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Red mites - Trombidium

Red mites - Trombidium
Lone Mountain State Forest, Morgan County, Tennessee, USA
February 18, 2012
Size: Smaller individual 1.5 mm
Found near base of red maple tree. The smaller individual was actively pursuing the larger one. Unseasonably warm day (~60F).

Images of this individual: tag all
Red mites - Trombidium Red mites - Trombidium

Moved from true velvet mites.

Moved from ID Request.

velvet mites
Prostigmata: Parasitengona: Trombidiidae. Possibly Allothrombium, but that's just a guess. Interesting that you observed this 'chase scene'. Trombidiids transfer sperm indirectly via spermatophores deposited on a substrate and only a few spp. have been observed to engage in much of anything that might be considered courtship. However, Moss (1960) reported males of Allothrombium lerouxi chasing and attacking each other.

Moss 1960 The Canadian Entomologist 92:848–905

More on behavior
Thank you for the citation.

Moss mentions observing a brief interaction ("few seconds") between a male and a female, where they tapped each other's dorsum with their front legs, and the female quickly departed. In contrast, this interaction continued for a couple of minutes, and was already in progress when I arrived.

The smaller individual was more active, harassing the slow-moving larger one from different angles. The interaction took place on a 4-cm by 4-cm region of the tree trunk. It wasn't a straight-line chase; the larger individual seemed to be moving randomly.

Moss also describes groups of males defending small, proximate territories as they prepared to produce spermatophores. However, I saw only these two individuals.

I was assuming that the larger one was a female, and the smaller was a male, but Moss mentions that engorgement produces a marked difference in size. Is it possible that these were two males? Is the white dorsal stripe a distinguishing feature?

Velvet Mites
Sounds and looks like a male (the smaller one) and a female (the larger one).

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