We studied developmental plasticity under food stress in three female-biased size dimorphic predatory mite species, Phytoseiulus persimilis, Neoseiulus californicus, and Amblyseius andersoni. All three species prey on two-spotted spider mites but differ in the degree of adaptation to this prey. Phytoseiulus persimilis is a specialized spider mite predator, N. californicus is a generalist with a preference for spider mites, and A. andersoni is a broad generalist. Immature predators were offered prey patches of varying density and their survival chances, dispersal tendencies, age and size at maturity measured. Amblyseius andersoni dispersed earlier from and had lower survival chances in low density prey patches than N. californicus and P. persimilis. Age at maturity was not affected by prey density in the generalist A. andersoni, whereas both the specialist P. persimilis and the generalist N. californicus accelerated development at low prey densities. Species-specific plasticity in age at maturity reflects opposite survival strategies when confronted with limited prey: to prematurely leave and search for other food (A. andersoni) or to stay and accelerate development (P. persimilis, N. californicus). In all species, size at maturity was more plastic in females than males, indicating that males incur higher fitness costs from deviations from optimal body size. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 102, 650–660.