Southern Red Mites exploding

Adult southern red mite. Photo: SD Frank

The long cool spring seems to have been great for cool season mites. In North Carolina, the most important cool season mites are the spruce spider mite (Oligonychus ununguis) and southern red mite (Oligonychus ilicis). These are among the earliest and most damaging pests in nurseries and landscapes. As their name implies, cool season mites are active in spring and fall when they suck fluid from cells on plant leaves and needles. In hot summer months these mites are dormant. However, it is summer when their damage becomes apparent as chlorophyll bearing cells die. Thus, by the time plants exhibit aesthetic damage the mites are gone and treatment is wasted.

Today I found all stages of Southern red mite on cherry laurel but is feeds on many broadleaf evergreens such as azalea, camellia, holly, and rhododendron. With eggs juveniles and adults all present these mite populations are well underway and deserve attention from nursery and landscape personnel.

Multiple southern red mite life stages on cherry laurel. Photo: SD Fran

Scout plants that had mites or mite damage the previous year as they are likely to have them again because the mites have overwintered as eggs. You can identify plants that had mite last year by looking for fine stippling damage on the old leaves. Turn them over and look with a hand lens for silk webbing, shed skins, and mites. On broadleaf evergreens, look on the underside of leaves for the southern red mite. The most efficient method of scouting for cool season mites (and other mites) is to hold a piece of white paper or a paper plate below a branch and strike it with a pencil or stick to dislodge arthropods. Spider mites will appear as tiny moving specks about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

Southern red mite damage on cherry laurel. Photo: SD Frank

For more information and control options consult the NCSU insect note at

2017-06-30T11:06:26-04:00 April 22nd, 2014|Categories: Landscape IPM, Nursery IPM|Tags: , , |

About the Author:

Steve Frank
I am broadly interested in the ecology and management of arthropod pests. Herbivorous arthropods cause extraordinary damage to plants in agricultural, urban, and natural ecosystems. Understanding interactions between pests and their environment, plant hosts, and natural enemies can improve management practices and reduce pesticide applications.