Extremely tiny reddish-brown soil mite

2022 February 13

Our potted jade plants have decorative stones around the base, and on January 30, 2022, I picked out a stone that was about the size of a golf ball to look over with my cameral lens extended to 4x. So, the entire field of view in that picture is about the width of a standard pencil. And down at the middle lower part of the picture, you can see a reddish-brown egg-shaped thing. Here, let’s zoom in on it a bit:

It’s another soil mite, except that this one is right at the extreme limit of what I can photograph while hand-holding the camera. I estimate that he is so small that he could hide behind a human hair.

I wasn’t actually able to see him with my naked eye at all, I could only track it through the camera viewfinder. He wasn’t as fast-moving as the springtail I posted last week, but he still trundled along pretty briskly, moving a couple of body lengths every second. I basically had to track him over a rough surface, slowly moving in and out to get him in focus, and snapping pictures every time it looked like the image was reasonably sharp.

Anyway, it is definitely a mite, and I would guess it is one of the Orbatid mites. This is a large order of mites that are extremely common in soil. Bugguide says that these are “one of the most numerically dominant arthropod groups in the organic horizons of most soils, where their densities can reach several hundred thousand individuals per square meter.” And again, out of the thousands of possible species, there are only online images available for a few tens of them, so that’s where the ID stops.

If you lay down in the grass for any extended period, you’ll probably have a few dozen of these crawling up onto you within a few minutes. On the plus side, they are completely harmless to humans, and are so small that they probably aren’t even going to cause a tickling sensation.

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