Mites are involved in a symbiotic relationship with ants and serve as their biological control agent, as this relation is not of a positive type and leads to the death of host species.
Are Facehugger Mites Bad For Ants? Facehugger mites are bad for ants because they become ectoparasites and attach to their faces, wings, and neck region. They suck hemolymph or fluid from ant pupae and do not leave their bodies until they die. It is challenging to get rid of these mites using a tweezer, so you can separate the infected ants from the colony to avoid their spread.
Some species of mites are parasitic to ants like Macrodinychus, which attack a few ants’ species for feeding purposes. However, its low host specificity makes it a potent killer of non-aggressive insects.
Why are Facehugger mites bad for ants?
Facehugger mites are ectoparasitic arachnids that are deadly for ants because they become parasites for these little creatures and make them die if they get attached to their bodies.
These look like ticks but behave differently and attack different species of ants by becoming their ectoparasites. Ectoparasites do not enter the host body and only attack the exterior surface.
The parasitic relation benefits only one organism engaged in a relationship because the host has to die ultimately. The attacker usually kills the host because it obtains nutrition from its body.
In the same way, they attack ants intending to suck nutrients from their bodies without worrying about the host’s health. Instead, these blood-sucking arachnids extract hemolymph from them.
Hemolymph is a rich source of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, because it transports all the essential nutrients to the body cells to produce energy.
Accordingly, this green or yellowish fluid is sucked up by these ectoparasites to meet their nutritional requirement because these blood-sucking parasites could die without blood.
So, these mites can be harmful to ants because they are known to suck fluid from host organisms until they die of a lack of blood in their bodies.
What do Facehugger mites do to ants?
Facehugger mites act as parasites and are responsible for killing the host from which they obtain nutrition. These tiny mites are known to burrow in the skin tissues or attach for a long.
These parasitic insects reach bodies of ants and burrow legs inside their skin as they have longer legs making up almost 45 to 48% part of their bodies.
The adult mites possess eight legs that can help maintain a firm grip, while they have six legs at the larval stage. These legs are arranged in a pair form, which means they have 4 pairs of legs.
Moreover, they extract blood-like fluid from their host bodies to ensure their survival because their source of nutrition is body fluids. They cannot develop or get mature without proper nutrition.
They also need nutrient-rich fluid to reproduce and multiply, as their reproductive abilities can also be affected without a potential host.
These ectoparasites also attack the internal body tissues of pupae in addition to sucking blood from the worker bodies. It can cause colony death on a massive scale when many mites attack.
However, a few of these parasitic insects cannot be responsible for colony death because they do not attack reproductive members and allow the colony to propagate.
You can find them shifting to a new host after killing an old one because ants cannot survive after an excessive loss of hemolymph from their bodies.
So, Facehugger mites are known to be deadly parasites and remain attached to host bodies until they do not become deficient in body fluids and die.
When do Facehugger mites attack ants?
Facehugger mites attack ants when these insects are going through early developmental stages. The mites attack pupae at an immature stage and grow together, but the fate of pupae is death.
Most commonly, these tiny arachnids attack an invasive species known as longhorn or black crazy ants having slender bodies appearing in dark black color.
Mites also pass through 3 different stages of development, starting from a larval stage when it begins to search for a potential host that can be pupae belonging to black crazy ant species.
Moreover, this larval stage is mobile, allowing the tiny larvae to find their host and spend the remaining developmental stages on their bodies.
The next two developmental stages are protonymph and deutonymph, when these larvae become ectoparasite and lose mobility. It remains attached to pupae and completes its development.
In addition, its lifecycle gets complete in approximately 4 weeks when an immature larva becomes a mature adult while feeding on the host body.
Sometimes, these tiny ectoparasitic insects attack adult insects also when they do not find immature pupae to get nutrition and attach to the bodies of adult males and females.
How do you get rid of Facehugger mites on ants?
Getting rid of Facehugger mites from ants is pretty challenging because they are usually adhered firmly to their bodies and burrow deep into skin tissues.
You can only protect a colony from dying if only a few of these ectoparasites are present. Therefore, taking the infected insects out of the test tubes or formicarium is better to avoid the spread.
Moreover, you can use tweezers to take infected insects out of the formicarium, but you have to be careful enough to avoid contact with other insects.
Put the infected insects in a separate container and try to pull out these insects using tweezers. There are fewer chances of success in the process when mites are bigger.
It is not possible to remove the tiny mites from their host as they are firmly attached to their faces. So, you can only protect a colony from the risk of infection by taking infected ones out.
They have to die ultimately, but the remaining ones will be less likely to be attacked when you remove these deadly parasitic insects from the chamber.
Do Facehugger mites attack ants’ faces?
Usually, these mites attack the face of ants and are named for their behavior of hanging to the lower side of their heads, but they do not remain stuck there.
You can find this parasitic insect attached to the underside of the pupae’s heads and feel like they are hugging their faces from the lower side.
Moreover, it creates a lot of discomfort for host organisms as these little insects have to spend their lives with Facehugger mites on their faces.
These parasitic insects probably have less body weight, but it seems to be a burden hanging to the tiny ants as their own body weight is also lower.
However, they can also attack other body regions as a few of these parasites are found to be attached to the underside of wings in males and rarely on the lower side of the abdomen.