Plant-feeding and non-plant feeding phytoseiids: Differences in behavior and cheliceral morphology

Einat Adar, Moshe Inbar, Shira Gal, Noam Doron, Zhi Qiang Zhang, Eric Palevsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In previous studies plant feeding behavior of plant- and non-plant feeding phytoseiids was never examined directly. Moreover, in these studies the cheliceral morphology of phytoseiids was not associated with their ability to feed on plants. In the present study, we monitored the plant-feeding behavior of Euseius scutalis and Amblyseius swirskii. Only E. scutalis was observed penetrating the leaf surface with the movable digit and feeding. Second, using a dye and coloring the gut as an indicator for feeding, we found that E. scutalis pierced an artificial membrane and fed whereas A. swirskii did not. Finally, to identify morphological characteristics typical of plant feeders versus non-plant feeders, we used scanning electron microscopy to examine the adaxial (inner) profile of the chelicerae in 13 phytoseiid species. The only parameter that distinguished between plant- and non-plant feeders was the ratio of the dorsal perimeter length of the fixed digit to the ventral perimeter length of the movable digit. Plant-feeders were characterized by ratio values greater than one whereas the values for non plant-feeders were lower than one. We suggest that a shorter and less curved movable digit, expressed by a high ratio, will facilitate the penetration of the leaf surface. Cheliceral traits proposed here as typical of plant feeders, were observed for five genera, indicating that plant-feeding may be more common in the Phytoseiidae than previously reported. We propose that the ability to feed on plants be added as a cross type trait of phytoseiid life-style types.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-357
Number of pages17
JournalExperimental and Applied Acarology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
to Zengqi Zhao of LRNZ and Qing-Hai Fan of Biosecurity, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, New Zealand for their insights in development, and interpretation of the functional morphology study. For the inspiration for the scanning electron microscope study we are thankful to Norm Fashing of Department of Biology, College of William and Mary, VA, USA. For the mite species received for SEM imaging, we express our gratitude to Koppert NL; Sauro Simoni et al., CRA-ABP, Florence Italy; Bio-Bee, Israel; Rostislav Zemek et al., Biology Centre AS CR, Czech Republic; Jorge Pena, UFL, USA. We are grateful to Karin and Goni Shavit for their assistance in the video and figures editing. We express our appreciation to Uri Gerson of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and 3 anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and Urs Wyss of University of Kiel, Germany for sharing his thoughts on video recording the feeding behavior of predatory mites. This work was partly supported by the European Commission, FP7, EUREKA project PHYTOFEED. This manuscript is a contribution of the Institute of Plant Protection, Volcani Center, ARO, Israel.


  • Amblyseius swirskii
  • Chelicerae
  • Euseius scutalis
  • Phytoseiidae
  • Predatory mites
  • Scanning electron microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • Ecology


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