Since mites are arthropods just like insects, much of what is told about insects actually also cover mites. Mites look like tiny spiders and have eight legs. There is no head and no abdomen. A mite is just a bladder-shaped body which has legs on the underside and the front two pairs of feeding limbs stick out. Mites are also missing facet eyes, auditory system and wings. With mites, as with insects, males and females mate. Female mites lay eggs and from those eggs come tine mite offspring with only six legs. Otherwise mite offspring is very similar to adult mites.

After the first moult the number of legs increases to eight and two to four moulting phases later, the young become adult female or male mites. The mites that occur in foods have some common features. They are very small, no more than about half a millimetre in length, and are thus smaller than insects that are otherwise seen in food. They are whitish, thin-skinned, and hairy, lack the heart and breathing tube and cannot tolerate drying. A relative humidity below 70 % will kill them.