Subject: Velvet Mites
December 16, 2013 6:03 am
Hi Mr Bugman,
I sent you a robberfly like a decade ago, and found some Velvet Mites I was able to determine using your site.
Maybe you’re still interested int he pics.
Thank you for sending your images of Velvet Mites in the family Thrombidiidae. According to What’s Bugging You?, “Although often difficult to find, they are sometimes extremely abundant locally, if only for a few hours at time. For example, after a brief yet intense thunderstorm, a massive emergence of giant red velvet mites was sighted from the air at an altitude of 1500 feet just north of Tucson. An estimated 3-5 million mites had emerged in an area roughly two acres in size! The annual emergence of the giant mites is apparently timed to coincide with that of their primary prey, termites. However, their opportunity to gorge themselves on abundant termite reproductives is quite limited. After mating, the termites quickly shed their wings and bury themselves so that they are out of reach of the mite’s predatory embrace. Adult giant red velvet mites spend most of their lives in subterranean burrows in a diapause-like state waiting for a specific set of ecological conditions triggered by summer monsoons.” According to Charles Hogue in Insect of the Los Angeles Basin, “The larvae are parasites of grasshoppers, and the adults are predators on subterranean termites.” The Africa Image Library has a nice photograph of a Velvet Mite and East African Notes and Records blog has an image of a Tanzanian stamp with a Velvet Mite as well as the information: “Marguerite Jellicoe’s evocative description of the start of the annual rains in Singida includes a rare reference to the cultural significance of red velvet mites in Tanzania. I first came across these brightly coloured arachnids (family Trombidiidae) in 1981, at the start of my second wet season in the village of Utengule in Usangu (in what is now Mbarali District). I was away when the rains began on 2nd December, but when I returned to the village two days later these small crimson creatures were everywhere on the newly dampened earth. Sangu-speakers called them inkhadupa, their generic name for ticks and mites, and told me that they were thought to fall down from the sky along with the rain. In this respect they were similar to ground pangolins (Manis temminckii), another creature believed to fall from the heavens, from whence they were sent by the ancestors, amanguluvi.”