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
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.