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Nikau palm gall mite: Nameriophyes sapidae

By N A Martin (2017)

Classification

Phylum:
Arthropoda
Class:
Arachnida
Subclass:
Acari
Order:
Trombidiformes
Suborder:
Prostigmata
Superfamily:
Eriophyoidea
Family:
Eriophyidae
Subfamily:
Cecidophyinae
Tribe:
Colomerini
Scientific Name:
Nameriophyes sapidae Xue & Zhang, 2008
  • Drawing of side view of Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). The adult mite is very tiny, 0.212 - 0.238 mm long.  Image: X-F Xue © drawing published in Zootaxa (2008) volume 1962: 1-32, Fig. 5L
    Drawing of side view of Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). The adult mite is very tiny, 0.212 - 0.238 mm long. Image: X-F Xue © drawing published in Zootaxa (2008) volume 1962: 1-32, Fig. 5L
  • Upper side and underside of frond of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) showing the brown patches caused by feeding of the Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). The tiny white mites can be seen on underside of the frond (lower).  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Upper side and underside of frond of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) showing the brown patches caused by feeding of the Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). The tiny white mites can be seen on underside of the frond (lower). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
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Common Names

Nikau palm gall mite
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Biostatus and Distribution

This endemic gall mite has been found in the North and South Islands of New Zealand on its primary host plant, nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae). It is found in parks and gardens as well as in native ecosystems.

Conservation status: It is common on its host plant in parks and gardens as well as in native ecosystems.

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Life Stages and Annual Cycle

This gall mite is very tiny. Adult mites are 0.212 - 0.238 mm long. The adult mite is like a tiny white cow’s horn with two pairs of legs at the wide end of the horn. Adult female mites lay tiny spherical eggs. The larva that hatches from an egg looks like a tiny adult. The mite larva moults (changes skin) into a nymph that also looks like a small adult. The last juvenile stage moults into an adult mite. There are male and females. The larger mites become covered in white flocculent wax. The mite lives in dense colonies on the underside of palm fronds. It appears that in older colonies they lay eggs on the brown dead leaf tissue and move to the dead tissue to moult.

Feeding
The mites have pointed mouth parts that puncture the surface cells on the underside of palm fronds. They suck up the cell sap. During feeding, the mites may inject saliva into the plant. The leaf tissue on which the mites are feeding turns yellow then becomes dark brown. In young colonies they are mainly on green leaf tissue. In older colonies, the mites are found on and around the dark brown area of the leaf. This gives the impression that they are feeding on dead leaf tissue, but it is unlikely that they can feed on the dead plant cells. Though, maybe they can feed on fungal hyphae as well as plant cells.

Walking
The mite uses its legs for walking, but can also hold on to the plant with the tip of its rear end which acts as a sucker.

Dispersal to new palm fronds and new plants
The mite can form new colonies on other parts of the same palm leaf. It is presumed some female mites walk from old colonies to elsewhere on the same leaf. Mites also colonise young mature palm leaves of the same plant. Female mites probably also walk to these younger leaves. When this gall mite colonises new plants, it is unlikely that mites walk all the way. It is believed that most mites are dispersed by wind. Some species of mite climb to prominent places on plants and stand waiting for a gust of wind to take them away.

  • Drawing of top view of Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). The adult mite is very tiny, 0.212 - 0.238 mm long.  Image: X-F Xue © drawing published in Zootaxa (2008) volume 1962: 1-32, Fig. 4 D
    Drawing of top view of Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). The adult mite is very tiny, 0.212 - 0.238 mm long. Image: X-F Xue © drawing published in Zootaxa (2008) volume 1962: 1-32, Fig. 4 D
  • Drawing of side view of Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). The adult mite is very tiny, 0.212 - 0.238 mm long.  Image: X-F Xue © drawing published in Zootaxa (2008) volume 1962: 1-32, Fig. 5L
    Drawing of side view of Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). The adult mite is very tiny, 0.212 - 0.238 mm long. Image: X-F Xue © drawing published in Zootaxa (2008) volume 1962: 1-32, Fig. 5L
  • Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) with flocculent white wax living on the underside of frond of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae). Tiny round eggs and white moulted skins also present.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) with flocculent white wax living on the underside of frond of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae). Tiny round eggs and white moulted skins also present. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) on underside of frond of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae). Note the flocculent white wax on the mite. Tiny round eggs and white moulted skins also present.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) on underside of frond of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae). Note the flocculent white wax on the mite. Tiny round eggs and white moulted skins also present. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Juvenile and adult Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) with flocculent white wax living on underside of frond of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Juvenile and adult Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) with flocculent white wax living on underside of frond of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Juvenile and adult Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) with flocculent white wax living on underside of frond of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Juvenile and adult Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) with flocculent white wax living on underside of frond of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with tiny white Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) and yellow and brown feeding damage associated with a young mite colony.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Underside of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with tiny white Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) and yellow and brown feeding damage associated with a young mite colony. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Underside of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with tiny white Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae), and white moulted skins on the site of an old colony. Note the dark brown leaf damage.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with tiny white Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae), and white moulted skins on the site of an old colony. Note the dark brown leaf damage. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Recognition

This mite requires special procedures and taxonomic knowledge to identify specimens. However, the distinctive white mites covered in white flocculent wax in association with dark brown areas on the underside of nikau palm fronds enable the Nikau palm gall mite to be recognised. Even if the mites are absent, white moulted skins on the on the dark brown patches also enable the presence of the mite to be detected. A magnifying glass such as a 10 times lens, may be useful when looking for these mites.

  • Upper side of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with brown patches caused by feeding of tiny Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae).  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Upper side of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with brown patches caused by feeding of tiny Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Underside (left) and upper side (right) of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with brown and yellow areas caused by feeding of a young colony of the tiny white Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae).  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Underside (left) and upper side (right) of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with brown and yellow areas caused by feeding of a young colony of the tiny white Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with tiny white Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) and yellow and brown feeding damage associated with a young mite colony.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Underside of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with tiny white Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) and yellow and brown feeding damage associated with a young mite colony. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Underside of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with tiny white Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae), and white moulted skins on the site of an old colony. Note the dark brown leaf damage.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with tiny white Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae), and white moulted skins on the site of an old colony. Note the dark brown leaf damage. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Natural Enemies

No natural enemies of this mite species have been recorded, but predatory mites and gall fly larvae may feed on these gall mites.

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Host Plants

The Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) lives on its primary host plant, nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae). It has also been found on cultivated Kermadec Island palm, Rhopalostylis baueri, grown outdoors in Auckland.

Feeding
The mites have pointed mouth parts that puncture the surface cells on the underside of palm fronds. They suck up the cell sap. During feeding, the mites may inject saliva into the plant. The leaf tissue on which the mites are feeding turns yellow then becomes dark brown. In young colonies they are mainly on green leaf tissue. In older colonies, the mites are found on and around the dark brown area of the leaf. This gives the impression that they are feeding on dead leaf tissue, but it is unlikely that they can feed on the dead plant cells. Though, maybe they can feed on fungal hyphae as well as plant cells.

Table: Host plants of the Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Prostigmata: Eriophyidae) from Plant-SyNZ database (27 March 2017). The reliability score shows the quality of evidence for the host association (1-10, 10=high).
Common Name(s)Scientific NameFamilyReliability IndexBiostatus
Kermadec Island palm, Kermadec Island nikauRhopalostylis baueri (Seem.) H.Wendl. & DrudePalmae10indigenous, non-endemic
Feather duster palm, Nikau palm, NīkauRhopalostylis sapida H.Wendl. & DrudePalmae10endemic
  • Upper side of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with brown patches caused by feeding of tiny Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae).  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Upper side of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with brown patches caused by feeding of tiny Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Upper side of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with yellow and brown patches caused by feeding on the underside by tiny white Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae).  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Upper side of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with yellow and brown patches caused by feeding on the underside by tiny white Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Underside of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with tiny white Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) and yellow and brown feeding damage associated with a young mite colony.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Underside of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with tiny white Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) and yellow and brown feeding damage associated with a young mite colony. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) on underside of frond of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae). Note the flocculent white wax on the mite. Tiny round eggs and white moulted skins also present.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae) on underside of frond of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae). Note the flocculent white wax on the mite. Tiny round eggs and white moulted skins also present. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Additional Information

Eriophyid gall mites belong to the superfamily Eryiophyoidea. These mites have several unusual features. For example, though most mites have four pairs of legs like spiders, Eriophyoidea mites have only two pairs of legs. Many of these mites can induce host plants to form galls, some of which may be very complex. Some species of these mites can transmit plant viruses that may cause plant diseases and plant death.

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Information Sources

Martin NA, Zhang Z-Q. 2011. Extended distribution and host plants of Nameriophyes sapidae Xue & Zhang 2008 (Acari: Eriophyidae) in New Zealand. Zootaxa. 2796: 67-68.

Xue X-F, Zhang Z-Q. 2008. New Zealand Eriophyoidea (Acari: Prostigmata): an update with descriptions of one new Genus and 6 new species. Zootaxa. 1962: 1-32.

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Acknowledgements

New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited (Plant & Food Research) for permission to use photographs.

Landcare Research New Zealand Limited (Landcare Research) for permission to use photographs.

Magnolia Press for permission to reproduce figures of Nameriophyes sapidae Xue & Zhang 2008.


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Other Images

  • Upper side of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with yellow and brown patches caused by feeding on the underside by tiny white Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae).  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Upper side of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with yellow and brown patches caused by feeding on the underside by tiny white Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Upper side of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with brown patch caused by feeding on the underside by tiny Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae).  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Upper side of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with brown patch caused by feeding on the underside by tiny Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with a young mite colony of tiny white Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae).  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Underside of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with a young mite colony of tiny white Nikau palm gall mite, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Upper side of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with brown patches caused by feeding of tiny Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae).  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Upper side of nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida (Palmae) frond with brown patches caused by feeding of tiny Nikau palm gall mites, Nameriophyes sapidae (Acari: Eriophyidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
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Suggested Citation

Martin NA. 2017. Nikau palm gall mite - Nameriophyes sapidae. Interesting Insects and other Invertebrates. New Zealand Arthropod Factsheet Series Number 84. http://nzacfactsheets.landcareresearch.co.nz/Index.html. Date Accessed. ISSN 1179-643X.


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