Pollen and nectar feeders occur on flowers of various plants and use bees and other insects (orders Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera, and Diptera) for dispersal. During a worker honey bee foraging trip, these mites can “hitch-hike” on the bee to be brought back to the colony, where the mites then feed on stored pollen (Delfinado-Baker et al., 1989). The number of Neocypholaelaps favus mites in a single colony reached up to 3,000 individuals in Japan (Ishikawa, 1968). Bees in such hives may become phoretic hosts to large numbers of mites. Up to 400 N. indica have been recorded on an individual Apis cerana (Ramanan and Swaraj, 1984). Bees carrying large numbers of phoretic mites might exhibit "discomfort" and attempt to remove the mites, and presumably their ability to fly is impaired (Eickwort, 1990).
The lifestyle decribed above is characteristic of mite species normally collected from adult honey bees (Apis), for example, Neocypholaelaps indica. Mite species found on other apid bees (Amegilla, Ctenoplectra, and Xylocopa) probably have a similar biology. Bees of the genus Thyreus that are kletoparasitic on Amegilla serve as phoretic hosts.
In contrast, some mite species (Neocypholaelaps phooni and N. malayensis) associated with stingless bees (Heterotrigona, Geniotrigona, Tetragonula, and Meliponula) develop more intimate associations with their hosts. The life cycle occurs entirely inside the bee nests, where they consume pollen and detritus, and there is no evidence of parasitism in the brood or on adults (Baker and Delfinado-Baker, 1985).
Host plant species have not been extensively studied for Neocypholaelaps, although a few records are available for some mite species. Neocypholaelaps indica, with 34 recorded host plant species (Mo, 1972), is the best studied mite in this respect.