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Systematics, phylogeny and biogeography

Acarinaria in associations of apid bees (Hymenoptera) and chaetodactylid mites (Acari)

Pavel B. Klimov A C , S. Bradleigh Vinson B and Barry M. OConnor A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology, 1109 Geddes Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1079, USA.

B Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, TAMU 2475, College Station, TX 77843-2475, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Invertebrate Systematics 21(2) 109-136
Submitted: 2 June 2006  Accepted: 23 February 2007   Published: 21 May 2007


Acarinaria are specialised structures on the bodies of insects that harbour dispersing mites, providing a secure attachment place for the mites. The structures are best known among bees and wasps. Their presence remains enigmatic, however, since the associated mites often have negative or neutral effects on their hosts. A new hypothesis explaining the origin of the acarinarium as a specialised defence mechanism is proposed. In nests with partitions (as constructed by many bees and wasps), parasitic or cleptoparasitic mites are rarely found in all cells. They negatively interact only with host larvae developing in infested cells and apparently cannot disperse within the nest to attack others in the developing brood before bee emergence. Only when emerging bees break the partitions can the mites reach other hosts. We propose that acarinaria serve to concentrate unwanted mites, reducing the chance that they will disperse to other members of the brood as the infested host leaves the nest. Development of special mite pouches (acarinaria) by hymenopteran hosts presumably increases the likelihood that all mites will stay with the individual(s) with reduced fitness, thereby reducing their effect on other bees in the brood. This paper reviews the associations between chaetodactylid mites and long-tongued bees (Apidae and Megachilidae). Only apid bees (Apidae) have acarinaria; megachilid bees, which harbour species of Chaetodactylus that usually kill the bee larvae, do not possess acarinaria. The following associations involving previously undescribed acarinaria or mite species are reported: Achaetodactylus ceratinae (axillar acarinarium on Ceratina nigriceps); Roubikia latebrosa, sp. nov. (metasomal acarinarium on Tetrapedia sp.), Sennertia argentina (genital acarinarium on Xylocopa fimbriata), Sennertia devincta, sp. nov., Sennertia sayutara, sp. nov. (metasomal acarinaria on Ceratina (Zadontomerus) spp.), Sennertia lauta, sp. nov. and Sennertia ratiocinator, sp. nov. (incipient scutellar–metanotal acarinarium on Xylocopa (Zonohirsuta) spp.). In the latter case, the mites display a remarkable difference in the attachment sites between male and female hosts. In females, the mites are phoretic in a groove between the scutellum and metanotum (scutellar–metanotal acarinarium), whereas on males, mites attach to the hairs of the anterior scutum.


We would like to acknowledge the curators of the following museums who provided access to host bee specimens and mite collections used in this study: Drs. Jerome G. Rozen and John S. Ascher (American Museum of Natural History, New York), Brian V. Brown (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County), James Liebherr (Cornell University, Ithaca, New York), Wojciech Pulawski (California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco), Alfred Newton and Mr. Philip Parrillo (Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois), and Colin Favret (Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, Illinois). G. Hammond (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) and the editor of Invertebrate Systematics made very useful comments that substantially improved the readability of the manuscript. Appreciation is also extended to Jane Dykema, Jill Diesel, and Randa Tao (undergraduate assistants at the University of Michigan) for their help in mounting, labelling, and databasing mite specimens. This work was supported by grants from the United States Department of Agriculture (CSREES #2002–35302–12654) and NSF DEB-0118766 (PEET).


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Appendix 1.  Measurements (µm) of three chaetodactylid species; holotype, range (mean ± s.d.)
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Appendix 2.  Measurements (µm) of two species of the Sennertia horrida-group (holotype, range (mean ± s.d.))

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