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.