predominantly mutualistic; feed on waste of bee larvae, probably outweighing small harmful effect of feeding on pollen; bee hosts have acarinaria to transfer mites

Name and classification

Ctenocolletacarus Fain, 1984

Superorder Acariformes » Order Sarcoptiformes » Suborder Oribatida » Infraorder Desmonomata » Hyporder Astigmata » Family Acaridae » Genus Ctenocolletacarus

Type species
Ctenocolletacarus longirostris Fain, 1984

Common synonyms
In the literature Ctenocolletacarus is treated as a valid genus. However, its adults are indistinguishable from Sancassania and its phoretic deutonymphs have only autapomorphic (unique) diagnostic character states, suggesting that Ctenocolletacarus is part of Sancassania rather than an independent, genus-level lineage.



Bee hosts

ground-nesting bees of the genus Ctenocolletes (Stenotritidae)

Host association level


associated exclusively with bees or their close relative, wasps; cannot live without these hosts


some life stages are associated with bees, while others are not

Facultative or opportunistic

can complete entire life cycle without bees or their close relative, wasps


Host associations, feeding, and dispersal

  • All stages live in sealed brood cells of ground-nesting stenotritid bees of the genus Ctenocolletes endemic to Australia. Mites are univoltine (one generation of mites per one generation of bees or nesting cycle). Mites feed on provisioned pollen as adults, larvae, and early protonymphs. After developing bee larvae defecate, mite protonymphs feed on their feces. Tritonymphs molting from phoretic deutonymphs are immobile and non-feeding.
  • Mite phoretic deutonymphs disperse in the tergal acarinaria of female bees (Figs. 3-5) and on the posteroventral mesosoma of male bees. Venereal transmission of mites from male to female bees is possible during copulation.


Observational data indicate that this bee-mite system is a tradeoff between mites being harmful to the bee when they feed on provisioned pollen and beneficial when they consume waste of developing bee larvae in the nest. The presence of acarinaria on bees suggests predominantly beneficial (mutualistic) bee-mite relationships in this system. Most likely, consuming a small portion of pollen in the brood cell and competing with bee larvae for food have a lesser deleterious effect, as compared to the benefits of the mite's sanitary function.

Detailed biological observations of Ctenocolletacarus mites in bee nests of Ctenocolletes albomarginatus and Ctenocolletes nicholsoni and in the laboratory are available in Houston, 1987.

These mites are closely associated with their hosts at all stages and their complete life cycle occurs in the hosts' sealed brood cells. Only phoretic deutonymphs leave the cells.

Male bees lack tergal acarinaria, so mite phoretic deutonymphs on male bees are usually concealed beneath the transparent posterolateral margins of the more posterior metasomal terga and in the genitalia. Circumstantial evidence suggestis that mite phoretic deutonymphs can be transmitted venereally between adult bees.