Soil Mite

(Oribatidae Family)

Copyright, Ray Norton

Oribatid Mites are a group of mites which live in the soil. There are many, many mites which live in the soil, collectively called "soil mites," but this page focuses on mites in the Oribatidae Family. There are more Oribatid Mites than any other soil mites.

Oribatid Mites are tiny. They only grow up to a millimeter long. Their color can vary, but they all have a hard exoskeleton (shell).

Like all mites, these animals are close relatives of ticks and spiders.

Copyright, Ray Norton

Oribatid Mites live in the top layer of the soil, leaf litter, or other debris (stuff laying on top of the soil). They can also be found on mosses, lichens, and other low plants.

These mites live in huge numbers. Hundreds of thousands of mites can live in one square meter of soil. To see one well, you would need a microscope.

Oribatid Mites do not need to mate to make more mites. Females can lay eggs on their own.

Oribatid Mites eat fungi, algae, and dead plant matter. They also eat dead springtails (tiny insects that live in the soil) and live nematodes (tiny worms).

These mites are extremely important. They break down old material, such as dead leaves, and put the nutrients back into the soil. This allows living plants to pull the nutrients back into their roots so they can grow and feed animals.

Without Oribatid Mites and other soil mites to "recycle" old material on the ground, plants and animals could not survive. That includes us!

Copyright, Dr. Maria Minor

Copyright, Ray Norton

Soil mites are also a food source for soil predators, including: small salamanders, beetles, ants, centipedes, larger mites, spiders, and others.

Even though they are tiny, soil mites can also be hosts for parasites, such as tapeworms.

Oribatid Mites are born from eggs as nymphs. Nymphs are a smaller, slightly different-looking version of adults. As nymphs eat and grow, they molt (shed their skins). Each time they molt, the nymphs look more like an adult mite.

Oribatid Mites cannot burrow through the soil. They rely on larger animals to make tunnels so they can move around.

Relationships in Nature:

FOOD
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Black Oak (dead leaves, bark)

Garden Centipede

White Cushion Moss

Common Black Ground Beetle C

America Elm (dead leaves, bark)

Common Black Ground Beetle

Common Greenshield

Eastern Subterranean Termite C

Mockernut Hickory (dead leaves, bark)

Black Carpenter Ant

British Soldiers

Eastern Mole C

American Beech (dead leaves, bark)

Daring Jumpin Spider

Woodchuck C

Eastern White Pine (dead leaves, bark)

Red-backed Salamander

Eastern Chipmunk C

Sassafras (dead leaves, bark)

Spotted Salamander

Red-backed Salamander C

Witch Hazel (dead leaves, bark)

Marbled Salamander

Spotted Salamander C

Elegant Stinkhorn

Eastern Newt

Marbled Salamander C

Honey Mushroom

Eastern Worm Snake C

Meadow Mushroom

Dung Beetle C

Common Dandelion (dead leaves, stems)

White Cushion Moss (dead leaves, stems)

Nematode

Snow Flea (dead)

Common Greenshield

British Soldiers

Relationship to Humans:

As mentioned above, Oribatid Mites and other soil mites are extremely important as decomposers. They break down old dead stuff and turn it into soil with lots of nutrients. All living things benefit from the job they do. The presence of lots of mites is a sign of healthy soil. Scientists can study the mites they find in the soil to learn how clean and healthy it is.

Most of the time, people walk upon the soil and don't even know there are millions of mites under their feet!

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Arthropod
CLASS
Arachnid
ORDER
Acarini
FAMILY
Oribatidae
GENUS
several genera
SPECIES
many species

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