Posted by: scrubmuncher | July 29, 2011

A mite problem…

Mites have developed quite a niche for themselves in parasitising other arthropods, even other arachnids. Opiliones, the so-called harvestmen are often singled out by these haemolymph sucking varmints. The mites latch on to the gangly harvestman and search for chinks in its suit of chitinous armour – normally, these are to be found where the legs articulate with the body or on the legs themselves. Once the mites have found a suitable spot they plunge their mouthparts into the body of the harvestman and begin sucking its nutritious haemolymph.

The poor victim in the photo below was found in northern Spain and it was infested with no less than nine of these free-loaders. Just what harm they cause their host is unknown, but they can’t be doing it a world of good. A lot of mites are only parasitic when they’re young, forsaking this lifestyle for free, clean living as predators amongst the leaf litter when they reach adulthood. For the harvestman below this can’t come soon enough.

The amusing body-plan of a harvestman means that parasites on the bases of its legs are just about impossible to get rid of (Ross Piper)

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Responses

  1. Great post and very nice shot. How do we tell if the mites are parasitic or phorectic?

    • Ta, Kurt. The phorectic mites are normally mobile and will scuttle all over the host, while the parasitic ones are normally stuck in one place with their mouthparts plugged into the hapless victim. I don’t know if you can see in the image, but the mites are clinging on with embedded mouthparts rather than with their legs.


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