Phytophagous mites and their management on ornamental plants

Phytophagous or plant-feeding mites are among the most common pests in ornamental plant production and maintenance by greenhouse and nursery growers, landscape care professionals, arborists, grounds managers, and gardeners. Correct identification of mite species or life stages is important because many biological control agents and miticides target specific mite species and life stages. This article provides information on the identification, biology, and management of pestiferous mite species commonly encountered on ornamental plants grown in nurseries, greenhouses, and interior and exterior plantscapes.

Mites are extremely difficult to detect because they are small (most are 0.15 to 0.3 mm or 6/1000 to 12/1000 of an inch) and prefer to hide on the underside or protected areas of leaves, shoots, buds, fruits, and bulbs. Mite populations grow very quickly because they have a short developmental time and high fecundity, and they can reproduce without mating when males are not available. They are also difficult to manage because of their high propensity to develop pesticide resistance. Mites can be introduced into nurseries, greenhouses, and landscapes through infested cuttings, liners, bulbs, or finished plants. They also can disperse from nearby infested weeds and crops by walking or being carried in the wind or on an animal.

Successful management of mites requires an integrated approach. A crop can be started “clean” by maintaining a weed-free growing area, quarantining incoming plant materials, and, when necessary, treating the incoming plant materials before moving them into the growing areas. When executed properly, preventive management using predatory mites and other biological control agents can be very successful in nurseries and greenhouses. Miticides are often required when curative treatment is needed to stop a mite population from doing further damage. An integrated pest management program that incorporates biological and chemical control tools will require careful consideration of the compatibility between biological control agents and pesticides.

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