This study examined whether ecoparasitic larval Unionicola foili exhibited a sex bias when infecting laboratory populations of the host insect Chironomus tentans and whether an association with male or female midges increased the likelihood of larval mites returning to the aquatic habitat. When laboratory populations of C. tentans were exposed to larval U. foili, there was a higher prevalence of mites among female hosts at emergence (17 of 30 males vs. 25 of 30 females infected by mites). However, there was no significant difference in the distribution or abundance of larvae among infected male (mean = 2.3 larvae per host) and female (mean = 2.6 larvae per host) midges. Larval mites parasitizing both male and female chironomids were more likely to return to water than could be expected by chance. Mite larvae infesting female C. tentans were more likely to return to water when female hosts deposited egg masses in water, suggesting that oviposition plays an important role in cueing larvae parasitizing female midges to detach. The mechanism responsible for increasing the likelihood that mites parasitizing male hosts return to water remains unclear. Future studies will address the possibility of parasite-mediated changes in host behavior.

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