Parasitic water mites

Chiggers and ticks parasitize human odonate-hunters sometimes; water mites parasitize odonates sometimes. In my experience, some species of dragonflies seem to be more likely to be infested with water mites than others.

Lentic, slow moving water, ponds and temporary water are what mites need for their life cycle. The mites get onto late stage [odonate] nymphs, and then emerge with the nymph. As it ecloses the mites transfer to the adult damselfly, dragonfly. Life cycles of mite and host must be at stages where this can happen, so only certain species would probably be emerging at those times. Species that emerge earlier or later in the season probably wouldn’t have to deal with them. There’s more than one species of mite, so different species would emerge at different times. There is some reference in Corbet’s book [Corbet, Phillip S. (1962). A Biology of Dragonflies.] about some (grooming) species grooming themselves better, and knocking them off also, so they’ve evolved to attach to species where their life cycle can be completed. Some of these species disperse them well also. Nature is truly amazing! Source Credit: Stick LaPan, Northeast Odonata Facebook group.

Odonates and parasitic water mites are able to co-exist except in cases of extreme infestation, when parasitization can be fatal.

Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina), spotted in a remote location at Huntley Meadows Park, has a mild infestation of black water mites. This individual is a female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

A Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) spotted near Dogue Creek, Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female with a mild infestation of black water mites.

29 JUN 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Halloween Pennant (female)

The next photo shows the same female with another water mite attached to the underside of its abdomen.

A Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) spotted near Dogue Creek, Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female with a mild infestation of black water mites.

29 JUN 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Halloween Pennant (female)

Another Halloween Pennant dragonfly, spotted at the same remote location 12 days earlier, has an infestation of red water mites. This individual is an immature male, as indicated by its coloration (similar to a female) and terminal appendages.

A Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) spotted near Dogue Creek, Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature male with a mild infestation of red water mites.

17 JUN 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Halloween Pennant (immature male)

Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis), spotted along the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, has an infestation of black water mites. This individual is a male, as indicated by its blue coloration and terminal appendages. He is perching in the obelisk position, thought to be a method of thermoregulation.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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4 Responses to “Parasitic water mites”

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    Wow. It takes sharp eyes and sharp photos to spot the mites, though they seem pretty obvious when I follow your helpful arrows. Fascinating info, Walter, and super shots of the dragonflies and their little “friends.”

  2. Caroline Says:

    Does your male Halloween Pennant have a black mite on its leg?

    • waltersanford Says:

      Thanks for your comment, Caroline! I hadn’t noticed. Are you talking about the immature male in the third photo? If so, then I see something on one of its hind legs that may be a black water mite. For what it’s worth, there are other red water mites on its body that I didn’t label — I highlighted the more obvious mites only.

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