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Phoretic dispersal on bumblebees by bromeliad flower mites (Mesostigmata, Melicharidae)

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Nectarivorous flower mites (Mesostigmata: Melicharidae) live mostly on hummingbird-pollinated plants in the New World. We observed Proctolaelaps sp. living on Neoregelia johannis (Bromeliaceae) in a coastal rain forest site in south-eastern Brazil. Flower anthesis of this bromeliad lasted a single day. We recorded mites moving into, feeding from, presumably mating and reproducing, and exiting bromeliad flowers within just a single day. We observed three ant species predating flower mites on bromeliads. The main visitor was the bumblebee Bombus morio, which always landed on the inflorescence to access nectar inside the bromeliad flowers. We found Proctolaelaps sp. mites on 47% of 38 bumblebees inspected, with each Bombus hosting 2 mites on average; only adults and mostly female mites (93%) usually found on the bumblebees’ gula region of the head. This is the first study to document nectarivorous flower mites living on a melittophilous host plant using bumblebees for phoretic dispersal.

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We thank G. Martinelli, C. Matos and F.S. Castro, for identification of bromeliad, bees and ants, respectively. We also thank one anonymous reviewer and R.K. Colwell for comments and suggestions on the manuscript. This work was conducted during Ecology Field Course totally supported by Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia at Universidade Estadual de Campinas, coordinated by W.W. Benson and A.V.L. Freitas. T.J. Guerra was supported by doctoral scholarship from CAPES. G.Q. Romero was supported by research grants from Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP, grants 04/13658-5 and 05/51421-0).

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Correspondence to T. J. Guerra.

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Guerra, T.J., Romero, G.Q., Costa, J.C. et al. Phoretic dispersal on bumblebees by bromeliad flower mites (Mesostigmata, Melicharidae). Insect. Soc. 59, 11–16 (2012).

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