The Dancing Red Velvet Lover

As the monsoon thunders into India, it brings with it a wild and romantic energy.

There is definitely magic in the air and that’s an excuse for long drives and more cuddling under the covers. The monsoon season has the same effect on animals, birds, even insects too. We’ve all heard of the peacock dancing for his ladies in the rain, but how many have heard of the red velvet dancer that performs for his mate to be?

Is red the color of passion or danger? In this case it’s both!; Photo credit: Sandeep Varma

The trials of the male mite
The Trombidium grandissimum, commonly known as the Red Velvet mite is found in other parts of the world too, but it is only seen during the onset of the monsoon.

The ground-dwelling mite emerges during this time of plenty to feed on insects and their larvae, but the main reason for its advent is to find a mate. The males take their mating preparation very seriously and meticulously build an inviting bachelor pad to woo their mates. This bachelor pad is referred to as the ‘love garden’ by researchers, and this love garden is decorated with……wait for it…. Sperm! ROFL!

Yummy grasshopper! That’s what a mite would say; Photo courtesy: Ian Jacobs (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jacobs_ian/8007748854/)

No two left feet allowed!

Sperm is stored in small sacs and placed neatly on twigs and grass for the female to pick up and fertilize her eggs with, before they are buried in the soil.

But, how does a female go about finding her mate? The male leaves a map with a detailed trail that leads her directly to him. He actually leaves a silk trail on the ground for the female to find and, once she has found his trail she will follow it to her waiting lover. The male is known to actually do a small dance performance for his to-be in order to impress her. But here’s a point to keep in mind- many velvet lovers have been rejected for having two left feet.

So young mite lovers out there, to be a good lover one must know how to dance, and dance well!
But wait, there is a twist!
Where there is a love story there is also a villain! The rival male plays the villain here, deviously destroying the nest and trail to ‘steal’ the female for himself. Well, not all love stories have a happy ending!

We humans haven’t spared this romantic little mite either. We have found a few medicinal uses besides it being considered an aphrodisiac!

Jokes apart!

Let’s look at the role of the red velvet mite in our ecosystem. During the larvae stage, the mite is a parasite that feeds on grasshoppers and other insects, but during its adult phase, it is known to devour termites, small spiders, eggs of insects, snails and other wingless insects. This serves as a check on insect population. Additionally, eating insects that feed on bacteria and fungi extends the life of those microorganisms which are most important for decomposing of organic waste in soil.

 

Edited by Dominic D’Cruz