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News & Updates

Bright RED velvet mites appear after the rains

Published 15 December 2015 under Travelogue • Comments: 69
Wow! The appearance of the incongruous vermilion red velvet mites in the African bush after the first rains never fails to astound us all. These fairly big , slow, brilliant red, eight legged, velvety mites appear out of nowhere and excite us with the awareness that the dry bush is about to come to life and turn into a verdant green- almost overnight. Red velvet mites are wide spread across the planet and have recently attracted much attention as a possible biological defence against many less liked insects. As unlikely as it seems the mites are voracious predators of other insects. The mites live underground and emerge with the first rains. Their primitive metamorphic cycle presents a three stage larvae of six legged mites that are parasitic and latch on to passing insects such as locusts and beetles from which they feed. The final instar (stage in the metamorphosis) is the adult mite that preys on invertebrates in their early stages – eggs larvae and pupa. For this form of predation there is no need for speed. As simple as they seem at first, they present another surprise in their mating rituals. The male and female mites circle each other in a tender dance touching and tapping with their forelegs. Then the male will release his sperm on vegetation in a “sperm garden” and draw the female in via a silken trail. If she likes what she sees she then “sits” in the sperm. Male mites sabotage their rivals “sperm garden” in the hope of winning females. Red velvet mites are arachnids of the Trombidium species. They are considered critical for decomposition within the humus layer of top soils and for their control via predation of other insects. Predictably red velvet mites are valued within some cultures for their “aphrodisiac” properties. It has been referred to as Indian Viagra for its supposed virility enhancing properties. Once again there is no scientific evidence of this ridiculous attribute and it could threaten the species if exploited. Long may we rejoice in the emergence of the Red Velvet Mites.
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