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Red Velvet Mite

I was walking down the forest track. A little distance from where I was, was a little red creature lumbering down towards me.   When I was just a few feet from it I knew what it was. And, this one was indeed a particularly large Red Velvet Mite.

To show it to those with me, I gently picked it up. True to its name it felt like velvet.  No sooner than I picked it up, than it withdrew its appendages and lay motionless. This helped me draw attention to its body parts and legs. Being an arachnid (related to spiders, scorpions and ticks), its body was divided only into 2 parts and had 4 pairs of legs (as against 3 body parts and 3 pairs of legs for insects).  When I put the velvet ball down, it happily walked away as if nothing had transpired.  During the rest of the morning trail, we encountered several more of the Red Velvet Mites of various sizes – most of them smaller than half a centimetre while the odd ones, like the one that I picked up, were about a centimetre in length. These bright red mites walked about without any fear. Probably, owing to their bright red colour that offers them protection from possible predators.

The forest floor was drenched in the first few showers of the southwest monsoon that had graced the forest over the last few days. There was also ample leaf litter around. The conditions were ideal for the emergence of this pretty arachnid – this explained the abundance of these mites. After this brief emergence, they again disappear only to emerge during the early days of monsoon the following year. They are known to live, at times, for more than a year. As adults, they are part of a community of soil arthropods, and are thought to perform a very important role in the ecosystem. As larvae these mites are ectoparasites and are known to parasitize insects like grasshoppers and other arthropods. Many of these mites are dependent on invertebrates that live in the soil for food and consequently spending more time underground. They emerge when the soil is drenched.

The Red Velvet Mites have a wide distribution. There are reports of it even within Bangalore (L.Shyamal). I have seen them on the outskirts of Bangalore as well as in the vicinity of the Cauvery Fishing Camp, Bheemeshwari and even a much farther location like the Sloth Bear Resort in Hampi. They occur in the dry scrub jungles, deciduous forests and also wetter areas. So, look out for these little creatures if you are in the outdoors this time of the year.

  • Aishwarya

    I have always seen them and not know what they were…. Finally a name… As always its a superb blog 😀

  • Vinay

    Very Information Karthik. Thanks for sharing the info. Need to keep a watch out when we go out.

  • Geetanjai

    Never knew much about them, though often loved to pick them up and keep them in my palms whenever we visited our native place during my childhood.Thanks for the information.

  • http://backpakker.blogspot.com lakshmi

    very informative post Karthik as always..thanks ..am fascinated by the name of the mite :)

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/radha-clicks/ radha

    very informative as always and love the image Karthik! would love to touch and feel the velvet on one of these mites :)

  • http://www.natureclicks.in Saandip Naandagudi

    Nice post as always going to the minute details with crispy picture. Will this also bites humans like the forest ticks do?

  • http://wildwanderer.com Karthik

    No Saandip. These do not bite or harm humans like other ticks and mites.

  • http://birdsonthebrainetc.wordpress.com Uma

    This is one little fellow I still have to see!! Lovely informative post as usual :)

  • http://vignettesoftheworld.wordpress.com Kesava


    Excellent one as always. Enjoyed the pic too.

  • http://photography.usandeep.com/ sandeep

    very informative acrticle. and the mite is very pretty :)

  • http://www.bluepencil.in Sadhana Ramchander

    Nice article. We used to play with the red velvet mites when we were children. My own writeup (of 2006) on this insect is here:

  • http://www.daktre.com Prashanth

    Very nice, Karthik. Thanks. Have seen them in several places around BRT. The large ones that you mention – just size variation or different spp?

  • http://deponti.livejournal.com Deepa Mohan

    Must look out for these now. Life Under Foot is getting more fascinating by the minute! Where did you see this particular one?

  • http://pvineet.tumblr.com/ Vineet P

    I have not seen them since schooldays. Guys used to call it ladybird , glad I finally know the correct name .

  • http://wildwanderer.com Karthik

    Hello Prashanth ! I think is largely size variation and I dont think they are different species.

    Hello Deepa ! This picture was shot near Bheemeshwari.

  • http://shivanidiwani64.blogspot.com shivani

    :)…hmmm. Hope i shall remember Red Velvet Mite if i happen to see one.

  • Devasahayam

    The red velvet mites were very common in the campus of Madras Christian College at Chennai where I studied about 35 years ago. Wonder whether they are still common there even now.

  • http://www.deepikaschool.org Sita Krishnamurthy

    Dear Karthik
    One of our students found these red velvet mites in the soil of Tirunelveli and brought them. The student wants to know how to keep them alive and where to keep them. We would appreciate it if you could give us some information soon.
    Ours is a school for special children yet we encourage them to learn more from nature.

    • karthik

      Hi !

      Good to note the work you are doing. The Red Velvet Mite is very seasonal in its appearance as you may already be aware. It may be very difficult to rear one in captivity. I think it is best to observe creatures in their natural environs.

  • Abdulhadi

    Good article, i have been seeing this insect every year in my village during onset of rainy season without knowing what it was until recently and that info. i read from u.
    Thanks, wishing to get much info. and articles about it.
    Abdulhadi, Nigeria

  • Simi

    Always collected them as a kid in rainy season in and around Delhi

  • Dhiraj Chopdar

    Its so nice and lovable insect. We have played a lot with this insect. It is susceptible to environmental degradation .We have to protect it.

  • chinmay

    AWESOME! Found one in jhansi UP while working in my solar power plant. Googled it for name and found it in your blog. Amazing. Thanks!

  • chinmay

    and so wonderful it is to call it mite. Red MITE

  • Eric Heyns

    What a beautiful creature,I currently work in SW Tanzania and discoverd this little velvet ball and had to find out what it was,great article