The warm April weather we’ve been enjoying has brought the velvet mites out.
When I was younger, I thought these were blood sucking mites and I would move out of their way if they came towards me.
Then when I was a bit older, I thought they were the so-called red spider mites that growers fear for the havoc they can wreak in glasshouses.
Happily, I was wrong both times! These scarlet bugs that scuttle around in leaf litter and on paths and paving are velvet mites. They’re completely harmless. Probably, they’re actually helpful in the garden, eating slug and snail eggs: they certainly do no harm.
Those dastardly red spider mites, in contrast to these velvet mites, are seldom red at all – they’re usually a yellowy-browny colour. Over winter, they crawl into cracks and try to tough out the winter: then they do turn more orangey-red, but still nothing like these velvet mites.
Red spider mites are also absolutely tiny – just visible to the naked eye (but more easy to spot with a hand lens) whereas the bodies of these velvet mites are about 4mm or 5mm long.
An alternative name for the red spider mite is the two-spotted mite, which is a much more useful name, as they do indeed have two spots!