I apologize for going quiet over the weekend; we had company, a windstorm that required my attention in the garden, and a puzzle over a garden bug. I’ve already decided, by the way, that next year, I’m definitely not growing tomatoes in the planter. I swear I watched them grow two inches overnight in this hot weather!
But, back to the bug.
If you live in the Northeast, you might have noticed these tiny tiny little red bugs everywhere. They’re only just visible to the naked eye, and somewhat smaller than the head of a pin. They are covering my tomato plants, and… well, pretty much everything else.
I thought I had a major pest problem, especially when my first Google search turned up the red spider mite. I did this lovely writeup about red spider mites in my garden, but I thought, something isn’t quite jiving. I didn’t have the sorts of damage or webbing common with a major infestation of spider mites. The capper was that, as best as I could ascertain from the internet, red spider mites are a fall-weather phenomena.
I grabbed my camera to get a closer look.
My macro lens, a little patience and a few zooms later, and I ended up with this photo. I’m still not 100%, since I’m no entomologist and I lack a really high power image, but I believe this little fellow is not out to eat me out of house and home after all. I think instead I have a colony of teeny red velvet mites. They’re definitely not of the larger 2mm size, but they might be the .3mm lower-range. They weren’t really willing to sit still for a picture, much less a ruler.
If I’ve correctly identified it second time around (and I hope someone will let me know if I’m wrong!) this little pest is actually a beneficial predator. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the prey of the red velvet mites usually consists of the eggs and instars of caterpillars, beatles, flies, aphids, leafhoppers, scale insects, and other mites– including the spider mites I was afraid I had instead.
Well hey, welcome to my garden, little buddies! I’m glad I decided to look a little closer before I hosed you off my plants.