I have chosen the red spider mite, also known as a velvet mite, or simply “red mite”. This arachnid hails from the order Trombidiformes, which includes the majority of known mites and similar species. The red spider mite is common in temperate climates across the globe, and comes in many shapes and sizes. In the US, these mites range in size from microscopic to the size of a fingernail. As its name implies, the mite is a deep red, and its body is entirely covered with short, dense hairs, giving it a fuzzy or velvety appearance. The body of the mite resembles a crumpled ball or a human brain. Most people in the US encounter red spider mites as tiny red specks scuttling over rocks in the summer. Much larger species live underground and hunt small insects. All species are parasitic to long-legged insects (such as spiders and grasshoppers) at some phase in their life cycle. Some species have their largest eyes mounted on stalks, which is uncommon for arachnids.

I specifically chose the red spider mite because I have always thought it was an interesting animal from when I was a kid, when I would squish all of the “red dots” with my finger. After seeing one under a microscope and learning more about them, spider mites are pretty interesting (and look cool, like a fuzzy brain). Spider mites are culturally linked to India, where they are used in rudimentary and alternative medicine for treatment of paralysis and inhibited sex drive. As such, these mites are also known as “Indian Viagra”.  In India, they appear in great numbers before the monsoon season, and so are referred to as “rain mites”. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the largest species are collected and eaten.