For the coconut mite, Aceria guerreronis Keifer, its host plant, the coconut palm, is not merely a source of food, but more
generally a habitat to live in for several generations. For these minute organisms, finding a new plant is difficult and risky,
especially because their main mode of dispersal is passive drifting with the wind and because they are highly specialized
on their host plant. Consequently, the probability of landing on a suitable host is very low, let alone to land in their specific
microhabitat within the host. How coconut mites manage to find their microhabitat within a host plant is still underexplored.
We tested the hypothesis that they use volatile chemical information emanating from the plant to find a specific site within
their host plants and/or use non-volatile plant chemicals to stay at a profitable site on the plant. This was investigated
in a Y-tube olfactometer (i.e. under conditions of a directed wind flow) and on cross-shaped arenas (i.e. under conditions
of turbulent air) that either allowed contact with odour sources or not. The mites had to choose between odours from specific
parts (leaflet, spikelet or fruit) of a non-infested coconut plant and clean air as the alternative. In the olfactometer experiments,
no mites were found to reach the upwind end of the Y-tube: <5 % of the mites were able to pass the bifurcation of the "Y".
On the cross-shaped arenas, however, a large number of coconut mites was found only when the arm of the arena contained discs
of fruit epidermis and contact with these discs was allowed. The results suggest that coconut mites on palm trees are not
attracted to specific sites on the plant by volatile plant chemicals, but that they arrested once they contact the substrate
of specific sites. Possibly, they perceive non-volatile chemicals, but these remain to be identified.