Beetle mites

Although they are not insects, these eight-legged wonders are like miniature pac-men and pac-women. Appearing as tiny dots to the superficial glance, these critters are part of the infantry of decomposition, probably second only to bacteria in terms of small creatures who are consistently underestimated, underappreciated, and generally overlooked by composters.

Years ago, during one presentation on worm composting, the speaker casually referred to these creatures as “tiny white thingies”.We know better now.

However small they may be, soil mites are reliable workers in the worm bins and outdoor compost systems. While it remains unclear how essential they are to the overall process of indoor vermiculture systems, their presence undeniably indicates healthy and bio-active soil. In fact, the same speaker of the worm bin presentation handed out sample packets of worm castings, and by doing so also handed out little sample packs of microdecomposers. In the tiny packets were a surprising number of mites, springtails, and small worms called Enchytraeids.

Using Soil Mites to Discuss Overpopulation, Food Scarcity
Though their tiny size might render them unimportant in the eyes of folks who attach importance to larger animals, these eight-legged beasts provide perfect fodder for talking about human population and food scarcity. Why? Because beetle mites will reproduce at their regular speed whether or not there is sufficient food present to support their populations. So, while they may have food on Monday, they are completely unconscious to the fact that their food supply may run out by the following Monday. In other words they, like many human societies, don’t plan their food production to meet the growing demands of their population..

So, in the spirit of unbridled urban sprawl, these creatures may be more human than we give them credit for.

On a somewhat different note, the “galaxy clusters” they form on various food chunks make compost fodder look almost bejewelled under a microscope.

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