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Red Velvet Mites

Red Velvet Mites
Photo Information
Copyright: John Denk (jpdenk) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 307 W: 3 N: 74] (333)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2010-05-15
Categories: Spiders
Camera: Nikon D90, 60mm f/2.8D AF Micro Nikkor
Exposure: f/22, 1/60 seconds
Details: Tripod: Yes (Fill) Flash: Yes
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): Insects and Arachnids of the Chicago region [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2010-05-28 6:29
Viewed: 5973
Points: 16
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Red Velvet mites, Trombidiidae family, and I'm not sure of even the genus. These tiny mites (2-3mm) are commonly seen in local woodland. They are a type of Arachnid, not insects. They are Arachnids, related to spiders, but they are not spiders, despite the fact that they are listed in the "Spiders" category. I put them under "Spiders" because that was the closest category. We really need some more categories to cover things like this.

Their bright red color may be a warning that they taste bad. There are reports that naturalists have tasted them and they reportedly taste bad. I'll take their word for it. :-)

They typically live in the surface litter in woodland, living from one to several years, depending on species. As larvae, they are parasitic on insects, attaching and sucking blood for nourishment. As nymphs and adults, they turn predatory, consuming things including other mites and their eggs, the eggs of insects and snails, and primitive wingless insects. Unlike some of their relatives, such as Chiggers and Ticks, they do not feed on humans.

More info from an excellent article in Chicago Wilderness Magazine:

The presence of red velvet mites is extremely important to the environment. "These mites are part of a community of soil arthropods that is critical in terms of rates of decomposition in woodlands and in maintaining the structure of the entire ecosystem," says Liam Heneghan, an ecosystem ecologist at DePaul University. "By feeding on insects that eat fungi and bacteria, they stimulate the decomposition process. And when they are removed from the area, many critical processes in the soil go much slower."

George Hammond, a University of Michigan graduate student who studies velvet mites and Heneghan say they've studied the red velvet mite mating dance, and it's not to be missed. The males release their sperm on small twigs or stalks, in areas that Heneghan likes to refer to as "love gardens." Hammond likens them to an array of tiny golf balls on tees.

That ritual is followed by the male laying down an intricate silken trail to the sperm. Females spot these "artistic" trails, then seek out the individual artist. If he's to her liking, she sits in the sperm. But, warns Heneghan, it's a brutal world out there. If another male spots one of these love gardens, he'll promptly trounce it and lay his own.

The planet is home to millions upon millions of mites. Biologists believe there may be thousands of species of red velvet mite alone. Mites remain an under-researched enigma, says Heneghan. "I think we have no real idea what their role is," he continues. "We've only come to realize the importance of the food web in the soil in the last 15 to 20 years. It is the great undiscovered frontier."

horias, tuslaw, boreocypriensis, meyerd has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

interesting closeup, TFS Ori

Fantasticos acaros fitofagos. Hermoso contraste. Excelente imagen. Felicidades

  • Great 
  • horias Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 837 W: 58 N: 2084] (11033)
  • [2010-05-28 11:58]

Hi John
What a great red spiders! Perfect colors and details.

hello John
very nice composition with the red insects
great sharpness and good details
greeting lou

  • Great 
  • tuslaw Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2754 W: 282 N: 4931] (19883)
  • [2010-05-28 17:44]

Hello John,
Incredible image of these tiny little mites. If these are what I think they are I see them every once in a while, but they are extremely tiny. The detail is super fine and the colors are certainly attractive. Your f/22 gave you some great DOF and the exposure turned out perfectly. They actually remind me a little bit of ticks. Well done!!

A very nice presentation of these velvet mites John.
I particularly like the lighting in this.
This is nicely composed, with good exposure management.
As usual, great notes!
TFS and have a nice Sunday!


Hi John,
Velvet mites are surprisingly difficult to photograph, but you did a wonderful job here. That you caught a whole bunch of them in one place makes for an outstanding picture.
My best regards

Good job catching the fuzz on their backs. They move neat too. :D

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