, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 79-85

Evaluation of the benefits of a myrmecophilous oribatid mite, Aribates javensis, to a myrmicine ant, Myrmecina sp.

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Abstract

I studied the myrmicine ant Myrmecina sp. A in West Java, Indonesia, which had the obligately myrmecophilous oribatid mite Aribates javensis in its nests. The oribatid mites cannot survive without ant attendance. The ants rarely eat living mites, but they feed on the mites in case of food shortage and after death of the mites. I examined the effects of the oribatid mites as food on the host ants. Egg production by ergatoid (i.e. permanently wingless) queens and larval survival of ant colonies, as well as survival and egg laying of isolated ant workers were investigated. The presence of oribatid mites had no effects on egg production by ergatoid queens and survival of the ant larvae neither in the presence of abundant food nor under starvation conditions. Survival of adult workers was not affected by the presence of oribatid mites, but egg production by workers was significantly enhanced by feeding on mites. The present results indicate that the oribatid mites had slight but significant nutritional effects on the host ants.