings. The percentage loss per unit for most independent variables (mite densities, mite days, or percentage of the leaf area damaged on a plant) was very similar for BGM and TSM. Therefore, the same economic threshold can be used for either mite species. When TSM fed on <em class="hilite">corn in the dent growth stage, yield was not reduced, and their feeding did not influence <em class="hilite">corn plant lodging.ing."

    Experimental and Applied Acarology
    Volume: 17
    Issue: 12
    Page: 895 - 903

    Just for a bit of perspective Bill. Not contradicting you but you seem to make it sound like mites need an animal host. Like they couldn't possibly eat maybe this guy's corn meal or whatever he feeds. these mites then WOULD NOT parasitize the T or Roaches as they would be adapted to plants only. Do you really think that many people on this board dont know what collembola are? That would be sad and I feel it's a bit of an overstatement.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2009
  20. Mites that pose a threat to tarantulas need an animal host. There are many thousands of other mites that are either predatory, scavengers or plant feeders. None of those pose any threat to tarantulas. There are also thousands of parasitic mites that prey on animals other than tarantulas, and pose no threat to tarantulas. This has been discussed in many threads in recent months, and NOBODY has suggested that all mites need animal hosts. I've posted here many times pointing out that not all mites that attach themselves to spiders are parasitic, either. There are many phoretic mites that merely attach themselves to spiders, beetles or other transport hosts purely as a means of traveling around. Back a year or so ago my wife and I kept a carrion beetle that had a bunch of phoretic mites attached to it. When the carrion beetle fed, the mites would climb off the beetle and dive into the food (canned cat food - next best thing to carrion), but the moment the beetle started to leave they would all climb back on board. As for plant mites - you certainly don't have to go to Australia to find them. Red spider mites are a major garden pest here in the U.S. But red spider mites, like the phoretic mites, will never be a threat to tarantulas.

    Going back to the case you refer to - what he described in his cockroach enclosure was Collembola, not mites. Yes, there are mites that can live in a cockroach enclosure, but his description did not match that. There are mites that could eat rotting corn meal - but again, that's not what he described. And any mite that does eat corn meal WILL NOT also attack tarantulas. And they will not get so crowded that they end up moving into the book lungs of the spider. There are some basic biological concepts involved here, and I'm dismayed that people seem so unaware of them.

    Sad, maybe. But still true. I honestly feel that at least half the false alarms posted here about mites are actually Collembola that the people posting did not recognize. I'm sure there are many people here who DO know what Collembola are - and they are not the ones posting the mite alarms. If you take the time to do some searches, I think you'll realize how common these misidentifications are.

    Note: I don't really think it's all that surprising that a lot of people on this board don't recognize Collembola. The average person on the street probably doesn't, and the people on this board tend to be "average people on the street" who are learning something about tarantulas.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2009