x3 images. Double click to enlarge.

Pergamasus sp

I just really like some names of species (or in this case the genus) so I used it as the title for this post.

Pergamasus are verocious predatory mites of soil and leaf-litter. And unfortunately not much more info is forthcoming.

Pergamasus sp.

Here are three individuals I discovered .. yep, under that plant pot.

One of The Smallest

x2 images. Double click to enlarge.

This is one of the smallest mites I have come across. I discovered it by simply lifting up a small plant pot. And once disturbed they never stay still for a second, so you have to try and focus and snap them on the move. In fact, I can only see them when they move.

I have manged to get them down to genus which Eupodes. They are one of the trombid mites (Order Trombidiformes), and are so small they are usually measured in µm (micrometres). Even with the Raynox conversion lens I have had to crop these images. They are around 0.2-0.5 mm in length. Quite distinctive mites with pinkish legs and antennae, and pinkish longitudinal dorsal stripes which varies in width. Seen all year round in soil, leaf litter and amongst mosses – or even sheltering under plant pots.

Face On

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At 1 mm (3/64 in) or less in length these small mites called Euzetes globulus are hard enough to focus on and photograph, but you add in that they are always on the move it multiplies the challenge. Thankfully these are slow movers compared to other mites, which give you half a chance at least, but you still have to take many photos until you get one or two which gets close to hitting a sweet spot.

This is a face on shot with its shiny protective ‘crash helmet’, which are what I like to call them with a distinctive front rim. Like all arachnids, these have eight legs in total.

Mites Wearing Crash Helmets

Euzetes globulus

This strange, tiny mite is around 1 mm long and goes by the name of Euzetes globulus. I spotted this one feeding on the underside of a piece of loose bark. It appears to be wearing a crash helmet with a fancy pale trim. I experimented by reversing a Nikon 18-55 mm to get this shot, and you can get real close to the subject, but it can be quite the challenge to focus and is a bit hit and miss with the results.

You get a peak under the hood with this one, and can see just how reflective their ‘helmets’ can be. I used a new Raynox conversion lens mounted on my Sigma 105 mm macro lens for this shot and the one below. The Raynox MSN-202 super macro conversion lens gets you up closer than the Raynox DCR 250, and is more preferrable than using a reverse mounted lens.

This one stopped for a bite to eat, and the eyes appear red. It appears to have many horns. Stange beasts indeed, and I am glad they only come in one size! But apparently they play an important role in soil biodiversity, and feed on fungi.

A blob of Red Jelly

Well not quite – it is an Oribatid mite found in soil under a clay flower pot. They are also called Beetle Mites or Moss Mites. The order Oribatida has species which range from 0.2 mm long to 1.4 mm (1/128 in to around 1/16 in) long … and this is somewhere inbetween.

These very small mites occur in soil and humus, and occasionally on tree trunks and foliage. They are mostly harmless and play a role in breaking down organic matter. Amongst the most numerous soil arthropods, these mites are important in the development of soil fertility.

This one is so well polished you can almost see my reflection in it.

Oribatida sp.

Oribatida sp

Plant Gall

Aceria macrorhyncha – You may have noticed these little bright red pustules on the upper surface tree leaves and wondered what they were? These are plant galls, and this one in particular is caused by a tiny mite ( they belong to the same group as spiders) which feed on the leaves of Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). The mites are small enough to pierce and feed on individual plant cells, causing the surrounding cells to enlarge and multiply to form the gall. In the final image you can see the holes on the underside of the leaf, beneath the galls. Not sure what the red jelly-like stuff is. Double-click images for a closer look-see.

Aceria macrorhyncha

Aceria macrorhyncha

Aceria macrorhyncha

Aceria macrorhyncha underside of leaf

© Peter Hillman ♦12th May 2020 ♦ Local woodland path, South Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200

Burying The Dead

Common Sexton Beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides

I initially found this gloriously decorated beetle called the Common Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus vespilloides) on my kitchen windowcill. You may notice it has a couple of passengers hitching a ride on its pronotum. These are Poecilochirus mites which don’t actually harm the beetle, but grab a ride to the next burial site. These beetles have an important role of getting rid of carrion by burying beneath them for their larvae to feed. The cheeky hitchhiking mites hop off when the beetle has found a new carcass, and the mites then breed themselves, their timing so perfect that when the adult beetles are ready to fly the new generation of mites hitch a ride with them in search of another dead animal.

Feel free to click on the images to enlarge and click again to get even closer …

July 2019, rear garden, South Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

About Mites And Ticks

Red Spider Mite
Red Spider Mite

Acari (mites and ticks) is a subclass of arthropods closely related to spiders. Most of these creatures are tiny measuring 0.08–1mm in length, but some may reach lengths of 10-20mm.

Most mites and ticks have 8 legs, like their spider relatives, but some species have fewer. The head and thorax (cephalothorax in spiders) is broadly fused together with the abdomen, so they are similar to harvestmen (daddy-longlegs) in this way. Mites and ticks have well adapted mouthparts for feeding. Some have tubes for piercing and sucking, others have pincers for grasping and cutting, whilst others have combs for filter-feeding.

Aceria myriadeum
Aceria myriadeum

Many mites and ticks are parasites to man and other animals, and other invertebrates. Ticks mainly feed on the blood of mammals and birds, and can cause serious illness by spreading diseases, including causing serious conditions in humans and livestock. Plant mites feed on the juice of plants, whilst others feed on fungi.

About Plant Galls

Knopper Gall (Andricus quercuscalicis)
Knopper Gall (Andricus quercuscalicis)

I have always been fascinated by these strange yet sometimes most beautiful growths. Plant galls are something of an oddity when some folk first encounter them, others don’t even know they exist. Plant galls come in all shapes and sizes, and are formed by another organism using the plant as a host, using it for shelter and for food.

Robin's Pincushion (Diplolepis rosae)
Robin’s Pincushion (Diplolepis rosae)

They are caused by insects or mites, fungi or bacteria, and cause a biological reaction within the plant which causes these odd lumps and bumps to form of their tissues.  They affect both herbaceous and wood plants, and there are at least over 1,000 species in Britain alone.

Cherry Gall Wasp (Cynips quercusfolii)
Cherry Gall Wasp (Cynips quercusfolii)

It is most unlikely you would see the mite or insect which causes the majority of these galls for they are very small, some even microscopic, but the species can be identified by the galls they produce.The study of plant galls is called cecidology.

Aceria myriadeum

Aceria myriadeum

A tiny mite produces the pimple-like spots on the leaves of Field Maple (Acer campestre). Each pustule measuring between 1-3mm high may contain several mites. The galls maybe fairly prolific, covering leaves almost in their entirety.

Aceria myriadeum

The mites leave the gall through tiny holes in the underside of the leaf in autumn and overwinter in fissures in the tree bark.

Seen summer until autumn. Common and widespread.

Photographs of Aceria myriadeum, taken June  2013, local wood and nature reserve. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Eriophyes laevis

Eriophyes laevis

This is a mite which produces tiny red pustule galls on the upper surface of Common Alder (Alnus glutinosa). They are up to 2mm in diameter, and are green to begin with, becoming red or purple later on. They may cover the whole upper surface of the leaf, and in some cases this may prohibit growth of the leaf.

Eriophyes laevis

The mites leave the gall via a small hole beneath the leaf  which it had originally entered by in autumn. It sees the winter through in empty cones and bark crevices.

Seen summer until autumn. Common and widespread.

Photographs of Eriophyes laevis, taken June and 2013, local wood and nature reserve. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Sycamore Felt Gall

Aceria pseudoplatani

Sycamore Felt Gall (Aceria pseudoplatani)

This is a mite which produces felt-like galls on the surface of Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) tree leaves. On the top side of the leaf the gall is like a blister which is usually yellowish to begin which then turns brown, and underside it is cream or yellowish when fresh, browning as it ages.

Sycamore Felt Gall (Aceria pseudoplatani)

The mites leave the gall in which they shelter and feed on the leaf in the autumn and overwinter in the twigs and branches.

Seen summer until autumn. Common and widespread.

Photographs of Sycamore Felt Gall (Aceria pseudoplatani), taken June 2013, local wood and nature reserve. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Aceria macrorhynchus

This is a mite which produces tiny red pustule galls on the upper surface of Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) tree leaves. They grow up to 6mm high.

The females overwinter in crevices in the bark of the Sycamore tree, emerging in spring to feed on the new leaves, which is what causes the red raised spots. On the underside of the leaf and beneath each gall are tiny holes where the mites have laid their eggs in spring. The resulting larvae feed on the soft tissue of the leaves, which does not appear harmful to the tree.

Seen summer until autumn. Common and widespread.

Photographs taken June 2013, local wood, Staffordshire.

Red Spider Mite

I came across this mite by accident crawling up a wall in my rear garden. I am unable to determine the species,  but this tiny spider relative is so small (up to 0.6mm long) it is barely visible with the naked eye. Plus I was straining my lens, it was so tiny.

Red Spider Mite

They feed on at least 200 different species of plants, including fruit and vegetables. They can be quite a serious pest of garden plants, house plants, greenhouse plants and various crops. They suck the sap from the plants with specialised piercing mouthparts, and this causes the leaves to become brown and mottled, and in severe cases leaf loss occurs. Adult mites spin a fine silk webbing over leaf surfaces.

They are common and widespread throughout Great Britain.

Photograph taken February 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire.