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Nature Notebook – Mites

“I want to suck your blood,” said the mite to the harvestman (aka daddy-longlegs). More precisely, the mite wants the harvestman’s hemolymph, the arthropod version of blood.

The larval mite is the mooching distant cousin that is unwelcome at the arachnid family reunion. The six-legged larva attaches for its meal by piercing its host’s exoskeleton with the mite version of a spider “fang.” It manufactures a cementing substance at the attachment site and the inserted end swells up to ensure that the hungry sucker stays in place until it is full. When it has had enough to eat, the larva drops off and completes its metamorphosis into a tiny, eight-legged hunter.

Although, technically, they are microscopic, these larval mites are easy to spot. They look like bright red beads adorning their unlucky terrestrial or aquatic hosts.