Parasitic mites are found everywhere and they are serious ecto-parasites of vertebrates and invertebrates. The following list contains the most important families.

Parasitic mites of mammals, birds and humans:

Members of the parasitic mite families listed here under are those usually encountered on or in mammals, birds and even humans.

  • Family Sarcoptidae (sarcoptic mites) - sarcoptic mange (Sarcoptidae) mites are tiny arachnids that are parasites of mammals and humans causing mange infection and the mites spend their life in the epidermis of the skin of their host causing various skin disorders


  • Family Psoroptidae (psoroptic mites) - Psoroptes ovis is the well-known sheep mange mite causing serious damage to fleece and can even cause deaths


  • Family Knemidocoptidae (scaly-leg mite)- species of this family burrow in the non-feathered areas around the beak, eyes, vent and legs of birds (ex. canaries, budgies, finches, etc.), causing tiny non-itching, wart-like lesions


  • Family Myocoptidae (myocoptic mange mite)


  • Family Atopomelidae (fur mite) – presence of even large numbers is usually not harmful, although itching and hair loss may occur if the host is in poor condition


  • Family Laminosioptidae (fowl cyst, flesh or subcutaneous mites)


  • Family Pyroglyphidae (house dust mites) - Members of this family are the well-known house dust mites causing asthma, rhinitis and allergies in humans due to an antigen they produce. They are mainly a problem along the South African coast line and especially KwaZulu/Natal where the humidity is very high


  • Family Cytoditidae (air sac mites)


  • Family Analgidae (feather mites)


  • Family Demodicidae (follicle mites) - Members of this family cause symptoms in mammals characterized by itching, inflammation and other skin disorders. Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) can also be caused by Demodex mites. Demodex brevis and D. folliculorum live in total harmony in the hair follicles of humans


  • Family Trombiculidae (chiggers) – members of this family are parasitic in the larval stage on vertebrates and can be vectors of diseases like typhus. The nymphs and adults are free living predators


  • Family Cheyletiellidae (walking dandruff) - symptoms in animals vary from no signs to intense itching, scales on the skin, and hair loss. The lesions are usually on the dorsum of the animal. Symptoms in humans include multiple red, itchy bumps on the arms, trunk and buttocks. Because humans are an irregular host for the mite, the symptoms usually go away in about three weeks


  • Family Psorergatidae (sheep itch mite) - infested flocks usually show a range of signs. Most sheep show no fleece damage at all, or may have some tufting of wool along the flanks. Very few sheep (usually one per cent) have severely damaged fleeces. Itch mites mainly affect older sheep and is rarely seen in young sheep


  • Family Myobiidae (fur mites) - infestations of these mites may produce local and systematic effects on the host. Local effects vary from no lesion to pruritis and mild scurfiness and in serious cases to ulceration and bacterial pyoderma, chronic inflammation, fibrosis, hyperkeratosis, parakeratosis and acanthosis. Systematic effects include decreased life span and body weight


  • Family Macronyssidae (fowl or tropical rat mites)- this family contains species of economical importance to poultry farmers and they can even be a nuisance to humans causing itching or even dermatitis. Ornithonyssus bacoti on rodents can even be vectors of various diseases


  • Family Dermanyssidae (red poultry mites)- the family Dermanyssidae contains species of economical importance to poultry farmers and they can even be a nuisance to humans causing itching or even dermatitis


  • Family Rhinonyssidae (bird lung mites) – feeds on the host’s. Causes pneumonia and severe inflammation of the respiratory system; infestations are often fatal


  • Family Halarachnidae (lung and ear mites of mammals) – reported to feed on blood, lymph and epithelial cells. Clinical symptoms are often ansent, although coughing and sneezing episodes have been reported; only massive infections are thought to be a direct cause of death

Parasitic mites of invertebrates:

  • Family Varroidae - Varroa destructor posses a serious threat to honey bees world wide, fortunately the South African bees apparently have a “natural” immunity against these mites


  • Family Tarsonemidae - Acarapis woodii lives in the tracheae of bees and can cause their death, though not of economical importance yet in South Africa


  • Family Pyemotidae - pyemotids or “straw-itch” mites can cause serious problems in insect cultures because they are very small and thus difficult to control. They poison their hosts. In humans they can cause dermatitis and allergies


  • Family Trombidiidae - Members of this family are parasitic on arthropods in their larval stage, but nymphs and adults are free living predators.

Research projects:

Presently we are involved in the following research projects:

  • In collaboration with the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Stellenbosch University we are doing taxonomic research on the ectoparasitic mites of rodents in southern Africa


  • In collaboration with ARC-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute the parasitic mites of veterinary and medical important mites are investigated.

Contact: Eddie Ueckermann at

Family Sarcoptidae (sarcoptic mites)

Family Psoroptidae (psoroptic mites)

Family Pyroglyphidae (house dust mites)


Demodicidae (follicle mites)

Listrophoridae (fur mites)

Family Pyemotidae - pyemotids

Family Tarsonemidae - Acarapis woodii

Family Trombidiidae