Aliens in the South

Neotrombicula autumnalis can be a troublesome little creature on cats and dogs at this time of year, particularly in the southern half of the U.K.

It is more commonly known as “Harvest mite” and is a small creature related to spiders (arachnids). It is very small and bright orange in colour – about a dozen or so would fit on a pin head.

These creatures appear in the harvest fields, chalky downland, meadows and gardens from mid July onwards, and usually make their living foraging in these areas.

However, they seem to be attracted easily to dogs and cats and can sometimes cause great mischief. Harvest mites prefer to attach to areas with little fur, so they are often found around the nail beds, ear flaps, and in between the toes. Whilst they do not feed on animals directly, their activities often cause intense localised irritation and inflammation.

Although Harvest mites are killed by many modern flea treatments, because of their predilection for areas at the margins of the body, many survive for long periods of time.

Treatment to reduce the inflammation is usually very effective, but some animals seem to have a worse attack each year. Indeed, in some cases, we would look to start anti inflammatory medication before the mites become active.

Come the first frosts, the Harvest mites are killed off.

So if your cat or dog seems to be suffering from skin disease at this time of year then Harvest mites, as well as fleas, should always be considered as a possible cause.

Simon Robinson