I've been researching a phenomenon in which some mosquitoes have been spotted with an extra passenger on board. These aren't the same as the aquatic mites often found attached to Anopheles. It is a mite from the genus Cheyletiella, otherwise known as "walking dandruff" when parasitizing mammals. They are easy to miss, especially when passing large collections of mosquitoes under the scope. They can resemble "junk" insects or debris if you aren't really looking for them. I know I've seen them in the past, but paid little heed until I found one specimen in particular that I could not ignore. It was an Aedes aegypti with at least 5 mites stacked towards the top of her proboscis. They were firmly attached, in what seemed like a purposeful manner. So my quest began to find out what they were and what their relationship was with the mosquito. My hypothesis? Most likely a phoretic relationship using the mosquito as a means to get from one host to a new one. The species of mite is still alluding me, however. I have one specimen submitted to the USDA for cryo-SEM hoping for a visual I.D., which, by the way, mainly involves looking at the shape of a tiny chemosensory seta called a solenidion on the foreleg of the mite. Another specimen was sent to the FMEL for genetic sequencing but did not amplify properly. Since finding the aegypti, I have found three more mosquitoes with one or two of these mites attached in the same manner. The rest of the species were all Culex erraticus females. A fresher mite specimen will soon be sent to the FMEL again for a second shot at genetic sequencing. In the meantime, I'm hoping everyone here can keep a keen eye out when looking through future mosquito collections and I would love to hear if you are finding the same thing. What species of mosquito are they on? Where were they trapped? Photos and saved specimens would be great. I would love to include others in this research!
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wow that is a crap load of mites on on mosquito!
Look at all those mites! That's a great deal of baggage to manage when attempting to fly around and forage. Parasites are fascinating and likely run the world. Excellent job of keeping the specimen in tact.
Wow! I've never seen these mites before. I've been looking at collections for over 2 years in Okaloosa County, FL, and I mostly get the aquatic mites that you referred to on Anopheles. I have one saved image with similar critters infesting another insect though. I don't believe I kept the specimen, but I'll attach the image. Note that everything in the image was frozen at -20 F for at least 12 hours. They were holding on quite well.
Very interesting! I need to start paying more attention to my mosquito hitchhikers. Excellent write-up and pictures. Capturing those images isn't easy. Good luck with the detective work for determining the species. Would love to hear more when you find out.