The abundance and diversity of parasites vary among different populations of host species. In some host-parasite associations, much of the variation seems to depend on the identity of the host species, whereas in other cases it is better explained by local environmental conditions. The few parasite taxa investigated to date make it difficult to discern any general pattern governing large-scale variation in abundance or diversity. Here, we test whether the abundance and diversity of gamasid mites parasitic on small mammals across different regions of the Palaearctic are determined mainly by host identity or by parameters of the abiotic environment. Using data from 42 host species from 26 distinct regions, we found that mite abundances on different populations of the same host species were more similar to each other than expected by chance, and varied significantly among host species, with half of the variance among samples explained by differences between host species. A similar but less pronounced pattern was observed for mite diversity, measured both as species richness and as the taxonomic distinctness of mite species within an assemblage. Strong environmental effects were also observed, with local temperature and precipitation correlating with mite abundance and species richness, respectively, across populations of the same host species, for many of the host species examined. These results are compared to those obtained for other groups of parasites, notably fleas, and discussed in light of attempts to find general rules governing the geographical variation in the abundance and diversity of parasite assemblages.