Unknown predatory mite

Asked July 2, 2019, 1:04 AM EDT

I believe I have discovered an unknown predatory mite. How can I verify that this species is indeed undescribed? The first included micrograph shows an individual on the point of a needle. The second micrograph shows the mites feeding on a beetle pupa test subject. They are completely engorged and continue to feed until the prey has been completely drained of all internal fluids.

Valencia County New Mexico entomology mites pest insects and mites

8 Responses

Mites are difficult to study and identify to genus as it is. Going to species is a whole different matter.

If you get into the scientific literature on mite taxonomy, you'll see what I mean. You might try a variety of web sites using various key words like: mite systematics, Acarina, Phytoseidae One family with predatory species in it is the Phytoseidae. You'll find others during your search.

Slide mounting your specimens will be needed for identification---as far as you can get. If you discover a mite systematist who might be interested in helping you, that would be a big boost to your project. There will be scientific terminology and possibly even dissection involved in determining if what you have found is different from something already described.

In general, acarine systematics is not as far advanced as insect systematics---which may or may not be helpful in the long run. To 'take a peek' at what is involved in mite identification---to family level---you might be able to find a manual by Dr. Gerald Krantz (OR State University, long since retired, most likely).

An excellent microscope would be essential equipment as well as that photographic equipment you have. With your mites on slides, that's where photography would be very helpful. Slide mounting requires some equipment and supplies plus lots of practice. Mount and label lots of material for making illustrations---or---taking good micrographs.

In general, mites have little or 'no' metamorphosis as they develop. Some mites you will mount will turn out to be immature stages, so you'll be working out what the differences are in each stage, most likely.

If you read some of the mite systematics literature you'll get some ideas on what needs to be included in a manuscript that you'll write for scientific publication. A lot of stress could be alleviated by finding a mite systematist willing to work with you.

Before that manuscript is published in an appropriate journal, it will be reviewed by several experts in the field. You'll get the manuscript returned with reviewer comments as well as their recommendations for publication or not or referencing a different journal all together. Work with their comments, address their issues and try again.

Bottom line is that you have quite a way to go to get your job done. Description is step one, publication is step two and biological studies to determine what it does to prey, prey variety (generalist, most likely) might be step three.

But you are observing something that possibly no one else has observed. Forge on and good luck with your project.

I appreciate your comments and advice.
I am a tree surgeon and field pathologist. I study bugs to kill them and save trees. I have a well equipped lab and am in the planning stages of adding DNA sequencing capabilities (PCR) to support my business. I have both stereo optical and digital microscopes and full photographic capabilities. I have observed the complete life cycle of these mites and my experiments show they will feed on all soft bodied prey and even sedated spiders. They are not equipped to penetrate the more robust exoskeletons of other host subjects.
I have successfully introduced these mites into bark beetle colonies with a very predictable outcome. Helpless pupae were eradicated and the test tree was cleared of the infestation.
I have scoured taxonomy databases and can find nothing that comes close to this species. The potential of this mite to be used in the fight against other bugs is absolutely staggering. I guard where and when I found them carefully and release no information that would lead anybody to finding them. I spend countless hours searching the trees I work on, as well as the soil column to identify the causes of tree decline. I have seen some pretty cool stuff and like all researchers I don't say much about what I am working on. I may just keep the mites for myself and use them to support my buskness of saving trees. I am actually working on a rearing system for a very important ambrosia beetle and have little time to devote to this mite though someday I will surely do more detailed studies. Unless I find something even more interesting. Which is entirely possible.
Thanks again for your comments.

I see my micrographs are not those I intended. Here is the one I wanted you all to see. Again this is a micrograph of an individual on the point of a #3 entomology pin.

I see my micrographs are not those I intended. Here is the one I wanted you all to see. Again this is a micrograph of an individual on the point of a #3 entomology pin.

Very interesting. I wonder that these little plump round things are deutonymph-like stages that hitch-hike on the integuments of certain insects---like bark beetles or ambrosia beetles. That has been called 'phoresy.'

Somewhere in my collection of old publications---this one I can't find at the moment---but there was something along these lines published in the 1950s or 60s. Mites have oodles of species that are being discovered---and the same with genera. If I can find that old pub (something from USDA, I believe---that could be something to include in any written literature survey.

This is no phoretic mite. I have observed many examples of those little monsters. U have spent hours at my microscope watching them run around the body of their "ride". If they were the size of a large dog we would all be in trouble.
I discovered these mites deep inside pupal chambers feeding on beetle pupae at all points of progress in progress from immature pupae to nearly complete with pigments beginning to fill in. And I believe I mentioned that I tested these things on various sedated bugs. When successfully attached they stay put even after they are engorged. After the death of the host they slowly metabolize what they have taken from the host, shrink in size and move on in search of more food. These things do not leave the host until they have reduced it to a dried up carcass.
The pupal chambers where I found them were safely sealed up which means the mites either rode in on larvae preparing chambers or more likely followed the larvae in and waited for the magic of metamorphosis to begin. I have been experimenting with different forms of stress to force pupation and I have had limited success but only after larvae have constructed pupal chambers and settled down. Often larvae will occupy the chambers only to leave and continue feeding after long rest periods. There are cases of adult beetles emerging from cut wood that had been stacked for 70 years. Beetles that only lay eggs on standing trees gace away the fact that they had been inside the wood waiting for who knows what to pull the "superman in the phone booth" thing. From what I have seen beetle larvae that have not yet constructed pupal chambers will not do so under stress. Stress can initiate metamorphosis but only after the larvae are safely inside chambers constructed for that purpose. Also most of the wood boring larvae I have observed have no set timeline and I have even seen species where individuals molt more times than others of the same species remaining larvae for as long as they choose, apparently.
So I would say these mites followed the larvae into pupal chambers before they were sealed up and waited for metamorphosis to render their victims completely defenseless. I also surveyed larvae present in the colony and found no trace of mite infestation. As I said I have also seen many examples of phoresis but only on soil dwelling larvae and adult beetles. I have never seen the hitchikers inside wood. Another point is that the phoretic mites I have observed are fast. They can run circles around larvae.
I quickly found literature on various phoretic species of mites as they are quite common. I cannot find anything close to the mites I found. Not a word about mites that kill like these things do.
I appreciate your input and love reading what you have to say. I think I will dedicate more effort to finding more of them. I do love a good bug hunt and these things are like finding a needle in a haystack. I essentially am the type to inspect every single piece of hay under the microscope searching and I usually always find what I am looking for.

JMH

This is no phoretic mite. I have observed many examples of those little monsters. U have spent hours at my microscope watching them run around the body of their "ride". If they were the size of a large dog we would all be in trouble.
I discovered these mites deep inside pupal chambers feeding on beetle pupae at all points of progress in progress from immature pupae to nearly complete with pigments beginning to fill in. And I believe I mentioned that I tested these things on various sedated bugs. When successfully attached they stay put even after they are engorged. After the death of the host they slowly metabolize what they have taken from the host, shrink in size and move on in search of more food. These things do not leave the host until they have reduced it to a dried up carcass.
The pupal chambers where I found them were safely sealed up which means the mites either rode in on larvae preparing chambers or more likely followed the larvae in and waited for the magic of metamorphosis to begin. I have been experimenting with different forms of stress to force pupation and I have had limited success but only after larvae have constructed pupal chambers and settled down. Often larvae will occupy the chambers only to leave and continue feeding after long rest periods. There are cases of adult beetles emerging from cut wood that had been stacked for 70 years. Beetles that only lay eggs on standing trees gace away the fact that they had been inside the wood waiting for who knows what to pull the "superman in the phone booth" thing. From what I have seen beetle larvae that have not yet constructed pupal chambers will not do so under stress. Stress can initiate metamorphosis but only after the larvae are safely inside chambers constructed for that purpose. Also most of the wood boring larvae I have observed have no set timeline and I have even seen species where individuals molt more times than others of the same species remaining larvae for as long as they choose, apparently.
So I would say these mites followed the larvae into pupal chambers before they were sealed up and waited for metamorphosis to render their victims completely defenseless. I also surveyed larvae present in the colony and found no trace of mite infestation. As I said I have also seen many examples of phoresis but only on soil dwelling larvae and adult beetles. I have never seen the hitchikers inside wood. Another point is that the phoretic mites I have observed are fast. They can run circles around larvae.
I quickly found literature on various phoretic species of mites as they are quite common. I cannot find anything close to the mites I found. Not a word about mites that kill like these things do.
I appreciate your input and love reading what you have to say. I think I will dedicate more effort to finding more of them. I do love a good bug hunt and these things are like finding a needle in a haystack. I essentially am the type to inspect every single piece of hay under the microscope searching and I usually always find what I am looking for.

JMH
P.S. Hey Doc I am surprised we have not crossed paths over the years. I am based in Valencia county but I do alot of work in ABQ and people have been refered to me by nurseries, the botanical garden, the man who used to write the gardening column in the journal and be the extention. Somebody there had personal knowlege of my diagnostic and identification skills. Some call me the "Dr. House" of the tree business because really good diagnosticians are very under represented in the tree business. Almost 35 years of field work puts me well above the experience level of most field pathologists who also climb and put the saw to the wood. Saving trees is what I do but I seem to study more bugs than trees these days. Can't believe I am paid to do this!
You guys do great work at the extention though I have thrown out a few bad calls made by extension people. :) Keep up the good work!

With all of your notes---make sure you write it down somewhere for future reference---especially if you have done experiments (planting mites in certain circumstances, observations over time for predation events, etc. That will come in handy when you write this piece for publication. If you can determine which journal will be your target, copy their requirements for manuscripts so you'll have things in order. That way, the editor can send it out for review right away---good impression generated.

Good luck with your project.

BTW---I have been a PhD entomologist since 1974 and associated with NMSU and NMDA since 1980. I do the arthropod identifications for the state---agents and all of the public---from both agencies. I'm the usual presenter at the CEU workshops held at state and regional levels---and do a number of these presentations for counties, too. Master Gardeners; Kids, Kows and More and various commodity conferences are my usual haunts. Surprised I haven't run into you, too---but this state is huge.