scavenger or mutualist; feeds on various microorganisms in bee nests

Name and classification

Histiostoma Kramer, 1876

Superorder Acariformes » Order Sarcoptiformes » Suborder Oribatida » Infraorder Desmonomata » Hyporder Astigmata » Family Histiostomatidae » Genus Histiostoma

Type species
Histiostoma pectineum Kramer, 1876 (=Hypopus feroniarum Dufour, 1839)

Common synonyms
Phyllostoma Kramer, 1876 (nom. preocc.); Zschachia Oudemans, 1929. In literature, the name Histiostoma has been used to group species now assigned to genera Histiostoma and Anoetus.


Phoretic deutonymph: Solenidion ω1 of leg I positioned directly on tibia, associated with tibial solenidion phi (φ) (Fig.4); claws III and IV large (as compared to membranous ambulacra); claw III hooked; and claw IV hooked (Fig. 6) or linear (Figs. 22, 24).

Other diagnostic characters

Phoretic deutonymph: Empodial claws I-IV simple (not bifurcated) (Fig. 4, 5). Tarsus III and IV with a weak, flexible region in middle of segment (Fig. 6). Pretarsus III and IV with empodial claws (Fig. 6). Trochanters I-II without setae. Anterior prodorsum without a pair of brown pigmented areas (Fig. 1). Anterior edge of dorsal hysterosoma entire, smooth (not scalloped) (Fig. 3). Anterolateral region of hysterosoma without lens-like organs (Fig. 3). Hysterosomal setae c1, d1, and e1 filiform (not lanceolate) (Fig. 1). Attachment organ wider than long (Fig. 6). Coxal fields III-IV closed (Fig. 2). Setae of coxae I and III (1a and 3a) either all filiform or all conoidal (Fig. 2). Gnathosoma elongate (Fig. 2) or subquadrate (Fig. 23).

Female: Pretarsi with membranous ambulacrum short, not bilobed (Fig. 11). Posterior genital "rings" not associated with the anus (Figs. 8, 10). Coxal setae I, III, IV present (Fig. 8). Palps well developed (Fig. 9). Dorsal sclerite present (Figs. 7, 9). Anterior genital "rings" laterally positioned between transverse arms of coxal apodemes II-III (Fig. 8). Empodial claws not elongated, claw-like and hooked (Fig. 11).

Male: Paranal suckers absent (Fig. 15). Aedeagus thin, short and posteriorly directed (Fig. 15). With two pairs of genital rings (Fig. 15). Mouthparts and setation normal (Fig. 14). External vertical setae short, not extending over the gnathosoma (Fig. 14). Dorsal setae filiform (not heavily barbed or blade-like) (Fig. 14). Pretarsal ambulacra simple, not bilobed, empodial claws hook-like (Fig. 16). Body form and sclerotization variable; if propodosoma and opisthosoma each covered by a reticulate sclerite, then setae d1 far posterior to cp. Setae h1 usually ventral in position.

Similar genera

Phoretic deutonymphs of Histiostoma are very similar to those of Anoetus. In Histiostoma claws III-IV are large (as compared to width of membranous ambulacra), claw III is claw-like, claw IV either claw-like or linear; gnathosoma is subquadrate or elongated. In Anoetus, claws III - IV are very small (as compared to width of membranous ambulacra), thin, and linear; gnathosoma is subquadrate.


Worldwide, including subantarctic islands. Species found in associations with bees have been recorded from the Nearctic, Palaearctic, Oriental, and African (including Madagascar) regions.

Bee hosts

Among bees, this genus has been found in associations with Heriades, Xenoglossa, Apis, and Xylocopa.

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

facultative in Histiostoma feroniarum and Histiostoma polypori

permanent in Histiostoma conclavicola, Histiostoma heriades, and Histiostoma inquilinus

Host associations, feeding, and dispersal

Bee specialists Histiostoma conclavicola, Histiostoma heriades, and Histiostoma inquilinus

  • All stages live in nests of solitary bees. Feeding habits are unknown.
  • Phoretic deutonymphs disperse on adult bees. They are sometimes found in acarinaria, Histiostoma inquilinus group in the metasomal acarinarium of Xenoglossa (Fig. 26), and Histiostoma conclavicola in the metasomal acarinarium of Xylocopa nigrita along with other mites (Figs. 27, 28).

Habitat generalist Histiostoma feroniarum

  • All stages can be found together in several habitats. They can invade hives of honey bees, where they probably feed on decomposing or microorganism-infested organic matter.
  • Phoretic deutonymphs disperse on any suitable host, such as various insects that can enter beehives, rather than on adult bees.

Earwig specialist Histiostoma polypori

  • Feeding stages briefly feed on dead nymphs of earwigs. They may consume similar food in bee hives.
  • Phoretic deutonymphs attach to and disperse on earwigs and can enter beehives with these hosts.
  • They probably cannot reproduce sustainably in beehives.


These mites are common and live in a wide variety of terrestrial and semiaquatic freshwater habitats, where they primarily feed on various microorganisms by filtering them from the substrate using their modified, brush like chelicerae. Some species are habitat generalists, though several show some degree of specialization to a particular host, such as bark beetles, scarab beetles, ants, earwigs, or bees.

Three species are bee specialists, found only on adult bees as phoretic deutonymphs: Histiostoma conclavicola, Histiostoma heriades, and Histiostoma inquilinus. It is interesting that Histiostoma inquilinus may be found in the metasomal acarinarium (pockets between overlapping tergites and sternites 1-3) of bees of the genus Xenoglossa (Figs. 25, 26). This may suggest a mutualistic association similar to that described for Anoetus, offering protection from microorganisms to developing bees and their food. H. conclavicola has been found in the unpaired metasomal acarinarium of the large carpenter bee Xylocopa in Africa (Figs. 27, 28). H. conclavicola occurs relatively more rarely than other mite species (e.g., Dinogamasus and Sennertia), so it is unlikely that the bee's acarinaria have evolved in response to this mite.

Histiostoma feroniarum is a generalist, probably cosmopolitan species, known from a variety of habitats with moist, decomposing organic matter such as rotten vegetables, soil, compost, litter, and bird nests. This mite species, like many other histiostomatids, is a microorganism-feeder that uses its modified chelicerae to filter microorganisms from the substrate. Phoretic deutonymphs have been found on a great variety of hosts, ranging from Myriapoda to Coleoptera. This species occasionally enters beehives, probably with their insect carriers, which are attracted to various food sources available in beehives.

Histiostoma polypori is normally associated with the earwig Forficula auricularia, which builds a nest and has advanced parental care. The mites usually stay on the adult female earwig as phoretic deutonymphs. Forficula auricularia can enter beehives and bring with it both Histiostoma polypori (an earwig specialist) and Histiostoma feroniarum (a very broad generalist) (Chmielewski, 2010). This can account for records of these mite species in beehives (Chmielewski, 1991a; Sumangala and Haq, 2001). Histiostoma polypori, being an earwig specialist, probably cannot form sustainable populations in beehives in the absence of its principal host.