Exploring the Enigmatic Velvet Mite: Essential Insights Simplified

Velvet mites, also known as red velvet mites or brick mites, are tiny arachnids that attract attention with their striking red color and velvety appearance. You might encounter these fascinating creatures around soil and litter on the ground, and they’re particularly active during spring when they’re searching for insects and insect eggs to feed on.

Although they may seem alarming at first glance, there’s no need to worry – velvet mites are harmless to people. True velvet mites have eight legs as adults, which sets them apart from insects that typically have six legs. In their larval stage, you might find it a bit more tricky to differentiate them since they also have six legs like insects.

Throughout this article, you’ll get to know all about the intriguing velvet mite, including their role in the ecosystem and some of their unique characteristics. So, sit back and enjoy learning about these tiny, velvety wonders!

What are Velvet Mites?

Velvet mites are fascinating little creatures belonging to the arachnid family. They are a part of the class Arachnida and subclass Acari, which includes mites and ticks. Despite their small size, these brightly colored arachnids can certainly catch your attention.

You might come across velvet mites, particularly after a rain, as they tend to be more active in such conditions. They can be found on rocks, planters, tree trunks, or even on the ground. Velvet mites are usually bright red, and their soft, velvety appearance makes them easily distinguishable from other species of mites.

You don’t need to worry about velvet mites harming you, as they are harmless to humans. Although they are tiny, they play an essential role in the ecosystem. These mites are predators and feed on insect eggs and other smaller arthropods, helping to maintain a balance.

Some interesting aspects of velvet mites include:

  • Bright red color and velvety appearance
  • Belong to the class Arachnida and subclass Acari
  • Mostly found after a rain in various habitats
  • Harmless to humans
  • Predatory nature that contributes to the ecosystem

Velvet mites are among the many intriguing members of the mite family. Their vivid color and unique appearance not only make them visually appealing but also serve as a reminder of the ecological role they play in maintaining a balanced environment. So next time you come across these interesting little creatures, appreciate their existence and their contribution to the world around you.

Characteristics of Velvet Mites

Physical Appearance

Velvet mites have a unique and distinctive appearance. Their bodies are covered in fine hairs, giving them a velvety texture. These mites are arachnids, meaning they have eight legs. Additionally, they have tiny eyes that help them navigate their environment.

Size

Velvet mites are quite small, usually measuring less than 1/60 inch (0.42 mm) in length. This tiny size might make them difficult to spot, but their bright color often catches the eye.

Color

The most notable feature of velvet mites is their bright red color. This vibrant hue sets them apart from other mites and makes them easy to spot, especially when they’re scurrying around on rocks, planters, or the ground. The red color may also serve a purpose in their habitat, as it could help deter predators or attract prey.

In summary, velvet mites are small, bright red arachnids with a velvety appearance and eight legs. Their unique physical characteristics, coupled with their fascinating behaviors, make them an interesting subject for further study. Remember, always keep your observations brief and concise, and avoid making exaggerated claims about these tiny creatures.

Life Cycle of Velvet Mites

Eggs

Velvet mites lay their eggs in the soil, where they are safe from predators and can develop undisturbed. The female mites lay hundreds of eggs at a time, ensuring that at least some of them will hatch and survive to adulthood.

Larvae

Once the eggs hatch, the tiny, six-legged larvae emerge. At this stage, the velvet mites are harmless to humans. The larval stage is crucial for their growth, as they feed on various small insects and insect eggs to gain the nutrients they need.

Protonymph

Following the larval stage, the velvet mites enter the first of three nymphal stages called the protonymph. They now have eight legs and continue to feed and grow. During this time, they molt their outer skin to accommodate their growing bodies.

Deutonymph

The next stage in a velvet mite’s life cycle is the deutonymph stage. They continue to feed and grow in this stage, molting once again as they progress towards adulthood.

Tritonymph

The final nymphal stage is the tritonymph stage. Velvet mites continue their feeding habits in this stage, and after one last molt, they finally reach their adult form.

During their life cycle, velvet mites play a crucial role in controlling insect populations and contributing to the health of their natural habitats. Understanding their life cycle stages can help you appreciate the fascinating world of these tiny and essential creatures.

Velvet Mite’s Behavior

Feeding Habits

Velvet mites are predators that actively seek insects and insect eggs as their primary food source. These tiny creatures are friendly to humans, but they play a crucial role in controlling the population of plant-eating insects🍃. When you come across velvet mites, remember that they are helping to keep your plants healthy.

Reproduction

Reproduction is vital for the survival of velvet mites. Eggs are laid in the soil, usually from March to July. The eggs hatch in about 1 to 2 months, depending on the environmental conditions, with the key factor being 100% relative humidity. As you can see, moisture is crucial for the development of velvet mite eggs.

Mating Rituals

Mating in velvet mites is an intricate process. Males leave spermatophores, which are packages of sperm🧬, on small stalks in the environment. The spermatophores serve as an offering to the female mites, who will consume the sperm to fertilize their eggs. This unique mating ritual sets velvet mites apart from other species.

Velvet Mites and Their Environment

Habitat

Velvet mites can be found in various environments, but they are particularly attracted to areas with rich soil. These creatures are commonly found in gardens, where they serve a beneficial role by preying on various pests. In addition to gardens, you might spot them on rocks, planters, or tree trunks.

In general, these small, velvety, and red mites prefer environments that are moist and humid. After a rain, you’re likely to find them crawling around on the ground or other surfaces.

Seasonal Activity

Velvet mites have a life cycle that spans across different seasons. They are most active during the spring and summer months, as they emerge to search for insects and insect eggs to feed upon. In particularly hot or dry conditions, they may temporarily hibernate to avoid dehydration.

Eggs are laid in the soil during the spring, specifically from March through July. How long it takes for them to hatch depends on the environment, but it usually takes 1 to 2 months and requires 100% relative humidity (source).

During autumn and winter, these mites become less active. Depending on the region, they may even hibernate throughout the harsher, colder months.

Here is a brief summary of velvet mite activity across the seasons:

  • Spring: Active, laying eggs
  • Summer: Active, feeding on insects
  • Autumn: Less active, potential hibernation
  • Winter: Hibernation (depending on the region)

As a gardener, it’s essential to be aware of these seasonal patterns to better understand when and where you might encounter velvet mites in your outdoor space. By cultivating a friendly environment for these helpful bugs, you can make the most of their natural pest control abilities.

Interaction with Other Species

Parasitic Behavior

Red velvet mites have an interesting interaction with other species, especially when it comes to their parasitic behavior. As a part of their life cycle, immature stages of red velvet mites are known to be parasites on insects and spiders. They feed on the bodily fluids of their host, such as ants, and insect eggs. This parasitic behavior helps red velvet mites to develop and transition into their adult stage.

Adult red velvet mites, however, are not parasitic. They help the ecosystem by consuming plant-eating insects and their predators+. This behavior makes them beneficial to the environment, aiding in the control of pests and contributing to the decomposition process.

Predators

Just as red velvet mites have their own prey, they too face danger from predators. Their bright red coloration serves as a warning to potential predators, signaling that they might not be a desirable meal. Nonetheless, some predators like spiders and ants are known to feed on red velvet mites.

In summary, red velvet mites play a significant role in their ecosystem — both as parasites and as a food source for other species:

  • Immature red velvet mites have a parasitic relationship with insects and spiders
  • Adult red velvet mites feed on plant-eating insects and are beneficial to the environment
  • They are preyed upon by predators such as spiders and ants

Go Beyond the Basics

Species of Velvet Mites

There are several species of velvet mites that fall under the family Trombidiidae, with the most well-known being Trombidium holosericeum and Dinothrombium spp. Some species, such as red velvet mites, are popular in India for their vibrant red color. Here are some features of these mites:

  • Small and oval-shaped body
  • Covered in soft, velvety hairs
  • Bright red color in some species
  • Found in soil and litter during most of the year

Economic and Ecosystem Importance

Velvet mites have a significant impact on both the economy and ecosystem. They play a crucial role in controlling insect populations by preying on insects and insect eggs. This natural pest-control property can be beneficial in agriculture.

However, remember that some species of velvet mites may also cause harm. For example, they can damage crops when they feed on plant sap, leading to potential economic losses.

Considering their pros and cons, velvet mites are fascinating creatures that hold importance in our ecosystem. By learning more about their characteristics and roles, you can appreciate their significance in maintaining balance within their environment.

Precautions and Misunderstandings

Are Velvet Mites Harmful?

Although they might look intimidating, velvet mites are harmless to humans. They belong to a different family than spider mites (Tetranychidae), which can cause damage to plants. Velvet mites are useful in the garden, as they help control pests. They feed on insects and their larvae, preventing infestations in your garden.

That being said, it’s essential to differentiate velvet mites from harmful pests such as harvest mites and ticks. If you notice a vibrant red mite, double-check before taking action. Using a garden hose can aid in removing unwanted pests, while sparing velvet mites.

Pets and Velvet Mites

Pets might encounter velvet mites in your garden or while on walks. Generally, these mites are not harmful to pets, but it’s essential to monitor your pet for any signs of discomfort or irritation. Some pets may be more sensitive, so keep an eye out for excessive scratching or agitation.

Remember to also check your pets for ticks and other potentially harmful pests. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and make sure your pet stays happy and healthy.

Myths and Facts

There are some misunderstandings and myths associated with velvet mites. Here are a few common ones:

  • Myth: Velvet mites bite humans and pets.
    • Fact: Velvet mites do not bite humans or pets. They feed on other insects and larvae.
  • Myth: Velvet mites are harmful to plants.
    • Fact: Velvet mites are beneficial for controlling pests in the garden. They are different from harmful spider mites.
  • Myth: All red mites are harmless.
    • Fact: Not all red mites are harmless. It’s essential to distinguish velvet mites from other harmful red mites like harvest mites and ticks.

By understanding the misconceptions and knowing the facts, you can take better care of your plants and pets. Awareness helps you decide when to take action, while protecting the beneficial creatures that support your garden’s ecosystem.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Velvet Mites

 

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!
Deni
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

Letter 2 – Velvet Mite from Australia

 

velvet mite
Gday bugman,
Thanks to your site I was able to identify my little velvet mite which I discovered while photographing mushrooms, even though he was only about 2mm in size I only noticed a little red dot moving around. I found him in the sunshine coast hinterland in QLD Australia. I have attached a few pics for you if you need them. I have also attached pics of an orb spider (I think) and one other spider which I am not sure what he is, maybe you might know. Anyway keep up the great work. Cheers Regards
Phil
Australia.

Hi Phil,
Thanks for the compliments and for your wonderful photos. We really like the view from the back of the Velvet Mite with the forelegs extended.

Letter 3 – Velvet Mite from Mexico

 

velvety red something
Location:  Lake Chapala, Mexico
August 10, 2010 7:32 am
Hi I encountered this little guy near Lake Chapala in Mexico this past weekend. About 1 cm long, bright red, and fuzzy. Any idea what it might be? THANKS
David Nunez

Velvet Mite

Hi David,
We are amused that your photo was labeled “ask-an-entomologist” because we are merely amateurs with art degrees.  As a point of clarification, you should really ask an acarologist who specializes in mites and ticks because you sighted a Velvet Mite in the family Trombidiidae.  Velvet Mites are not a threat to humans.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae are parasitic on insects. Adults eat insect eggs.
”  Velvet Mites are common in arid climates and they often emerge in great numbers after rains.

Thanks, that was fast! And you’re more of an entomologist than I am- haha.  Thats actually all the info I need. Congrats on the website.
David A. Nuñez

Letter 4 – Velvet Mite

 

red velvet bug I think it is a spider….
Location:  Cabo San Lucas Mexico
September 22, 2010 10:27 pm
When I first saw this bug I thought it was a beetle, but when I saw the photo I took I believe it is a spider, I like to know if it is a spider, which spider, and if it is dangerous, I live in Cabo San Lucas México, and we got some dangerous ones such as violinist and brown widows. I saw it just after a tropical storm. Thanks so much for your help.
Signature:  dattoli

Velvet Mite

Dear dattoli,
You don’t realize how close you were to self identifying this Velvet Mite in the family Trombidiidae.  Velvet Mites and Spiders are both classified as Arachnids.  Velvet Mites often appear in great numbers after a rain.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae are parasitic on insects. Adults eat insect eggs.
”  According to Charles Hogue in Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, Velvet Mites are known as Angelitos.

Thanks for your prompt and accurate response, I am very impressed for all your work, I had consult your web page several times before and it has been very useful and I have learn  a lot from you.
Muchas gracias!

Letter 5 – Velvet Mite from Australia

 

Subject:  Weird Little Red Spider
Geographic location of the bug:  Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
Date: 11/03/2019
Time: 01:05 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I found this weird little thing just chilling on my school desk, and had never seen a spider like it so though to see if someone else knows what it is. He’s not very big at all, would only be a centimetre across at most. He wasn’t found near anything natural at all but in the middle of the school. There are some small bits of bush around and in the school as well. It is at the end of Spring right now, almost at Summer in Australia.I’m not sure what other information might be useful so email me if you need to know something else.
Thanks for your time, Lochie
How you want your letter signed:  Lachlan

Velvet Mite

Dear Lachlan,
This is not a Spider but it is an Arachnid.  This is a Velvet Mite in the family Trombidiidae.  You can find information on Velvet Mites on Arachne.org.au and on Owlcation.  Velvet Mites are often found in arid regions after a rain.

Letter 6 – Velvet Mite

 

Red bug
Location: Santa Fe, NM
March 17, 2011 3:36 pm
On Feb 23 we were visited by a small insect that has got to be the most beautiful ever. It was about an 1/8 in. long and its legs are relatively short for its body size. It may be a baby, and it seemed to be actively crawling through the gravel of our driveway. When captured once it fell on its back and seemed to have difficulty getting upright, but ten was okay. We live a short distance from Santa Fe, NM. Temperature was about 42 degrees F, altitude 7000’. Any thoughts? H. Von Letkemann (telephone number edited out)
Signature: H. Von Letkemann

Velvet Mite

Dear H. Von Letkemann,
We are amused that you consider this Velvet Mite to be “the most beautiful ever”, though it is not an insect.  Arachnids, including Mites, are related to insects, but they are classified differently.  Velvet Mites feed on insect eggs, most notably on Grasshopper Eggs.  We are editing out your contact number from your email prior to posting.

Daniel,
Thank you for introducing me to this little guy.  Initially I thought it must be a spider, since I thought I counted 8 legs.  Then, when it had trouble turning over I couldn’t think a spider would have that kind of difficulty.
I wanted to make a contribution, but the PayPal system and I couldn’t connect.  I still would like to do that, and I’m able to use the U.S. mail if you send me an address.
Thank you again,
Lucky Von Letkemann

Letter 7 – Angelito

 

Furry Red Spiders
Recently I have been doing alot of yard work and i’ve noticed that there are the strangest bright red furry little spiders or insects crawling around everywhere. They are really slow, and they are about the size of pencil eraser or a little bigger. Some of them actually look like they are outlined in white, and these tend to be a little larger. When they are threatened they curl up into a little ball and seem to like buroughing in the dirt. Can you tell me what these bugs might be? I’ve searched everywhere and havn’t found an answer.
Thanks
Ashley

Hi Ashley,
There is a family of mite known as Velvet Mites, Trombidiidae, and one species, the Angelito, Angelothrombium pandorae, is a giant red velvet mite that is found in desert areas. According to Hogue: "These creatures never fail to attract attention because of their large size (the body length of adults is about 1/4 to 3/8 in.) 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 ground, probably to feast on their prey, which also respond to rains by emerging in numbers. Little else is known of their biology."

Letter 8 – Angelito sent by Angel

 

whats that bug
Hello There,
I was hoping you could help me out. I was out at my grandparents house in New Mexico taking pictures of various things. I noticed a tiny red dot moving in the dirt and found this spider. It’s a very interesting spider to me, I have never seen anything like this. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it, I find it to be kinda cute haha. Please tell me what this spider is called, Thank you so very much.
Angel =)
(Sorry about the blur, first time using macro on my new camera and no tripod. I hope these pictures are usable.

Hi Angel,
This Velvet Mite is your namesake, the Angelito. They are predatory mites living in desert areas and they feed on grasshopper eggs.

Letter 9 – Angelitos

 

STRANGE RED FUZZY LOOKING BUG-FROM BAJA
Hello Bugman,
I think I’ve discovered a new bug, but maybe it has already been discovered and you could tell me. I call it the "Red Jelly" bug from the Los Cabos Area of baja. This bug only comes out after big rains or hurricanes and is gone a few days later when the ground starts to dry up. It has 6 legs and two large antennas, or maybe it is a spider with 8 legs but it is hard to tell. It’s body is bright red and shiny like velvet, looks a little like a brain formation with legs and it is soft and almost "jelly like". It’s about the size of half a pea and seems non-aggressive. Please write me back to tell me what you think it is and if it could be poisonous due to it’s color. Thank you very much.
Paul Kops

Hi Paul,
We would have been able to give you an identification without a photo thanks to your vivid description, but we are thrilled to be able to include your photos with your letter. These are Angelitos, or Velvet Mites, Angelothrombium species. They attract attention when they emerge following rains. According to Hogue: “The larvae are parasites on grasshoppers and adults are predators on subterranean termites.” Velvet Mites are not poisonous and pose no threat to humans.

Letter 10 – Angelitos

 

What are these?
My ISP (Earthlink) sent me a few ‘links’ they thought were interesting and yours was included. The story goes like this; My wife and daughter recently went to Laredo, Texas for a visit and brought these ‘bugs’ home for me to see. My wife said, when her and her brothers were young, they would play with these. She said they would only come out after a rain. The photos I took are the best I could do since, they never seem to stay still long enough to focus. They move like I have seen ‘ticks’ move (never seeming to stay still and their covered with a kind of ‘felt’, furry, or tiny hairs which is hard to see in a photo. It’s my hope you’ll be able to I.D these and let me know what they are.
Thank you,
Terry

Hi Terry,
That Earthlink plug has really clogged our mailbox, and many people will be disappointed since we can only reply to a fraction of the letters. These are Velvet Mites known as Angelitos. They are predatory, live in desert areas, and emerge after rains.

Letter 11 – Angelitos

 

STRANGE RED FUZZY LOOKING BUG-FROM BAJA
Hello Bugman,
I think I’ve discovered a new bug, but maybe it has already been discovered and you could tell me. I call it the "Red Jelly" bug from the Los Cabos Area of baja. This bug only comes out after big rains or hurricanes and is gone a few days later when the ground starts to dry up. It has 6 legs and two large antennas, or maybe it is a spider with 8 legs but it is hard to tell. It’s body is bright red and shiny like velvet, looks a little like a brain formation with legs and it is soft and almost "jelly like". It’s about the size of half a pea and seems non-aggressive. Please write me back to tell me what you think it is and if it could be poisonous due to it’s color. Thank you very much.
Paul Kops

Hi Paul,
We would have been able to give you an identification without a photo thanks to your vivid description, but we are thrilled to be able to include your photos with your letter. These are Angelitos, or Velvet Mites, Angelothrombium species. They attract attention when they emerge following rains. According to Hogue: “The larvae are parasites on grasshoppers and adults are predators on subterranean termites.” Velvet Mites are not poisonous and pose no threat to humans.

Letter 12 – Velvet Mite

 

Whats this bug?
I live in Brookville Ohio, my son and I was in our woods and came across a bright red little bug. I was able to get it to crawl upon a leaf and managed to get it back home so I could get my camera. I grabbed my Canon Rebel XT with a 60mm Macro Lens and took some pictures as he crawled across my patio. He looks like a spider, and is much larger than a spider mite. Can you help me identify it.
Nathan Quesinberry

Hi Nathan,
This is a Velvet Mite in the family Trombidiidae.

Letter 13 – Velvet Mite

 

Angelitos picture and question?
They pose not threat?so if I touch it it wont burn?it sure looks like it would.this pic was taken in south texas around mission.if you look at the pic upside down it looks like a face on it.locals call it an angel face.thanks for your site it is really helpful.

To the best of our knowledge, Angelitos or Velvet Mites do not pose a threat to humans. The do feed on the eggs of grasshoppers and on termites. Thanks for your local lore on this distinctive arthropod.

Update: (11/25/2007)
Some additional information on the velvet mite.
There was a Nova episode the other week on killer ants[0] and in it there was some good information on the velvet mite. The people in Cameroon use the first appearance of the velvet mite as a sign that it is time to clear the fields and start planting their millet crops. If the mite is comming out that means it will rain soon.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova /ants/

Letter 14 – Velvet Mite

 

please i.d. bug in photo
Location: Ohio
April 8, 2011 9:51 pm
I took this picture snowdrops (the flower) in Dayton, Ohio at a park. This red bug was crawling on the stem. Can you identify it?
Signature: Kathy Shafer

Velvet Mite

Hi Kathy,
This is a Velvet Mite in the family Trombidiidae.  Though they have a wide distribution range, most of our identification requests for Velvet Mites come from arid regions.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae are parasitic on insects. Adults eat insect eggs.”

Letter 15 – Velvet Mite

 

Bright Red Furry Tiny (mite?)
Location: Sonoita Arizona
July 8, 2011 9:44 pm
Sonoita, Arizona, found on cow pie at Patagonia Lake. Really Tiny
Signature: ptosis

Velvet Mite

Dear ptosis,
Tiny, like huge, is a relative adjective.  We believe this is a Velvet Mite in the family Trombidiidae, and as Mites go, Velvet Mites are relatively large.  They are often found in arid environments immediately following rain, when they become quite conspicuous because of their bright coloration.  Adult Velvet Mites feed on insect eggs and larvae are parasites on a variety of insects and and arachnids according to BugGuide.  According to Charles Hogue in his book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, Velvet Mites prey upon Grasshoppers.  Why your Velvet Mite was on a cow pie is a mystery, unless it was feeding on eggs of flies or other insects that might be attracted to fecal matter.

Thank you very much for you informative answer. It has been very dry for months until recently. There was a downpour in this area a couple of days before this picture. The cattle here are all white and eat some cactus so it’s still brown – I heard from a friend  near Tuscon where the only thing to eat is cactus and that the cow poop is a very bright green.
Thank you again!

Letter 16 – Velvet Mite

 

Subject: red/pinkish bug @ Valley of Fire, NV
Location: Valley of Fire State Park, Overton, Nevada
March 14, 2013 10:11 pm
Hello-
Found this bug crawling in the sand at Valley of Fire in Nevada. It was about the size of a dime with 8 legs and this reddish/hot pink color (the photo colors are accurate). Very unusual and the staff at the State Park was unfamiliar with it when we asked. This was last weekend, so March 9 and it was around 70 degrees outside.
I took this photo myself and give you permission to post/publish.
Signature: Michele

Velvet Mite
Velvet Mite

Hi Michele,
This striking creature is a Velvet Mite in the family Thrombidiidae.  They generally appear in desert areas immediately after a rain.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae parasitize insects and arachnids of all major orders.”

Letter 17 – Velvet Mite

 

Subject: What is this bug
Location: WEst Virginia
April 10, 2013 6:28 am
Bugman, Can you tell me what kind of bug this is ? My cousin’s daughter came across it April 6th on a farm in West Virginia. I’ve looked on line but there isn’t anything like it .
Signature: Thank you

Velvet Mites
Velvet Mites

This is a Velvet Mite, and according to BugGuide:  “Larvae parasitize insects and arachnids of all major orders. Adults eat insect eggs.”  Most of our reports of Velvet Mites come from arid portions of the American Southwest, but according to bugGuide, they range across the country.

Letter 18 – Velvet Mite

 

Subject: Velvet Mite
Location: Sibley Nature Center, Midland TX
May 26, 2014 11:20 am
I took this photo of a Velvet Mite after the recent rains here. I thought you might like to have it for your database. It’s nicely focused and clearer than the photos you currently have.
Signature: John P. Van Dusen

Velvet Mite
Velvet Mite

Hi John,
Thanks for sending in your very detailed image of a Velvet Mite in the family Trombidiidae.  Your individual might be in the genus
Dinothrombium based on this image from BugGuide.

Letter 19 – Velvet Mite

 

Subject: red insect
Location: Pretty Boy reservoir Maryland
March 26, 2016 4:08 am
Species/genus?
Signature: thx

Velvet Mite
Velvet Mite

This is a Velvet Mite and it might be in the genus Trombidium like this individual posted to BugGuide, but we cannot say for certain that it is not a member of a different genus in the family Trombidiidae as we do not have the necessary skills to identify Velvet Mites beyond the family level.

Thank you, Daniel for such a quick reply.
I was intrigued by the “heart-shaped” little bugger posted on facebook by a friend.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/Insect.Identification/permalink/943095179139128/?pnref=story
I commented quoting your reply.
Thank you for the awesome work.
Chuck

Letter 20 – Velvet Mite

 

Subject: Red desert spider or insect?
Location: Golden Valley,AZ
July 3, 2016 11:05 pm
We found this in a wash in Golden Valley Arizona. Could you please tell us what it is? It looks like it has eight legs but I’m not positive
Signature: P P

Velvet Mite
Velvet Mite

Dear P P,
Did it rain right before this sighting?  Velvet Mites in the family Trombidiidae often appear in large numbers immediately after a desert rain.

Yes it sure did! Thank you!

Letter 21 – Velvet Mite

 

Subject: What is this bug
Location: West Texas
August 21, 2017 11:21 am
I live in Texas and as children we called these bugs rainbugs because they only came out after a rain. I have not seen one in decades and figured they went the way of the horned toad, but I found ONE the other day. These are pictures of it. They do not bite or sting and have a red velvety covering. WHAT IS IT???
Signature: kathy mirick

Velvet Mite

Dear Kathy,
We are sorry to hear that you no longer see Horned Toads, but we suspect that the disappearance of native Ants like Harvester Ants is a contributing factor.  Invasive species like the Argentine Ants are compromising native species in many places.  This is a Velvet Mite, and you are correct that they generally appear shortly after a rain.

Letter 22 – Velvet Mite

 

Subject:  Red Bug
Geographic location of the bug:  North Georgia Mountains
Date: 03/18/2018
Time: 03:44 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  We’d appreciate your assisting in identifying this beautiful bug.
How you want your letter signed:  Monroe DeVos

Velvet Mite

Dear Monroe,
This looks to us like a Velvet Mite in the family
Trombidiidae and though data on BugGuide indicates this is a very wide ranging family in North America, most of our reports come from the arid Southwest and most appearances happen after rains.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae parasitize insects and arachnids of all major orders. Adults eat insect eggs.”  Your individual resembles this posting on BugGuide, also from Georgia, that is identified as being in the genus Eutrombidium, and according to BugGuide:  “Larvae are parasites of grasshoppers, adults are predacious.”

You are the best….!
Thank you,
Monroe

Letter 23 – Velvet Mite: Angelito

 

More info
I recently emailed you about a bug I had found and was curious about what it was. I found some more today and managed to get some pictures. Any info would be great. I am just curious. Thanks so much.
Sincerely,
Julie Tompkins
Hereford, AZ

Hi Julie,
This is a Velvet Mite called an Angelito, Angelothrombium species. They are giant red mites found in the Southwest deserts usually following rain. The larvae are parasites on grasshoppers and the adults prey on subterranean termites. When it rains, they emerge in large numbers.

Letter 24 – Velvet Mite from Canada

 

Subject: Strange Bug
Location: Toronto, Canada
March 18, 2016 4:03 pm
Hi, would you happen to know what type of bug this is?
Signature: Whichever is easiest

Velvet Mite
Velvet Mite

This is a Velvet Mite in the family Trombidiidae.

Letter 25 – Velvet Mite from Ghana

 

Subject:  Unusually bright red bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Accra, Ghana, West Africa
Date: 03/17/2019
Time: 10:27 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello, seeing this beautiful creature for the first time, wondering what it is.
How you want your letter signed:  TF

Velvet Mite

Dear TF,
This is a Velvet Mite in the family Trombidiidae.  North American individuals are often found in arid environments and they emerge after rains.  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae parasitize insects and arachnids of all major orders. Adults eat insect eggs.”  Grasshoppers are the preferred hosts of many species of Velvet Mites.  There are many images of African Velvet Mites on iSpot.

Letter 26 – Velvet Mite from Greece

 

unknown insects to identify
Location: Lemnos Island – Greece
October 26, 2011 4:55 am
hello, its been long time since i last took some micro photos in my free time.
now i started again and i took some nice pics i would be honored if you could help me find what these little things are. location is always Lemnos Island, Greece.
yesterday, i shot a weird furry bug or spider-like creature, and i wonder what it is to find some more info.
also, if we generally have to name this little insect, do we call it i.e. a spider ?
I rearely see such things. This is the second in 5 years time 😀
i attached a pic for you (zoomed from original file).
The other 2 photos are strange too.
No2 Looks like snakeshaped-eggs on wire ? Taken May 1st 2007. Same location.
No3 looks like a nest to me. Taken December 16th. Same location.
Signature: Vassilis Triantafyllidis

Velvet Mite

Dear Vassilis,
We are only going to address your red, furry, spiderlike creature at the moment.  This is a Velvet Mite in the family Trombidiidae.  Velvet Mites are relatively large.  They are often found in arid environments immediately following rain, when they become quite conspicuous because of their bright coloration.  Adult Velvet Mites feed on insect eggs and larvae are parasites on a variety of insects and and arachnids according to BugGuide.  According to Charles Hogue in his book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, Velvet Mites prey upon Grasshoppers.

Letter 27 – Velvet Mites

 

Picture of a velvet mite
We take pics of a lot of insects, reptiles, mammals, etc. For your archives, we send these pics of velvet mites taken at the Empire Ranch in Arizona. These insects only come out for 24-48 hours one time a year during the rainy season. Very curious little creatures.

The appearance of Velvet Mites or Angelitos coincides with the rain. Since the larvae prey on grasshopper eggs, the mites are probably more plentiful in the years following a grasshopper population explosion.

Letter 28 – Velvet Mites from Nigeria

 

Subject: Velvet Mites
Location: Nigeria
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.
Signature: Robert

Velvet Mites
Velvet Mites

Hi Robert,
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.”  

Velvet Mites
Velvet Mites

Letter 29 – Velvet Mites or Angelitos

 

Red furry bug
Hello
I found you on the Internet and it sounded like you would welcome Entomology questions. I have lived in the Phoenix Arizona area for over 50 years and frequently walk in the deserts of our great valley. I recently moved and now back up to the desert so I have the opportunity to walk the hills even more. Yesterday I was taking a hike up our mountain by the house and found a red furry looking insect, but don’t know what it is. I know growing up I used to see a different type of furry bug in a variety of colors; we called them "cow killers" but am sure that is not their real name. I have attached a few pictures of the bugs I just saw and would ask your assistance in identifying them. They actually look like ticks, but never saw a tick like that.
Thanks so much for your response
Chris

Hi Chris,
Cow Killer is a common local name for a Velvet Ant, a female flightless wasp. You have Velvet Mites, or Angelitos. These desert dwellers usually appear after rain and are predatory on grasshoppers.

Letter 30 – Velvet Worms

 

I breed Captive Bred Peripatus (Velvet worms).
Bugman,
I have to say, your website has provided me with much insight about unknown bugs I encounter wherever I go. As a gift, I will show you my peripatus thriving in my enclosed enviroment. I have them in a Emerson wine cooler at temps between 50~62 degrees constantly with "bed-a-beast" substrate and old rotten wood a generous man shipped me from washington. I have 3 adults, and 9 babies which are voracious eaters. I hope you enjoy my photos. I wouldnt mind a bit if you post these on your website… just as long as you let me know when you posted them and a link so I can see whateveryone is having a blast seeing 🙂 thank you again for your informative website.
Mario Gamez

Hi Mario,
Thank you for your wonderful letter. We will be posting several of your photos of adult Velvet Worms. If you can respond, please let us know where you live and where the specimens were originally collected.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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55 thoughts on “Exploring the Enigmatic Velvet Mite: Essential Insights Simplified”

  1. The correct spelling of the family is Trombidiidae (no “h”). There has been confusion over this for many years.

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  2. This is most likely a species of Allothrombium. These mites are quite common in the midwest. The larvae are parasites of aphids, and the nymphs and adults are predatory.

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  3. 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.

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  4. I have seen those red velvet mites in Mexico the state was Guerrero(South of Mexico). As a child we used to collect them for fun, they don’t bite. And yes they came out in the rainy season. It is so fascinating to hear that they are in Nevada too.

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  5. 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 .

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

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  7. I spoted one in my yard after an all day rainstorm i live in el paso texas. I was freaked out and steped on him not realizing if it was poisinus or dangerous. I have small children and was taught bright colored animals mean danger so it was instinct. Was this a mistake possibly?

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  8. Just saw a few of these yesterday in Marfa, TX. It’s been raining for days and days and days. We were packing up to head back home and saw these little guys crawling around outside the RV. They seemed a little overdressed for the desert.

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  9. Working in South Sudan these bug are all over the place about the end of march into April. Thanks for the insight and name.

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  10. 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?

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    • 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.

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  11. 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

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  12. I don’t know whether it’s just me or if everybody lse encountering isses with your website.
    It appears like some of the written text within your
    content are running off the screen. Can someone else please provide feedback
    and let me know iif this is happening too them too?
    This could be a problem with my browser bwcause I’ve had this happoen previously.
    Appreciate it

    Reply
  13. I don’t know whether it’s just me or if everybody lse encountering isses with your website.
    It appears like some of the written text within your
    content are running off the screen. Can someone else please provide feedback
    and let me know iif this is happening too them too?
    This could be a problem with my browser bwcause I’ve had this happoen previously.
    Appreciate it

    Reply
  14. 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.

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  15. 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. 🙂

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  16. 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.

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    • 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.

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  17. 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.

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  18. I love velvet worms….they have complex brains for invertebrates, and some species have complex behavior including recognition of family members and parental care. One day I hope to get to hold one. Their tiny little claws and shiny eyes make them very adorable. But they have scary mouths underneath all that cuteness… which makes them even cooler, they are vicious little predators in their tiny world.

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  19. 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.

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  20. 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.

    Reply
  21. 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.

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  22. Thank you for helping me identify these bugs. They have almost vanished here in West Texas. I guess it is too dry now. I have wondered what they were since I was a child. I am 66 now. Great site. Love it. Lots of bugs to identify.

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  23. In the 80s, after a good rain, my grandmother (Wela) would take my little brother and me on walks looking for these beautiful little creatures. It’s been decades since I’ve seen one, but this post brought back a flood of memories. Thank you from Alice, Texas.

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  24. 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.

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  25. 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.

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  26. I wouldn’t want to commit myself, but I think this may be a species of Erythraeidae rather than Trombidiidae. The mouthparts are retractable in erythraeids but not in trombidiids, so trombidiids have a visible ‘head’ that erythraeids don’t. The individual in the photo appears to not have this.

    Reply

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