Acarina Click to enlarge image
Mite (Order Acarina) Image: Andrew Howells
© Australian Museum

What do mites and ticks look like?


  • Most are microscopic but some reach a size of almost 10 mm in length.


  • No constriction between the cephalothorax (front portion containing head) and the abdomen. Though the two regions maybe distinctive.
  • Abdomen without segments, highly variable in shape and appear hard.


  • Absent.


  • Up to four simple eyes.


  • Variable depending on their food choice. Generally they have mouthparts for ripping, cutting, mushing, chomping, clinging, piercing or sucking.


  • Absent.


  • Eight legs but young mites often have only six.
  • Pedipalps (appendages between first legs and mouthparts) are leg-like or modified for gripping prey.
  • Abdomen tip:
  • Cerci (tails) absent.

Where are mites and ticks found?

  • Ticks and some mites are associated with animals, including humans. They maybe found on the surface of animals or internally in nasal passages or lung chambers.
  • Mites can be found anywhere on land but are prolific in the soil, in leaf litter and on plants.
  • Mites are found in most freshwater and marine environments including the depths of the ocean.
  • Mites are found in houses, especially in carpets.

What do mites and ticks do?

  • They are free-living or parasitic.
  • They can be solitary or they can group together in large numbers to feed.
  • When disturbed mites run from danger, while ticks clamp onto the animal they are on.
  • As a group they have adapted to feed on anything including small invertebrates, bacteria, fungi, plants, animal bodily fluids, decaying organisms and waste products.
  • Predatory mites hunt or ambush prey. They are known to kill prey by impaling, jabbing, entangling with silk or poisoning them.
  • Many move from one region (or host) to the next by clinging to larger animals.
  • They are active during the day or night.

What looks similar?

Ticks and mites are not generally confused with other invertebrates, but their young are occasionally mistaken for insects as they have only six legs.