Red Fuzzy Bug of Southern Arizona
Wed, Jul 1, 2009 at 11:06 AM
Dear WTB: I live in Cochise County of southern Arizona. We had our first real rain of the monsoon yesterday. This morning I went to feed my horses and found these little red bugs everywhere. They seem to be burrowing out of the ground. They are small, but some bigger than others. Some have white spots and some are all red. I watched one help another burrow out!!!! So what are they and do they bite!
Saint David, Arizona

Velvet Mite

Velvet Mite

Hi Deni,
These are Velvet Mites in the family Trombidiidae.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae are parasitic on insects.  Adults eat insect eggs.”  BugGuide also indicates that there are thousands of species.  The one with the white markings matches some images on BugGuide from the genus Dinothrombium which is reported from Texas and Arizona.  According to Charles Hogue in his landmark book Insects of the Los Angeles Basis, our local representatives from the family are called Angelitos.  Hogue writes:  “There is probably more than one species of giant red velvet mite in the deserts of southern California.  But at least one occasionally emerges in the dry eastern margins of the basin in large numbers, usually following a rain.  These creatures never fail to attract attention because of their large size (the body length of adults is about 1/4 to 5/8 in., or 5 to 8 mm) and brilliant crimson furry bodies.  The larvae are parasites of grasshoppers, and the adults are predators on subterranean termites.  The adults remain in the soil most of the year and spend only a few hours above grouns, probably to feast on their prey, which also respond to rains by emerging in numbers.  Little else is known of their biology.”  From what Hogue writes, it would seem that the rain triggered the emergence in Arizona as well.velvet_mite_dinothrombium_deni

23 Responses to Velvet Mites

  1. Mary Oliver says:

    I found a little velvet red bug up around the 4500′ elevation in the Lassen National Forest. I put the little guy in a bag and brought him back to the office to identify.

  2. Linda says:

    It rained here in McCamey tx today nd my 9 yr old daughter nd my 4 yr old daughter were playing out in the back yard nd found the same bugs as it looks like on the picture … McCamey is a small town in the middle of mountains … Was wandering if they r harmless to play with or if my children shouldn’t be playing with these creAtures .

  3. christina berry says:

    I live in hobbs nm out in the cou rry and they are everywhere are they dangerous to humans and animals especially to horses

  4. Gloria Leyva says:

    Are chiggers and ticks the same?

  5. Margaret Fitzgerald says:

    I grew up in Wyoming and remember seeing bright red velvet insects (rarely) and have always wondered what they were. My child’s instinct told me not to pick them up. Could the red velvet mite have been in Wyoming?

    • bugman says:

      Though BugGuide does not report sightings in Wyoming, Velvet Mites are reported in nearby states and Canada, so it is most likely a lack of reports rather than Wyoming being without Velvet Mites.

  6. Bella Nero says:

    Oh! M from India and Ive seen hundreds lie those coming out of the ground after the rains- they would be from a pea size to a fenugreek seed size..we used to have fun with these and they did not seem a bit harmful to us

  7. Helen Feinsod says:

    Found one in Snyder, Texas (West Texas) after a rain. Thanks for the info so we could identify it!

  8. Jeff Parker says:

    I came across two of these fuzzy little guys today down range off Elephant Head Rd, I wasn’t sure what they were seeing as how they resemble Chiggers. Good to know there harmless and a shame they are so rare to see.

  9. Joy says:

    I live in Cochise county, as well. It has rained for the past 3 days. We were out putting up a fence this morning and those little red guys were everywhere. We didn’t harm them, but were very interested in what they are. It is good to know that they are actually useful little creatures – eating ground termites – we have those here, too. Thanks for the info! I like those little bugs. 🙂

  10. Yvette Hall says:

    I have always wondered what they were called. We used to call them Santa Clauses as children. Growing up in Dimmit County, Tx we saw them after every heavy rainfall. My brother and I would gather as many as we could and play with them. We were always sure to return before the soil dried. They burrow more easily in the moist soil. They did not bite nor sting. They are very pleasant creatures.

    • Fred Hernandez says:

      We saw these velvet mites in Dimmit County, Texas as well in the late 50’s when I was a kid. We lived in Big Wells, Texas. We called them little Santa also. We always wondered what they were.

  11. Rosie Ortiz says:

    I grew up in Starr County, in Delmita Texas. My twin sister and I would always play with these mites. We always called them “angelitos” Spanish word for little angels. Our Mom told us that God sent them to earth after the heavenly rains. This was back in the 6o’s. We have not seen them since.

  12. howard tyler says:

    i played with these little bugs in the 1950’s after a rain in south texas. George West,Texas is where i grew up.

  13. Corinna says:

    They came out after rain along the paths we would walk to school on in empty pastures. We would pick them up , no harm. Mostly seemed to come up around the parts of path with more caliche rock. Grew up in San Angelo.
    This was in the 1970s.

  14. Patrick O'Hara says:

    Today my son and I were in the “woods” near Gallows Hill in Salem Mass. basically a swampy area near the north river which flows into the atlantic. we go here to shoot our guns and do some archery target practice. he found a slug, snail, those basketball bugs, some small worms and this red velvet bug. Never have i once seen one before but i have pics to prove it was here.

  15. Dave Swafford says:

    After some rains here in Fort Stockton TX saw these little creatures everywhere. They were all around me in every place I looked. Never noticed before but I guess they only come out after a rain. They looked really busy like they had something important to do before the ground dried.

  16. deb says:

    5 yr. old Nico and I found these velvet mites everywhere on our hike this morning, following a big rain the night before. Nico held several in his hand without any problem. Ours are the solid red variety.

  17. Delana says:

    Just had one of these crawling on my hand. I live in Tennessee. So far only seen the one.

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