Surrounded by snow and ice, I was warmed by looking back at these pictures from May. I had been hiking through the riparian plantings and took some pictures of bedstraw or cleavers (Galium aparine). Even if you don't know the name you have probably picked up some of it tromping through the fields or woods. Unlike many annoying seeds, these are easily removed.
This weedy plant probably sets the record for the most common names of any organism, including cleavers, clivers, bedstraw, goosegrass, catchweed, stickyweed, sticky bob, stickybud, robin-run-the-hedge, sticky willy, sticky willow, stickyjack, stickeljack, grip grass and velcro plant. It is used by some as a medicinal poltice, infusion or tea. The tiny sticky hairs have been adapted to straining milk and create stable shaped mattress ticking. The fruits can be dried and roasted as a substitute for coffee.
This cleaver above also served as a pedestal for a red velvet mite ( RVM}. Mites are arachnids as are spiders, harvestmen, scorpions and the ever popular ticks. Like ticks they have six legs in the first instar, then graduate to eight legs from then to adulthood. RVMs are members of the Trombididiidae family of mites which gives us several thousand species to choose from. The larvae of a few species are our familiar blood-sucking chiggers.
Most RVM are not chiggers and it is hard to find good reputable photographs of real chigger mites. There are several species with the blood-sucking habit, the most common being Trombicula alfreddugesi. Their larva sticks its proboscis into our skin and injects digestive juice which hardens into a tube called a stylosome, the source of the itching inflammation as described here by Missouri University.
The Bug Lady gives an interesting description of their love life as the male deposits his sperm on a leaf and leaves a silk trail to lead a female to his gift.
Adult RVMs are our friends, consuming insect eggs and small insects on our plants. With so many different species to choose from, it is unlikely that our friend here is a chigger parent, but we will never know.
MDC has more information at this link.