Red mites bring out the whirling dervish

Local | Georgina Noyce Apr 17, 2018
This year the tiny red scuttling insect that appears in the spring seems to have spread to places other than my back garden.

No one I have asked is quite sure what they are, but a South African friend says they might be clover mites and are not harmful. It is just gross-looking when you squash them, because they leave behind a red smear, which is not blood but a pigment in their bodies.

The trouble for most of us though is that even if something doesn't bite, our instinctive reaction is the feeling that our skin is crawling, hairs feel as if they are standing on end and a primal need to scratch.

Seated on a plastic chair under a canvas awning at the weekend, in a sandy paddock at a stable, I waited for a thunderstorm to pass overhead.

We have had worse thunder and much more lightning and while the rain looked more like a solid curtain than random drops of water, it was fairly sheltered and at least 20 meters from any grass in all directions.

So when my skin started crawling and the hair on my arms stood to attention, I thought it was just an errant breeze passing cold air over my already wet clothing.

Looking down, however, I spotted tiny, red crawling things heading from the back of my hand into the shelter of my jacket sleeve.

Crowded together, they wouldn't cover more than a pin head, but I could make out dozens of the little darlings about to turn me into a whirling dervish as I flung my hand out, shaking it all about, brushing at my hand and arm and swearing under my breath as I jived around making sure I had got rid of my visitors.

Later someone told me that from a distance I looked as if I was hand-dancing to the still-playing music from the riding competition we had temporarily suspended and I wasn't willing to disabuse them of that idea.

After all, I am quite happy sharing space with dozens of half-tonne horses and don't mind in the slightest when they lean against me, so to be caught frantically getting rid of a tiny little insect that doesn't even bite, sounds awfully cowardly.

Georgina Noyce is an equestrian judge, and has a menagerie of adopted four-legged waifs and strays.

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March 2019