Phoretic dispersal on bumblebees by bromeliad flower mites (Mesostigmata, Melicharidae)
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Nectarivorous flower mites (Mesostigmata: Melicharidae) live mostly on hummingbird-pollinated plants in the New World. We observed Proctolaelaps sp. living on Neoregelia johannis (Bromeliaceae) in a coastal rain forest site in south-eastern Brazil. Flower anthesis of this bromeliad lasted a single day. We recorded mites moving into, feeding from, presumably mating and reproducing, and exiting bromeliad flowers within just a single day. We observed three ant species predating flower mites on bromeliads. The main visitor was the bumblebee Bombus morio, which always landed on the inflorescence to access nectar inside the bromeliad flowers. We found Proctolaelaps sp. mites on 47% of 38 bumblebees inspected, with each Bombus hosting 2 mites on average; only adults and mostly female mites (93%) usually found on the bumblebees' gula region of the head. This is the first study to document nectarivorous flower mites living on a melittophilous host plant using bumblebees for phoretic dispersal.