The craze of children in rainy days goes high to catch their favorite birbaboti or red velvet mite. They catch keep those in boxes, jars or bottles, feed them with small grass particles and enjoy playing at home. Nowadays, Hyderabad witnessing heavy rains and spurt of these red velvet mites in open grass grounds is the playing tool for children. Some people do business with this tiny creature too!

The name of the red velvet mite (Trombidiidae) just got added to the list of the most unlikely pets in Hyderabad. Yes, young people here are purchasing these velvety insects, also called rain bugs or ‘aridra purugu’ in Telugu and ‘beerbahuti’ or Beerbaboti in Hindi and Urdu, to keep them as pets at home, despite their life span in the adult phase being much shorter.

The rain bugs are bright red in colour and the coat of fine hairs is velvet like. These insects appear in soil during the start of the rainy season.

“I collect more than a 100 of these creatures everyday and sell it for a price between ₹2 and ₹5 each,” said Shahid Khan, a school student belonging to Manikonda locality in Hyderabad, who has been collecting the mites from the open grounds since the last few days.

“On the first day, I just happened to take a few of the lovely creatures home and they became an instant hit with our people and now I am earning between ₹200 and ₹500 every day,” he disclosed of the business aspect.

Shahid Khan and one of his friends have little to do with schools being closed due to heavy rains. “We chanced upon the business when we went to the open grounds for a stroll recently,” he pointed out. The boy uses common sense to advise his customers on the care to be taken with these pets. He asks them to feed the insects with grass much like what he puts into the bottle when he picks them up.

In Hyderabad the birbaboti aka red velvet mites used in several medicines and use in several ailments. And the demand is bit high in some areas. In which, students catch these creatures and sell to the prospect clients in their areas.

On other hand, as we goes into the existence of this bugs – the word “mite” is often associated with small, parasitic organisms that may result in itchy bites or allergy-like symptoms. This association exists because many mites are parasitic in nature and are thus unpleasant when encountered. The term “mite” actually refers to several different groups of organisms within the class Arachnida, which also contains spiders and scorpions. Mites are non-monophyletic, which means that the term does not describe a group that all arose from the same ancestor. Instead, mites are considered the organisms that compose the superorders Parasitiformes (including ticks and their relatives) and Acariformes (which includes dust mites, fur mites, and chiggers).

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While many mites are parasitic to people and pets, others are not. The family Trombidiidae contains many species of mites that are nonparasitic and commonly referred to as red velvet mites. Velvet mites are often bright red and velvety in appearance, hence their name. They are also often called rain bugs because they emerge quickly after it rains. While they are sometimes referred to as “red velvet bugs,” this name implies that they are insects, which they are not. There are nearly 300 species of velvet mites currently known across the world and potentially many, many more.

Red Velvet Mite Appearance

All arachnids are characterized by having eight legs, which is often the quickest way to differentiate them from insects. As they are arachnids, adult velvet mites also possess eight legs. Fully developed red velvet mites have two body segments: the larger abdomen which is elongated and dimpled and the cephalothorax, which is much smaller and may be difficult to see with the naked eye.

Most red velvet mites are incredibly small and thus often slip by unnoticed. In fact, most species are less than an eighth of an inch in total length (or just slightly over a third of a centimeter). A single group of velvet mites (often referred to as giant velvet mites) are the exception to this trend and may be up to half an inch in total length.

Red Velvet Mite Defined

There’s red velvet cake. There’s red velvet carpet. And there’s even a South Korean band called Red Velvet. But a red velvet mite? Yep, there’s one of those, too. The red velvet mite is a small predatory arachnid belonging to the Trombidiidae family. There are thousands of species of red velvet mite and they can be found all over the world, from Canada to Africa. They come in a wide range of sizes, from about the size of a pinhead to around two centimeters in length.

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Chances are you haven’t heard of red velvet mites, but after this lesson you won’t be able to get them out of your head. From their red velvet beanbag appearance to their bizarre mating habits, they are certainly memorable. Let’s begin with their life cycle.

Red Velvet Mite Life Cycle

The cycle of the red velvet mite contains multiple stages from conception to adulthood. Reproduction starts with a complex mating ritual. Mites attempting to mate will display intricate dances that involve spinning, touching one another, and even depositing bits of webbing-like thread. Once mating has been established, the male deposits his sperm as a small structure known to as a spermatophore. Males do not fertilize eggs directly, but instead leave their genetic material for females to collect on their own. Males will build a trail to the location where they deposit their sperm. Females that are impressed by the dance and trail will pass over the male’s spermatophore and pick it up, using it to fertilize their eggs. Fertilized eggs are laid in soil.

A few short months after being deposited by the mother, eggs hatch and pre-larvae emerge. Pre-larvae are small, underdeveloped larvae which must mature into proper larvae after multiple days. The true larval stage occurs next. Red velvet mite larvae appear insect-like in form as they have six legs instead of the characteristic eight that arachnids are known for. This stage of the mite’s life cycle is parasitic and depends on nutrients from a host in order to survive. True insects serve as hosts for larval red velvet mites, which obtain their nutrients by siphoning blood via a hole they drill into the insect’s exoskeleton. The host also serves as a form of transportation, as mites that adhere to mobile insects are carried away from their original birthing location. Thus, their parasitic lifestyle at this stage also serves as a form of dispersal.

Red Velvet Mite: Life Cycle

Remember, there are over a thousand red velvet mite species, so this is a general overview. We’ll start with the eggs and end with adults.

1. Eggs and Pre-Larvae

The story of the red velvet mite begins with the eggs, which are laid in clumps of 60 to 100,000 (depending upon the species) in wet soil. After about two months, the eggs hatch and red velvet mite pre-larvae appear. The pre-larval stage doesn’t last long (one to three days), and during this time the red velvet mite doesn’t do much. It just hangs around in the general region where it hatched.

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2. Larvae

The larvae look different from the adults, having six legs versus eight. And now the real horror begins. Each larva will find an insect, climb on its back, drill a hole through its body and then begin to drink the poor insect’s blood (which is called hemolymph). The insects can still move around, and the little parasitic red velvet larvae will end up far away from where they originally hatched.

3. Protonymph

After a larva gets its fill (usually about two weeks), it will detach and enter the protonymph stage. During this time, the red velvet mite goes dormant and is surrounded by a cuticle (kind of like a pupa) as it develops further.

4. Deutonymph

After the mite comes out of its protective cuticle it has eight legs, and it is now called a deutonymph. The deutonymphs are predatory and spend their time eating everything they can.

5. Tritonymph

The mite is called a tritonymph in the final stage before adulthood. Like the protonymph stage, this is a time of dormancy where the mite doesn’t eat or move.

6. Adult

Finally, the mite enters the adult stage. Adult mites are inactive much of the year but come out after it rains, which has earned them the nickname of ”rain bugs.” For example, in Arizona red velvet mites appear during the rainy season, which overlaps with an increase of prey animals like ants and termites. During that time the mites feed and mate, but once the rainy season is over they go underground and hang out until the rains return.

And now for the best part: red velvet mite mating. The process begins with a male building a ”love garden” by placing a sperm packet (called a spermatophore) on grass and twigs. He will also construct a trail out of silk leading to the love garden, where he will wait until a female mite walks by. #KhabarLive #hydnews #hyderabadnews