What Are Mites? The Red Velvet Mite (Trombidiidae) - Owlcation - Education
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What Are Mites? The Red Velvet Mite (Trombidiidae)

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Livingsta is a writer who writes about anything that fascinates, provokes or interests her, always putting forth her best effort and focus.

Red Velvet Mite - Trombidiidae

Red Velvet Mite - Trombidiidae

The red velvet mite is an arachnid that belongs to the family Trombidiidae. There are thousands of different species of these velvet mites. The giant red velvet mite belongs to the species Trombidium grandissimum. We will briefly look at what mites are and then move on to the interesting red velvet mite.

The Trombidium holosericeum is another well-known species from the Palearctic ecozone which is the largest of the Eco-zones dividing the earth’s surface. Trombidium grandissimum is found in dry lands and deserts and have been seen widely in the northern parts of India.

Range of the Palearctic zone

Range of the Palearctic zone

Note: Palearctic Eco-zone is the largest Eco-zone and comprises of the terrestrial Eco-regions of Europe, Asia north of the Himalaya foothills, Northern Africa and the Northern and Central parts of the Arabian Peninsula.

Red velvet mite (or "red velvet mite", Dinothrombium sp., family Trombidiidae) looks like a thick, but its main prey is the termite. The adults live underground until the rains start, when they emerge in large numbers

Red velvet mite (or "red velvet mite", Dinothrombium sp., family Trombidiidae) looks like a thick, but its main prey is the termite. The adults live underground until the rains start, when they emerge in large numbers

The velvet mites found in sandy desert areas belong to the genus Dinothrombium and the ones found in organic soils belong to the genus Thrombium.

It is interesting how I decided to write a hub on the red velvet mite. I have neither seen one nor heard about this mite until I saw a post of this mite from one of my followers on Instagram. I looked at the picture on my mobile (not a big picture, not macro shot) and asked if it was a crab, because the way its legs were arranged, resembled a crab. I got a response to say that it was a bug or some form of spider that was found in their village in North India.

At this point, I got too curious and looked for it on the internet. I looked for “red velvet spider” and instantly got the results. It was a red velvet mite. I gave a quick read and found it interesting and thought that I will share it here on Hubpages. This red velvet mite might be new information to you, or you might have come across these or known about these before.

What are mites?

Mites are small arthropods that belong to the subclass Acari and class Arachnida. The study of mites is called acarology. They are invertebrates (animals lacking a backbone) and range from microscopic size to about 0.5 cm. There are more than 45,000 to 48,000 species of mites that are known. Some are parasites and some are predators. Some feed on plants, fungi and organic debris.

Mites that live in soil can be found up to a depth of 33 feet. Mites found in water can survive in freezing cold to as hot at 50 degree Celsius. They are also found in desert sands and deep sea trenches.

Scientific Classification (Taxonomy) for the velvet mite:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Subphylum: Chelicerata

Class: Arachnida

Subclass: Acari

Order: Trombidiformes

Superfamily: Trombidioidea

Family: Trombidiidae

Genus: Trombidium

Terms explained:

Calyptostatic - A morphologically regressive state of the pre-larva; a featureless sac without legs or mouthparts

Ectoparasites - Any external parasitic organism

Hosts - An animal or plant that nourishes and supports a parasite

Spermatophore - A capsule or pocket inclosing a number of spermatozoa

Haemolymph - Circulatory fluid of insects. Haemolymph contains water, amino acids, sugars, salts, and white cells like those of white blood

Chelicerae - first pair of fang-like appendages near the mouth of an arachnid; often modified for grasping and piercing

A crab spider (female Thomisus onustus) sharing its flower with velvet mites

A crab spider (female Thomisus onustus) sharing its flower with velvet mites

Habitat of the velvet mite:

  • In India, these mites are found in dry areas. These mites are also found in woodlands and forest soil, litter, humus, moss and other terrestrial habitats like sandy desert areas and organic soils.
  • They stay under the soil most of the year and come out of the soil only after a rain. They spend only a few hours outside the soil every year and during this time they look for food and mate.
  • They are also found extensively in the palearctic zone and in a variety of other habitats that include deserts, moist soils, etc
  • They look like miniature velvet cushions crawling everywhere.

Food of the red velvet mite:

  • The velvet mites are predators and they feed on other invertebrates like small arthropods and their eggs, for example termites.
  • The adult velvet mites look for food and feed on them for only a few hours every year.
  • Depending on the species, the amount of food they eat per day varies. For example like 20 beetle eggs, 36 immature spider mites. Some species of nymph consume 49 to 54 prey per day and some adults consume 85 prey per day.

Characteristics and behaviour of red velvet mites:

  • These mites grow around 1.5 cm up to 2 cm long, which is huge compared to other mites. For example the giant Indian red velvet mite (Trombidium grandissimum). There are so many different velvet mites found all over the world and they all come under the family Thrombidiidae and they grow to different sizes.
  • The adult mites are bright red colour and their body has a velvety coating that has fine red colour hairs which sometimes act as feelers.
  • They have two tiny eyes, but they sense their prey through vibrations and chemicals. They use their front pair of legs to sense where they are going.
Red velevet mite - You can see clearly how the legs are arranged

Red velevet mite - You can see clearly how the legs are arranged

  • The adults have 4 pairs of legs while the larvae have only 3 pairs of legs. The four pairs of legs in an adult are arranged in a rare pattern. Two legs each in four spots of the underside of the body (See picture to the right hand side)
  • They do not have distinctive body segments like the other arthropods, but a single body segment.
  • The red velvet mites have chelicerae that they use to suck food out of their host and for feeding.
  • These mites are active during the day especially when there is sunshine and hide beneath the soil during the night. They hibernate during winter.
  • They are not eaten by any predators, simply because they taste very bad, but they do have a few enemies. The adult mites sometimes eat each other and sometimes are even parasitized by larvae.
  • They secrete anti-fungal oil and their haemolymph also contains antifungal properties.
  • They are harmless to humans

Reproduction in red velvet mite:

The mating in velvet mites is an interesting one in the form of a mating dance. While mating, the male deposits spermatophore on twigs or grass blades and invites the female by making an intricately woven silk path. If another competitor male finds this, he will break open the spermatophore and drop his own.

The female if impressed with the male, will sit on the spermatophore and it gets fertilised.

The development and lifecycle of the velvet mite consists of the following steps. In the steps below

  • The pre-larvae stay close to the area where they hatched from
  • The larvae are ectoparasites
  • Protonymphs and tritonymphs are calyptostatic,
  • The deutonymphs and adults are free living predators.

Egg - The eggs are laid by the female in the soil or humus or litter or sand. The number of eggs laid depends on species. The female lays as many as 60 eggs to 100,000 eggs according to the species and they are laid between the months of March and July. Some species lay eggs during the Autumn season.

Pre-larva - The eggs hatch after a month or two depending on the conditions of the environment. The larvae emerge out of the eggs and stay there for one day to few days from where they hatched depending on the species. This is pre-larva stage

Larva - They then disperse. The larvae are ecto parasites and live as parasites on insects like grasshoppers, crickets, locusts, aphids, beetles and on arachnids. The larva has only six legs. This parasitic stage continues for a week or sometimes two weeks.

Note: The larva inserts its chelicerae into the exoskeleton of the host and starts sucking on the haemolymph inside the insect through the wound. The host can walk and fly. The larvae move or fly along with the host and drop off in new places and move into the soil. The parasitism does not kill all the hosts; however this has an effect on their survival, health and reproductive rates. The health of the host also depends on the number of parasites on each host.

Protonymph - In this stage the protonymphs are calyptostatic and develop inside the cuticle of the larvae. They lie inactive like a pupa.

Deutonymph - During this stage the deutonymphs emerge out of the cuticle, either in summer or Autumn season. They have eight legs and they are active predators. The look for food on the surface of the soil and in plants. Some species can consume several aphids a day.

Tritonymph - Calyptostatic tritonymphs develop within the cuticles of the deutonymphs and this happens within the soil. At this stage, they are dormant again.

Adult males or females - The final stage is the adult stage. Adults emerge in the autumn season and become active only after a heavy rain.

Notes:

  • Any nymphs that appear late in summer or autumn, will fail to mature to adults that same year, and hence they will complete their life cycle the next year or the year after.
  • Each stage in the life cycle depends on factors like temperature, relative humidity, quality and quantity of food.
  • The time for development also varies between different species.

Interesting facts about the red velvet mites:

  • Male and female ratios vary between species.
  • The males and females perform a dance and during this time "pair-dance signalling threads" are deposited.
  • A host can be parasitised by one to many larvae. For example, a single housefly could host 40 larvae and a grasshopper was reported to have hosted 175 larvae.
  • Some species of larvae have oral rings that encircle the wound and also provide anchorage to the hosts and some other species are known to have feeding tubes attached to the hosts.

Red velvet mites

  • The larvae of some species can kill their hosts in a few days
  • They use their front (first) pair of legs as feelers.
  • These mites do not survive in captivity. I have seen many comments from people in blogs, who say that these mites did not even survive a night.
  • They are found in most parts of the world from tropical regions like South India and sub-Saharan region to cold regions like Canada and Scotland
  • The red colour of the mite is a warning to predators to tell them that they do not taste good, or that they are harmful. They have very few predators.

Uses of red velvet mite:

I have mentioned the uses I came across while going through information about this mite. I am in no way supporting the idea of using these mites in medicines

  • The extract from the velvet mite has been used for medicinal purposes in India and other eastern countries for many years.
  • They have been known to cure diseases that cause paralysis.
  • They are also known to be used as aphrodisiacs
  • The oil prepared from this mite is known to increase the immune response.

Velvet Mites - Phylum - Arthropoda; Class - Arachnida; Family - Trombidiidae

  • Since they feed on invertebrates and their eggs that are pests, they are good agents for biological control and help to maintain a balance in the soil thereby helping the ecosystem.
  • Also during the larva stage, they are hosts on insects that are otherwise pests for crops etc, and hence they again play an important role in biological control.
  • They are known best for pest control as they feed on pests like spider mites, spring cankerworm, cabbage moth, lace bug, and other arthropods that would otherwise eat the bacteria and fungi. Thus they help with the increase in the rate of decomposition in soil.

Note: As we see, these mites play a very important role in the ecosystem and killing these mites and using them for medicines and other purposes will only destruct the ecosystem. We can all contribute to the ecosystem by saving these mites. In order to achieve this, we should stop buying products sold in the market that have ingredients from these mites.

We can also spread the word about these mites to friends, relatives, children and others and stress the importance of these mites to the ecosystem, which will in turn help save these mites from being killed for medicinal purposes.

Different names for the Giant Indian red velvet mite (Trombidium grandissimum):

This giant red velvet mite is endemic to the Indian subcontinent and is widely found in the Northern regions of India. They are seen during the early monsoon season. They have different names and their English translation is listed below:

Red Velvet mites on Convolvulus arvensis flower

Red Velvet mites on Convolvulus arvensis flower

  • Rain’s insect
  • Scarlet fly
  • Lady fly
  • Queen Mite
  • Rain Mites
  • Bride of the sea-farer
  • Velvet bride
  • Little old lady of monsoon

They also have different names in other parts of the world

  • Queen of insects
  • Little angels (angelitos in Spanish)

I hope you enjoyed reading this hub as much as I enjoyed researching and writing this hub. I would like to hear from you. If you have seen this mite and have experiences to share, please do in the comments section below. If you also think that any information could be added or amended, please do not hesitate to feedback.

Thank you for reading.

Livingsta

Comments

stanley herbert jones on August 30, 2020:

I live in Spain and this morning when I went to shower there was a bright orange insect on the bath mat which ran very fast. It was at least 2 cm round but not having my glasses on I could not see it in clear detail. I eventually flushed it down the plug hole. This was extraordinary since I could determine that it was bigger than the outlet holes for the water so I deduce that it must have been very soft bodied.

Pinder on July 04, 2019:

Margaret Pinder

In The Gambia these are known as rain bugs. They are only seen the day after the rains start and for a few days on sandy soil near the coast and inland but they don't seem to be around in Basse. They are varied in size from ~1cm to less than 0.5cm and there seem to be 4 different sizes. Not sure how this fits in with the life cycle described here. The numbers emerging with the rains seem to be getting fewer. Probably due to increased insecticide use.

Thnx for red velvet information.In our area in India in Gujarat where I residing, this can be seen in rainy season. I got it when I was on my routine morning walk and bring them to my home and keep t on July 02, 2019:

Thnx for red velvet information. In Our area of Gujarat in India it is available. I also got the same during my routine morning walk.I bring them with me and keep them in glass jar. Nice article.

Abha on June 25, 2019:

Nice photos and article is very informative.

Are these photos and video taken by you?

Ranjan on June 14, 2019:

I am from south India

Today I saw one, so ended up here.

I dont know why but i see very less red velvet mites nowadays

A curious thing:

My grandmother said this to me. The God from the sky chews pan(I dont know the english word) and spits downwards. When it reaches the earth, the spit will turnout as red velvet mites. I used to believe that its true and everytime I saw a mite, I used to look up...

Thats a very good article. Beautiful pictures too. Thanks alot

Nacho ARoche on June 06, 2019:

I didn't know all of that. When as a kid in Mexico I used to play with those a lot. Is very common to see them in some rural areas in the north of the country.

Those use to be bigger than 1cm though so is hard to see if is the same. Remember the soft touch of it and was amazing.

Thanks for sharing I didn't even knew the name of it. I had to reverse searched an image posted on Facebook to find your page.

Regards.

Don Simpson on April 01, 2019:

I had no idea these were mites. When I was a kid in Big Spring, Texas I remember 100's of them coming out after a summer rain shower. We always called them "rain bugs," thought they were spiders, and would touch them to feel their velvety texture. I did not find out they were mites until last night when watching an episode of "Texas Bucket List" on TV. They showed one on a spot about Fort Chadborne located south of San Angelo. I've not thought about one nor seen one in over 50 years.

Imran on March 13, 2019:

I saw them in our forms our soil is redsoil before 30 years and even dont know the name i catch them put in match box and play with them. Thank u very much for your information

Ann on December 01, 2018:

We have them in South Africa too, sandy dry areas. They only come out once a year after a good rain, close to Christmas. The old people refer to it as the Christmas bug for this reason.

Ronin on October 05, 2018:

I am from India. I loved these mites as a kid and always wanted to keep them. A lot of my friends here have never even seen one. Now I know why! They only come out for few hours every year! Lots of interesting information here. Thank you.

Xena on July 29, 2018:

I saw them as a kid and collected them In a jar with sand I found them from , they were soft in touch , and were nice to play , just like collecting butterflies , or fireflies , they are rarely found ,and are as aspirating as any other pet.

Aiden on October 31, 2017:

I saw some red velvet mites, curious about the food they consume so looked for it, thanks for the information. :)

Kamu Entomology on October 30, 2017:

Really good job ............ interesting and more information learn about The beautiful Red velvet mite ...............Good

Aadil Malek on August 03, 2017:

Thank you So much for share this post...again thank you so much...i love Red Velvet Mite. every monsoon i catch it.

Two years ago I had caught ten

Cheryl Bluth on July 24, 2017:

I live in Chihuahua Mexico and I see these mites once a year after rain on a hill located on our farm. They are fascinating

AirMech2002 on June 30, 2017:

It's the beginning of rainy season in Chad right now, and these guys are all over the ground. Pretty big, about .5 inches long

narayana on June 26, 2017:

velvet mite name in sanskrit is "sadagopam"

soumyaranjan sabar on June 20, 2017:

Thnxx for the information

Santosh biswal on June 17, 2017:

Hy sir/madam,

I have found a red velvet mite and have got it home,please suggest something to feed it.

Nawab sahab on June 12, 2017:

What is the food for velvet mites

Pablo Garza on June 07, 2017:

These Red Velvet Mites are also in Jim Wells County in South Texas. I saw them after a nice 3 inch rain 6-6-17. They are in sandy loam.

Joe in South Texas on June 07, 2017:

Saw some red velvet mites behind my house after a good rain four or five years ago. They have disappeared since then. I check for them after rains but they are gone. Growing up we collected them and played with these beautiful bright red velvet creatures of God. We called them "angelitos", Spanish for little angels. There were many more back then. I had not seen them for over thirty years. A glorious delight and blessing that brings back childhood memories.

Pablo on June 07, 2017:

These Red Velvet mites are in South Texas as well, Jim Wells County. Just saw some June 6, 2017 after a nice rain. They are in sandy loam soil.

Patricia on November 25, 2016:

Hi. Found what i think might be a red velvet mite. Body part was quite flat...i was amazed as i have never seen anything like it...at the house where i grew up...Pretoria, South Africa...

It looked like a dog tick...but bright red...and velvet appearance...4mm body length..6 legs...amazing...thought i should share.

Dr Ankur Patel on September 18, 2016:

Thanks for very deep information.

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on August 24, 2016:

Hello Sarah, thank you for stopping by and sharing your experience too. I have seen a very miniature version of these mites and I was thrilled by their appearance. I am glad that you enjoyed reading this hub.

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on August 24, 2016:

Hello Metamorph2, thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. I am pleased that this helped you gain some insight into these beautiful mites.

metamorph2 on August 16, 2016:

For some reason, today I was curious about red velvet bug and I could not find much info on WikiPedia. Your article had a lot of depth. Thanks for the insight into the wonderful live of red velvet mites.

abdul raoof on August 05, 2016:

they also live in sand or not please tell me

Divs on May 07, 2016:

nice creature.use to collect it in my childhood days.

we call it Laal guy here....

Sarah Ross on April 23, 2016:

I just met the red velvet mite in the woods in southern Michigan this spring! They are quite brightly colored and this led me to deduce that they did not taste good, otherwise everyone and their uncle would be eating them. I must have been out at just the right time, cool, sunny day after it rained. There were many, MANY of them in the leaf litter where I was sitting. Thanks for the info!

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on January 06, 2016:

Hello Tara, thank you for reading and commenting. I am sorry, I do not know of the sanskrit name. I need to look up on this. Thank you for sharing this information. Sure does help. All the best! :)

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on January 06, 2016:

Hi Deepak, thank you for reading and sharing your experiences. :)

deepak on February 10, 2015:

We used to play with these when we were kids. They are very soft and fun to watch

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on September 28, 2013:

Hello Sadia, I am glad that this brought back your childhood memories and that smile + happiness. I can imagine what you say. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your experiences. Hope you have a good weekend! :-)

All the best with your thesis!

sadia on September 26, 2013:

hello. i really feel happy while reading all this. because from my childhood i love to collect them. i remember when i was 8 year old after rain i love to collect them. i feel their softness their color its beautifull. and i called them bilboties in my own language. and i want to use these mites in my thises.

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on May 20, 2013:

Hi CrisSp, thank you for stopping by. I totally understand what you feel. I don't blame you :-)

I am glad that you found this useful and informative and thank you so much for the appreciation.

Have a great week ahead!

CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on May 20, 2013:

Sorry, I didn't really enjoy this one! It grossed me out in fact! :) I am squeamish on anything that crawls. It's just me. I remember studying these species in high school and I was afraid to touch them and even look at them in the jar.

However, you've done a good job in your presentation here. They said, a good writer should be able to let their readers feel their writings and you surely did. I finished reading it and find it very useful and informative. Perfect read for my daughter who's currently working/researching on something similar to this for her school paper. Passing it along...thanks.

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on May 16, 2013:

Hi peramore20, thank you for reading. I am pleased that you found this interesting. Have a good day :-)

peramore20 from Greensburg, PA on May 15, 2013:

Very interesting hub, and the pictures are very nice as well. Thanks for helping me learn something new!

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on May 15, 2013:

Hi Jools99, thank you for reading. Yes they do look like miniature crabs because of the way their legs are arranged. Yes I did research a lot, but at the same time it was so interesting to read about something that I have not known or seen before. Thank you for the appreciation and I am pleased that you found this article interesting. Have a great rest of the week!

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on May 15, 2013:

Hi Michelle, thank you for reading. They may be seen in moist woody areas, but not sure. Yes they are pretty little creatures. I am glad that you found this interesting. Have a good rest of the week!

Jools Hogg from North-East UK on May 15, 2013:

Very interesting hub Livingsta; I rather like the look of them but I can see why you thought they were crabs when you first saw them - they do like little miniature crabs don't they? You must have done a lot of research and your photos are excellent- great article.

Michelle Liew from Singapore on May 14, 2013:

I don't think we'll see these in Singapore....but wow, any kind of creature is fascinating. Well documented, Livingsta.

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on May 13, 2013:

Hi Prasetio, thank you. I am glad that you found this hub interesting. Thank you for the votes. Have a good day.

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on May 13, 2013:

Hi Nell, thank you for reading. I am glad that you found this interesting. Thank you for the votes and share. Have a good day

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on May 13, 2013:

Very interesting hub. I had never heard about this before reading this hub. I learn many things here. Thanks for writing and sharing with us. Good pictures as well. Voted up and useful :-)

Prasetio

Nell Rose from England on May 13, 2013:

What a great article, so interesting, I had never heard of them before, voted up and shared, nell

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on May 13, 2013:

Hi Deb, thank you for reading. Yes spiders can freak me out too. I saw a video in a different language where the kids had them in their hand, playing with them. Thank you for sharing. Have a great day :-)

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on May 13, 2013:

Wow this is very interesting.. they actually look like spiders.. I do not like spiders.. lol.. hey great hub.. I am sharing this

Deb

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on May 13, 2013:

Hi kidscrafts, thank you so much for your support. Yes these little ones are truly beautiful and amazing. As you say, I too find this chain in the ecosystem very interesting.

Oh, you should check on those little red spiders, sounds exciting :-)

Thank you for your votes and appreciation.

As you say, kids do learn a lot more through art, because they see and practice. Thank you again. Have a great week!

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on May 13, 2013:

What a fascinating world it is those tiny little creatures! What a magnificient picture at the t0p of your article!

I studied sciences to become a science teacher in Belgium (*); I find the dependence between species always interesting!

Sometimes, I can see tiny red spiders outside during the summer time; I will check with a magnifying glass if they are some kind of mites!

Thank you for sharing all this! Very well done! Voted up, interesting and awesome!

(*) Obviously, I changed field along the way but not totally because I love to use art to teach sciences; I find that kids learn a lot more through art.

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on May 13, 2013:

Hi Sarifearnbd, thank you. I am pleased to hear that this was useful for you. Have a good evening!