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Extension Entomology

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Twospotted Spider Mites: “Hot and Ready”

— by Dr. Raymond Cloyd

The extreme heat we are experiencing throughout Kansas and the fact that plants are “stressed” due to a lack of moisture means you need to be on the look-out for the twospotted spider mite, Tetranychus urticae (Figures 1 and 2). Twospotted spider mite is a warm-weather mite because, in general, populations are active from late spring through early fall. Summer temperatures allow twospotted spider mites to reproduce rapidly, which helps them to overwhelm natural enemy populations. This article discusses the plant protection strategies that homeowners and professionals can implement in order to alleviate or avoid problems with twospotted spider mite populations.

TwospottedSpiderMitesSeptember2008

Fig 1: Twospotted spider mite adults and eggs (spherical shape objects).

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Fig 2: Twospotted spider mite feeding damage.

Twospotted spider mite management involves maintaining plant health, implementing sanitation practices, and/or using pesticides with miticidal activity (miticides/acaricides). First of all, avoid exposing plants to any type of “stress” by maintaining proper watering, fertilizer, and mulching practices so as to reduce potential problems with twospotted spider mite populations. For example, inadequate moisture or overfertilizing plants, particularly with nitrogen-based fertilizers, can enhance development and reproduction of twospotted spider mites. Also, be sure to monitor for twospotted spider mite populations regularly by shaking branches or twigs onto a white sheet of paper, and looking for the mites crawling around. You can crush the mites on the white sheet of paper to determine if they are a pest or not. For instance, plant-feeding spider mites typically leave a green streak when crushed whereas predatory mites leave a red streak. A quick method of dealing with twospotted spider mite populations is applying a forceful water spray throughout the plant canopy at least twice per week during the season. Forceful water sprays will dislodge eggs and the motile life stages (larvae, nymphs, and adults). Be sure to direct forceful water sprays toward the leaf undersides where all life stages (eggs, nymphs, larvae, and adults) of the twospotted spider mite are located. The removal of plant debris and weeds eliminates alternative hosts and overwintering sites.

There are many pesticides with miticidal activity available to professionals for suppression of twospotted spider mite populations outdoors, including: abamectin (Avid), acequinocyl (Shuttle), bifenazate (Floramite), etoxazole (TetraSan), hexythiazox (Hexygon), potassium salts of fatty acids (M-Pede), and horticultural oils (petroleum, mineral, or neem-based). Homeowners do not have many options in regards to miticides. The only “true miticide” still available is hexakis or fenbutatin-oxide, however, this active ingredient cannot be purchased by itself as the active ingredient is usually formulated with acephate (Orthene). Always read the label and apply miticides before twospotted spider mite populations are extensive and causing aesthetic damage. Furthermore, be sure to rotate miticides with different modes of action in order to avoid twospotted spider mite populations developing resistance. If possible, try to target “hot spots” or localized infestations of twospotted spider mites, which will reduce the potential for resistance developing. Be sure to thoroughly cover all plant parts with spray applications; especially when using pesticides with contact activity. Some miticides such as abamectin (Avid) and etoxazole (TetraSan) have translaminar activity, which means that the material penetrates into leaf tissues and forms a reservoir of active ingredient within the leaf. This provides residual activity even after spray residues have dried. Mites that feed on leaves will ingest a lethal concentration of the active ingredient and be killed.

It is important to note that many pesticides used to suppress other insect pests encountered on plants in landscapes and gardens may be harmful to the natural enemies of twospotted spider mite; consequently, resulting in an inadvertent increase in twospotted spider mite populations or secondary pest outbreaks.

 

Spirea Aphid: Watch out for this “Sucking” Insect

–by Dr. Raymond Cloyd

Spirea aphid (Aphis spiraecola) is present feeding on spirea (Spiraea spp.) plants in landscapes. Spirea aphid colonies aggregate on terminal growth (Figures 1 and 2) and their feeding causes leaf curling and stunted plant growth. Spirea aphids prefer to feed on stems and leaf undersides of succulent plant growth. All mature aphids are parthenogenic (reproduce without mating) with females giving birth to live nymphs, which themselves are females. Eggs are laid on bark or on buds in the fall by wingless females after having mated with males. Eggs hatch in spring, and young nymphs develop into stem mothers that are wingless. Spirea aphid females are pear-shaped and bright yellow-green. Stem mothers reach maturity in about 20 days. Each spirea aphid female can produce up to 80 offspring or young females.

Figure 2. SpireaAphidsAggregatingonTerminalGrowthofSpireaPlant
Figure 1: Spirea Aphids Feeding on Spirea Plant

Figure 2. SpireaAphidsAggregatingonTerminalGrowthofSpireaPlant
Figure 2: Spirea Aphids Aggregation on Terminal Growth of Spirea Plant

Although the aphids produce honeydew (sticky, clear liquid); continual rainfall will wash the honeydew off plants. In the summer, both winged and non-winged aphids may be present. The winged forms usually appear when conditions become crowded on infested plants, in which they migrate to a more suitable food source, such as another spirea plant to start another colony. Heavy rainfall and strong winds will dislodge spirea aphid populations from plants onto the ground, where they eventually die. Frequent applications (twice per week) of forceful water sprays will quickly remove spirea aphid populations without disturbing natural enemies such as parasitoids and predators. They have a number of natural enemies including: ladybird beetles, green lacewings, and hover flies that may help to regulate spirea aphid populations.

Spirea aphids are, in general, exposed to regular applications of pesticides such as insecticidal soaps (potassium salts of fatty acids) and/or horticultural oils (petroleum, mineral, or neem-based) that may be effective in suppressing populations of spirea aphid. These pesticides have contact activity only, so thorough coverage of all plant parts is important. Furthermore, these pesticides are generally less harmful to natural enemies compared to conventional pesticides.

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