2002.08.14 Give some time to a mite

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I’m not embarrassed to admit it. I’ll say it right here in black on white. Sometimes I write stories for this paper just for my own amusement, or just for the challenge.

Why else would I create a two-page spread about a man who studies mites? It’s in the middle of this week’s Observer.

I didn’t intend to make such a big deal of it. I really didn’t have much of an intention at all. Former reporter Brad Whitehouse, now at Adrian College, told me I might want to talk to a retired professor who makes a hobby of researching mites. Brad thought it might make an interesting story.

That sounded good. I like science stories and I figured even a mite might prove to be an interesting subject. It didn’t take me long to get sucked in, as if a giant podapolipid mite wrapped its little mouth parts around my brain and kept my interest.

The first time I “talked” to Dr. Robert Husband (we actually communicated via e-mail), I learned that a bumblebee can have a dozen or more mites riding around on it. That was it. I was hooked.

When I learned that even a tiny flea can carry around several mites, I was sharing Dr. Husband’s fascination. Whether or not you can stand the thought of microscopic arachnids crawling around everywhere, you have to find this stuff amazing. Am I right? You do think it’s fascinating that fleas have mites, don’t you?

That’s the challenge of a story like this. Take an arcane subject that few people care about and try to make it interesting enough for them to read past the headline. In this case, there are several headlines. Remember, I made big deal out of little mites.

Mites are cousins of spiders and scorpions, and they live in your ears. It’s OK; don’t be embarrassed. You would be hard pressed to find an animal that didn’t have mites. You and I are both animals, you know.

I don’t mean to suggest that everyone reading this has mites crawling around on them, but the odds are in favor of the mites. If you don’t have any today, perhaps you will next week or the next time you walk outside. They’re everywhere.

Most mites have little appendages called setae that function like arms or fingers. You might call them feelers, because mites can use them to feel their way around.

But in the amazing world of mites, there are some who use their setae like a nose. There’s a chemical process that allows them to “smell” their way around with their feelers.

Most internal mites use body openings to make their way inside. They might crawl up through a bee’s nose (the spiracle, actually) or some other convenient orifice. But in the amazing world of mites, some species secrete a fluid that dissolves a cockroach’s outer covering. It’s a slow journey, but eventually a little tunnel leads to a good meal inside or at least a wonderful place to reproduce.

My mite story isn’t only about tiny arachnids. It’s also about a normal size human, Dr. Husband. His work is really quite remarkable, too.

He scrapes mites off beetles and places them under a microscope to study. He makes detailed drawings while looking through the scope. He takes a hundred measurements of a tiny beast that can’t even be seen by the so-called naked eye. It’s such tedious, disciplined work, but the rigors of his weird hobby lead to the discovery of new animals never before identified.

How can you pass by a story like that? How can you help but set aside 15 or 20 minutes this evening to check out the details? And wait until you see the pictures. They’re irresistible.

So I turn back to my original statement: Sometimes I write for my own amusement. Sometimes I spend hours and hours with the challenge of an unusual story that I know few people will read.

I’ve made my pitch. Take the mites or leave them, but know that I had a darn good time writing about them. Sometimes I just need a break from the weekly routine.

    – Aug. 14, 2002 
  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Front.batter

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017