You may be wondering why I am showing this in an ant blog.
Given that it has eight legs rather than six, it is definitely not an ant.
Do you know what this pudgy, bright red creature is?
This is a red velvet mite.
Red velvet mites are quite common in the Sonoran Desert in the summer, particularly after the summer rains or “monsoons” start.
There is some question as to what the adult red velvet mites eat. For years I had thought that they were predators of ant and termite queens, which also swarm after the summer monsoons.
In fact, two prominent entomologists from Arizona have at least implied that red velvet mites eat ant and termite queens in their book, Learning About and Living With Insects of the Southwest: How to Identify Helpful, Harmful and Venomous Insects by Dr. Floyd G. Werner and Carl Olson. On page 128 they say the emergence of the mites coincides with the swarms of ants and termites, so the mites “find easy prey.”
I have recently read, however, that red velvet mite adults eat the eggs of insects.
Anyone have any ideas?
I did find a photograph on BugGuide of a mite with an ant. But I also found this one of an ant carrying a red velvet mite immature.
It is very possible that different species have different food preferences.
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