ISSN 2398-2969      

Neotrombicula autumnalis


Synonym(s): Trombicula autumnalis




  • Kingdom: Animalia.
  • Phylum: Arthropoda.
  • Class: Arachnida.
  • Order: Acari.
  • Family: Trombiculidae.
  • Subfamily: Trombiculinae.
  • Genus:Neotrombicula.
  • Species:autumnalis.
  • Subspecies:autumnalis.
  • Scientific nameNeotrombicula autumnalis autumnalis.


  • Neotrombicula autumnalis autumnalis.


  • Western Europe to Eastern Asia.
  • The mite has not been found in the Nearctic region, and only isolated populations have been observed in the Palaearctic region.
  • Not seen in Australia.

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Clinical Effects



  • Due to the lack of scientific studies, little is known about the ecology ofN. autumnalisand its distribution, and preferred habitats cannot be predicted.
  • Reported field experiments suggest thatN. autumnalisand particularly its larval stages are extremely euryoecious (meaning tolerating very different environmental conditions).


  • The adult mite lays her spherical eggs in the soil.
  • Eggs hatch in about 10 days as 6-legged larvae   Neotrombicula autumnalis: larva  .
  • On hatching the larvae move onto low vegetation in search of a suitable host.
  • Larvae feed on the skin surface of the host and then drop to the ground when engorged.
  • Having finished feeding the larva enters the soil and develops into an inactive protonymph.
  • The protonymph hatches to become a predaceous deutonymph.
  • After a phase of inactivity as a tritonymph, sexually mature adults are formed.
  • Adults feed on insect and vegetable matter and may be found on beetles and potato peels.
  • See alsoNeotrombicula autumnalis: lifecycle - diagram   Neotrombicula autumnalis: lifecycle - diagram 


  • The 6-legged larvae emerge from the egg and proceed to climb up whatever vegetation is encountered to await a host.
  • Larvae can survive for up to 30 days without a host.
  • Transmission ofN. autumnalisfrom dogs and cats to humans has been reported. This possibility should not be overlooked where owners have close physical contact with their rabbits.

Pathological effects

  • Once on the host's skin, the larva attaches itself using its blade-like chelicerae and proceeds to inject a fluid which digests tissue and allows the larvae to feed on lymph fluid   Neotrombicula autumnalis infestation  .
  • In rabbits, the harvest mite larvae are most commonly found on the ears, anus, feet and the canthi of the eyes.
  • The feeding process induces intense pruritus resulting in a dermatitis, characterized by the formation of discrete macules and papules.
  • If left untreated pruritus can persist for more than a week, and can cause violent scratching and biting.
  • Scratching may    →   secondary infections.
  • In animals, massive infestations may give rise to neurological involvement with paresis of the hindlimbs, asthenia, limping and headshaking.

Other Host Effects

  • Recent studies are starting to proposeN. autumnalisas a vector for some infections.
  • One study foundEhrlichia phagocytophilain a number of larvae before their contact with hosts, suggesting transovarian transmission.
  • N. autumnalishas been reported as a vector ofBorrelia burgdorferi.
  • A role forN. autumnalisas a vector of myxomatosis   Myxomatosis   has also been proposed.


Control via animal

  • The use of effective and well tolerated repellents is recommended.
  • The use of a permethrin based repellent is recommended in human medicine and may be of use in rabbits.
  • Essential oils, eg basil, citronella and cinnamon leaf, may have some value as a mite repellent.

Control via chemotherapies

  • Treatment ofN. autumnalisin dogs and cats typically relies on the use of a 0.25% Fipronil pump spray.

The use of Fipronil in rabbits, however, is not recommended as adverse reactions have been reported.

  • In rabbits, perhaps the most appropriate form of chemotherapy consists of permethrin.

Control via environment

  • Control of vegetation, eg cutting back bracken, has been proposed as a means of reducing the transmission ofN. autumnalisto man. The efficacy of such methods have not been evaluated in small mammals such as the rabbit.
  • Removal of the rabbit from the source of the harvest mites, eg the lawn, prevents further infestations.
  • All clothing and bedding should be washed at a minimum temperature of 55°C.

Other countermeasures

  • The disease is seasonal and self-limiting.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Parcell B J, Sharpe G, Jones B et al (2013) Conjunctivitis induced by a red bodies mite, Neotrombicula autumnalisParasite 20, 25 PubMed.
  • Schöler A, Maier W & Kampen H (2006) Multiple environmental factor analysis in habitats of the Harvest mite Neotrombicula autumnalis (Acari: Trombiculidae) suggests extraordinarily high euryoecious biology. Exp Appl Acarology 39 (1), 41-62 PubMed.
  • Guarneri F, Pugliese A, Guidice E et al (2005) Trombiculiasis: clinical contribution. Eur J Derm 15 (6), 495-496 PubMed.
  • Kampen H, Schöler A, Metzen M et al (2004) Neotrombicula autumnalis (Acari, Trombiculidae) as a vector for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato? Exp Appl Acarology 33 (1-2), 93-102 PubMed.
  • Fernández-Soto P, Pérez-Sánchez R & Encinas-Grandes A (2001) Molecular detection of Ehrlichia phagocytophila genogroup organisms in larvae of Neotrombicula autumnalis (Acari: Trombiculidae) captured in Spain. J Parasitol 87 (6), 1482-1483 PubMed.
  • Nuttall T J, French A T, Cheetham H C et al (1998) Treatment of Trombicula autumnalis infestation in dogs and cats with a 0.25% fipronil pump spray. J Small Anim Pract 39 (5), 237-239 PubMed.
  • Vater G (1982) The geographical distribution of the harvest mite Neotrombicula autumnalis (Acari: Trombiculidae). Zoologische Jahrbucher, Abteilung fur Systematik, Okologie und Geographie der Tiere 109 (3), 329-356 VetMedResource.
  • Sasa M (1961) Biology of chiggers. Ann Rev Ent 6, 221-244 AnnualReviews.
  • Keay G (1937) The Ecology of the Harvest Mite (Trombicula autumnalis) in the British Isles. J Anim Ecol (1), 22-35 VetMedResource.

Other sources of information

  • Varga M (2014) Skin diseases. In:Textbook of Rabbit Medicine.2nd edn. Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford. ISBN: 9780702049798.
  • Shatrov A B & Kudryashova N I (2007) Taxonomy, Lifecycles and the Origin of Parasitism in Trombiculid Mites. In:Micromammals & Macroparasites From Evolutionary Ecology to Management. Eds: Morand S, Krasnov B R & Poulin R. Springer, Japan. pp 119-140.
  • Wilkinson D C (2004) Population Biology, Ectoparasites and Myxomatosis: A Longitudinal Study of a Free-living Population of European Wild RabbitsOryctolagus cuniculus(L.) in East Anglia. PhD thesis, University of East Anglia.
  • Harcourt-Brown F (2002) Skin diseases. In:Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, UK. pp 224-248.
  • Hofing G L & Kraus A L (1994) Arthropod and Helminth Parasites. In:The Biology of the Laboratory Rabbit. 2nd edn. Eds: Manning P J, Ringler D H & Newcomer C E. Academic Press. pp 231-258.

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