Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A mite large for a mite

with 16 comments

Tiny Orange Mite on Texas Thistle Flower Head Bracts 4187

It may seem strange for me to describe the tiny orange creature on a bract of this Texas thistle as “a mite large,” but the second part of the title is my justification: “for a mite.” According to the relevant Wikipedia article, “Mites are among the most diverse and successful of all the invertebrate groups. They have exploited an incredible array of habitats, and because of their small size (most are microscopic) go largely unnoticed.” The orange one shown here wasn’t microscopic—you can see it, after all—therefore it’s a mite large for a mite.

I’ve showed several pictures of Cirsium texanum in these pages, but this one gives you a particularly good look at the individual flowers the make up the lower portion of a Texas thistle flower head.

This photograph comes from the same June 13th session on Burnet Rd. near the old Merrilltown Cemetery that not long ago brought you five images of basket-flowers, including an American painted lady butterfly on a fresh one and a tan grasshopper camouflaged on a drying one.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 3, 2013 at 6:18 AM

16 Responses

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  1. Great POV on the flower. The mite looks a little like seed ticks we see in the woods


    July 3, 2013 at 6:50 AM

    • Thanks for appreciating the point of view, Nora. As for the little critter, if it turned out to be a tiny tick rather than a mite, I wouldn’t be surprised. I know so little about entomology.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2013 at 7:02 AM

  2. Thanks for these exceptional photos, Steve!  Your daily posts are such a lovely way to start each day.  And I’m re-learning my Texas wildflowers.

    Sent from AOL Mobile Mail


    July 3, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    • You’re most welcome. Happy Texas wildflowers to you: there are enough of them to last a long, long time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2013 at 7:21 AM

  3. I might’ve known you’d edit the wording! Good catch–and of the insect too! The coloring looks like what I think I’ve heard termed ‘velvet’ mites; I think I’ll have to look this baby up and see what I can learn. As usual, you steer me into interesting tangents of all sorts. Thanks. 🙂


    July 3, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    • You’re welcome, and I might’ve edited the mite more mightily before posting. Inevitably some mistakes make it through, but c’est la vie. I haven’t heard of velvet mites, but I know some cheerful things about tangents (and when I spend a lot of time out in nature I can easily turn into a tan gent if I don’t slather on the sunscreen).

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2013 at 3:15 PM

  4. I’m so convinced of your erudition and careful editing I spent fifteen minutes before work this morning trying to find just a mite more information about – well, “might” and “mite”. I can’t tell you how relieved I am!

    I didn’t know about the velvet mite. The first thing that crossed my mind was the spider mite, which is pretty common and which loves to kill things like Norfolk pines and roses. But this does look big for a spider mite. Pretty color though – and likewise the thistle.


    July 3, 2013 at 9:03 PM

    • I seem to have been mighty distracted when I proofed this post: sorry that took away 15 minutes of your morning. From what you say, spider mites sound as if they might be pretty destructive.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2013 at 10:45 PM

      • I’m always spending those 15 minute chunks on something – the only thing that differs is what’s caught my attention. As for spider mites – the sure sign is a plant that looks whole but has turned crispy brown. It can be a strange sight, because often everything around it is lush and green.


        July 4, 2013 at 6:31 AM

  5. Chris Goforth at The Dragonfly Woman has been gracious helping me identify insects. I bet she can look right at it and give you an idea. I had an enormous spider and web show up last fall and couldn’t even begin to guess it. It turned out to be a common spider that apparently I’d never noticed before.




    July 3, 2013 at 11:15 PM

    • Thanks for your suggestion, Nancy. I see so many little critters out there that I can’t identify.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2013 at 5:58 AM

  6. J’aime beaucoup l’angle de prise de vue pour ce magnifique chardon, j’aime bien aussi faire parfois. Je n’ai jamais vu une si jolie petite mite! mais ai-je la berlue, je vois un autre insecte à droite!


    July 4, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    • Moi aussi j’aime cet angle de prise et je l’emploie assez souvent. Quant à l’existence d’une autre petite créature, je crois que tu as raison: ce semble être une fourmi morte.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2013 at 4:48 PM

  7. We’re back in Texas visiting, Steve, and I have noticed the abundance of thistles in the Dallas area. They are a very beautiful flower. Thanks for your mitey outstanding photo.


    July 4, 2013 at 11:22 PM

    • And a mighty warm welcome back to a land so different from the one north of the Arctic Circle that the two hardly seem to belong to the same planet. From your comment I take it that you don’t have many (or any) thistles up there. Enjoy the heat while you can.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 5, 2013 at 5:43 AM

      • If we have them, they haven’t been in bloom while I was there. And I am grateful for the moderated Texas heat. Whoever heard of 80 degree weather here on the 4th of July???


        July 5, 2013 at 9:14 AM

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