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Rules for Nest Sanitation in a Social Spider Mite, Schizotetranychus miscanthi Saito (Acari: Tetranychidae)


Yukie Sato, Laboratory of Animal Ecology, Department of Ecology and Systematics, Graduate School of Agriculture, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060-8589, Japan. E-mail:


Waste management behavior is essential to achieve nest sanitation that is highly inferential on the evolution of group living because nest waste is an inevitable cost. However, how group living animals dispose of waste has not attracted much attention. Schizotetranychus miscanthi Saito is a social spider mite infesting a perennial grass (Miscanthus sinensis Anderss), in which all nest members tend to defecate at specific sites. We investigated the mechanisms by which the individuals select the site of defecation. The results show that nest members defecate at only one site inside the nest, and that waste management is maintained by two simple rules. First, mites defecate near the nest entrances if no volatile chemical cues are available, and secondly, when chemical cues are available from feces deposited previously, they defecate at this site. We discuss the adaptive significance of these mechanisms, as well as their role in the evolution of sociality in mites.