Take a trip down to our cheese stores and you might just see the evidence of some of the hundreds of cheese mites that love eating our cheese as much as we do, thriving in the cool, dark conditions of our stores.
While it may not be the nicest thought, we actually have a lot to thank these little creatures for. They play a vital role in developing the hallmark flavours and rind of our cheese.
"The Cheese Mite - our friend the gardener"
A natural part of the traditional clothbound cheese-making process, the cheese mites contribute to the development of the 'mould garden' and therefore the flavour of the cheese. With the numbers properly maintained the cheese mites are our friends - our very own mini gardeners.
But left unchecked, mites can can cause too much damage, tucking into the protective rind and opening up gaps that allow mould to penetrate far into the centre of the cheese. By the time you find the tell-tale brown dust of their visits on the surface of the cheese, you know the damage on the inside has already been done.
We used to fumigate our cheese stores a couple of times a year which solved the problem but wasn't great for the environment. These days, Mark, our dedicated 'mite buster', uses a high-pressure blower to blast the mites off our muslin-wrapped cheeses and dispose of them safely. And with 9,000 truckles in the store it’s a full time job keeping the mites at bay. We’re looking after them so that you don’t have to. And we're glad to be doing our bit for the environment too.
You’ll never find cheese mites on cut wedges of cheese, but if you’re eagle-eyed enough, you may spot a touch of mite dust on a whole 27kg truckle. If you do, rest assured it’s harmless. Just brush it off and rejoice in the fact that it’s merely a sign that your cheese has been lovingly handmade; and when you bite into the cheese, you'll see that the gardeners have done their job admirably.
Take a look at this footage of the little critters from the 1903 national archive.