SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

The mite Antennophorus grandis (Berlese, 1903) is a large obligate ectoparasite of workers of the ant Lasius flavus(Fabricius). It rides under the head of the ants and uses its long front legs to communicate with its hosts and stimulate them to give it food. We present allometric and morphometric data showing that L. flavus workers can occur in two size classes. We also present the first quantitative ethograms of mite-bearing and mite-free L. flavus workers of the two size categories. The mites tend to occur on the smaller nurse workers and receive food from them at an extremely high frequency. Antennophorus grandis also frequently gain food when one ant is donating food to the one they are riding upon. The mites seem to inhibit the ability of their host worker to show most social behaviours such as tending ant larvae. The mites frequently move from one host worker to another. For these reasons the mites may have a larger impact upon their host colony than their relative rarity first suggests. The ants do not seem to have any specific defence against these parasites. The mites live in small populations and show female-biased sex ratios consistent with local mate competition. Preliminary evidence suggests that the mites have haplodiploid sex determination which may explain how they are able to adapt their sex allocation to their population size.