Ecological characteristics of insects that affect symbiotic relationships with mites


Correspondence: Kimiko Okabe, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, 1 Matsunosato, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8687, Japan.



Parasites and pathogens that begin as symbionts, i.e., organisms living together in the same habitat, are some of the most promising drivers of species evolution. Because insects are highly diverse and important as ecosystem service agents and because mites can exert large effects on insect populations (capable of killing at least juveniles), insect–mite interactions have been analyzed from various perspectives, including evolutionary, ecological and pest-management perspectives. Here, I review and examine insect–mite symbiotic associations to develop hypotheses concerning the factors that maintain and develop their relationships. Previous studies have hypothesized that insect sociality and mite richness and specificity affect insect–mite interactions. I found that both solitary and social insects, including parasocial and subsocial insects, harbor numbers of symbionts including species-specific ones but few dangerous mite symbionts in their nests or habitats under natural conditions. Nest size or the amount of food resources in a nest may affect mite richness. On the basis of this review, I hypothesize that the insect characteristics relevant for mite symbiotic hosting are sharing the same habitat with mites and living in a nutrient-rich habitat. I also suggest that many cases of species-specific symbiosis began with phoresy. To test these hypotheses, phylogenetic information on mites living with insect groups and quantitative analysis to characterize each insect–mite relationship are necessary.