How to Identify Mites Under a Microscope

Updated July 18, 2017

Mites are present everywhere. They reside in soil, on plants, animals and other insects, and in our homes, on our beds, and on our skin. Two types of mites make their home on our forehead living in the hair follicles and sebaceous glands. The human itch mite causes human scabies by laying eggs under our skin, that causes a rash and itching. Dust mites are mostly associated with causing allergies and asthma. Ranging in size from 1/25 to 1/200 of an inch, mites can only be seen with the help of a microscope.

Collect dust mites in a clean vacuum bag by vacuuming the area where itching is most intense -- it may be the carpet, mattress, pillow or couch.

Place a small amount of the dust from the vacuum cleaner bag in the middle of the microscopic slide.

Add a tiny drop of distilled or filter water on top of the sample with the dropper or pipette. Hold the cover slip from the sides and gently lower over the wet sample. The liquid will spread between the layers.

Place the slide on the stage of the microscope and clip in place. First, focus the image by using the coarse focus knob on the microscope. Then use the fine focus knob to get a clearer image of the mite.

Observe the shape, the colour and placement of legs to identify the mites found in your home. Mites have a round or oval body and eight legs.

Identify a clover mite by its colour (red, green or brown) and round body. The front two of its eight legs protrude out and are longer than the others. The house dust mite, is oval and clear in colour. The body and legs are covered in hair. Another common mite, the itch mite has a long oval shape that expands after feeding. They also have hairy legs.

Compare the shape, colour and features of the mite residing in your home to the images of most common mites available at the Illinois Department of Public Health. Other reliable sources or books may be used to identify the mites seen under the microscope.


To get a clear image of the mite, carefully clean the microscope slide and cover slip to make it free of dust or fingerprints, . Apply some petroleum jelly to the corners of the cover slip before lowering onto the slide. This will seal in the moisture and prevent the sample from drying out for several days.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum with new vacuum bag
  • Distilled or filtered water
  • Pipette or dropper
  • Microscope slide
  • Cover slip
  • Compound microscope
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About the Author

As a scientist and educator, Sukhsatej Batra has been writing instructional material, scientific papers and technical documents since 2001. She has a diverse scientific background, having worked in the fields of nutrition, molecular biology and biochemistry. Batra holds a PhD in foods and nutrition, and a certificate in professional technical communication.