Nest-size variation reflecting anti-predator strategies in social spider mites ofStigmaeopsis(Acari: Tetranychidae)

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The social spider mites (Acari: Tetranychidae) of Stigmaeopsis weave dense nests on the underside of host leaves. Four species occur on the leaves of bamboo in Japan: Stigmaeopsis longus, S. celarius, S. takahashii and S. saharai. We initially reconfirmed the occurrence of distinct variation in nest size among the species. Based on the hypothesis that this variation plays a role in protecting the spider mites from predators, we looked at the behavior of the natural enemies that occur on the host plants along with members of Stigmaeopsis. We found considerable variation in the ability of nests to protect the spider-mite eggs. The smallest nests protected the eggs against three predators, whereas the largest nests protected the eggs against only one predator species. So, decreases in nest size increased egg defense. Thus we concluded that nest-size variation reflects a strategy for reducing predation.

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