Ticks Are Plant-Eating Garden Pests

Ticks are a subclass of arthropods, microscopically small pests of the spider class. Ticks are divided into pathogenic and herbivorous. For many gardeners and gardeners and flower lovers, mites are a completely unknown world. They are not insects and should not be confused, especially when using plant protection products. Ticks are some of the most ancient biological organisms on earth. The fossil remains of ancient mites reached enormous sizes, and they managed to survive until now only because they began to reduce their body weight, and therefore their need for food, and thus developed a greater adaptability to their environment. Today there are more than 50 thousand species of ticks. The attitude towards ticks is twofold. On the one hand mites are dangerous pests and disease carriers, on the other hand they are living organisms of great benefit.

Ticks are plant-eating garden pests
A spider mite infested plant. © Voice of the Roses

Only a small number of the species described can be classified as true parasites. These are disease-causing mites that transmit and cause disease to humans and animals. Some mite species are herbivorous mites, adapted to live and feed on certain groups of forest and park woody and herbaceous plants. Some feed on the sap of cultivated fruit and vegetable plants and are grouped as pests. They cause great harm not only to agriculture, but also to food industry, spoiling flour, grain, and animal diseases.

It is necessary to note that the absolute majority of mite species belong to saprophagous or predators. They feed on soil organic matter, thus contributing to its decomposition to humus. As predators they benefit by destroying other pests.

Mite pest levels

Is this microscopic pest really that scary? A simple calculation shows that if each female survives only 50 larvae (capable of bearing 200 eggs) then at 15 generations a year the whole globe would be covered by 2 meters of eggs. Therefore, even a small initial number of mites in a garden can give a sudden epiphytotic outbreak of the pest reproduction and lead to the death of infected crops in the shortest time. Kidney mites are especially dangerous to plants. Their number in one bud is from 100 and more individuals. This is the reason mites are considered one of the most dangerous plant pests.

Species of mites

In the course of phylogenesis a certain group of mites became polyphagous and another group acquired specific properties - host selectivity. Even a short list makes you think about their danger when they appear in a garden plot. If you do not go into the systematics (amateur gardeners do not really need it, and if necessary, you can always find material), we can distinguish several groups of mites. Ticks damaging conifers of trees and shrubs: Boxwood, Pine (Spruces, Pines, etc.), Cypress (Thuja, Juniper, etc.), Yew, and many others.

Ticks are plant-eating garden pests
Predatory mite-redwort. © Jurgen Otto

Mites permanently residing on broadleaf trees:

  • forest and park trees (alder, willow, linden, oak, etc. ),
  • fruit crops (apple, pear, quince, plum, nut, rowan, hawthorn, grape prickle, thorn, currant, strawberry, etc.).

Mites by their biological peculiarities according to plant taxonomy are divided into several families; the superfamily of garden plant eating mites inhabiting fruit and berry cultures is distinguished among them.

Horticultural mites are divided into:

  • spider mites,
  • gallows,
  • brown mites.

Description of garden mites

Mites belong to a group of very small spider-like specimens. Body length varies in males from 0.03 mm to 1.0 cm, in females from 0.05 mm to 3.0 cm. The body is rounded, covered with bristles or sometimes microscopic warts, divided into two parts, the thorax and abdomen. There are 2 pairs of simple eyes on the head. With its stabbing-sucking mouthparts, the mite pierces tissue and sucks plant sap. Six pairs of appendages, acting as legs, help the animal move. The legs are five-membered. Hence the name arthropods. Body coloration is red, brown, gray-green, yellowish-green or green and depends on the coloration of the main host.

Signs of plant infestation by garden mites

General signs of garden mite infestation are plant wilting, curling leaves without visible damage. When carefully examining the leaf blade of garden plants, tiny yellowish or white dots - mite puncture sites - can be noticed under a magnifying glass on the underside of the leaf blades. Individual spots merge into spots clearly visible to the naked eye in the shortest time, and shoots with leaves are still enveloped in thin barely noticeable web, sometimes thick as felt. With a large accumulation of pests on the underside of leaves, very small grayish dry skins (like dandruff) can be noticed. These are the remnants of larval coverings after molting. The spider web serves to protect the pest from natural enemies and drugs. Each species has distinctive signs of the damage that allows us to determine immediately which species of mites have settled on plants.

Signs of plant infestation by spider mites

Spider mites (Tetranychidae) are the most known and widespread. There are more than 1200 species of spider mites, which can be found everywhere, including Antarctica. Very small insects. Males 0.3-0.6 mm, females up to 1.0 mm. Yellow-green coloration in color of foliage allows mites to live a secretive life. Leaf blades damaged by spider mites turn brown, curl up, and fall off. Females lay up to 10-12 eggs daily in autumn.

At least 25 generations of spider mites may appear annually in regions with long warm periods. Eggs are attached by spider webs to stems of weed plants. Spider mites can destroy up to 80% of the crop (e.g., Grape Eider, or Quiltshoe Mite). According to experts, the pest is a vector of diseases of gray rot, viral infections of agricultural and ornamental crops.

Ticks are plant-eating garden pests
Parts of a plant infested by the bud mite. © otokkatieto

Signs of infestation by the gall mite

Anatomically, the gall mites (Eriophyidae) differ from brown and spider mites in the absence of hind legs. This species has only 2 front pairs, the hind pairs are atrophied. Favorite garden crops are cherry plum, pear, and plum trees. Damaged leaves form outgrowths of galls, in which the mite is placed "with all the comforts". The leaf itself is covered with bumps and curls up. In the galls, the mite lives and multiplies throughout the warm season. If you can see gall "houses" in the withered twisted leaf, the plants are infested with gall mite. If such branches are found on trees and shrubs, they must be carefully cut off and burned. The presence of gall mite is also indicated by "witches' brooms", which are bundles of barren shoots with underdeveloped leaves.

Signs of brown garden mite

Favorite habitats of brown mite are garden crops, apple trees are especially preferred. The mite is distinguished by its red-brown coloration. Females lay eggs in the buds and by the end of flowering, young females lay new eggs of subsequent generations. By the end of summer, thousands of virtually invisible mites entangle the leaves and devastate the tree by dehydrating it. The plant becomes weak and dies.

Mite development and reproduction cycle

The adult fertilized females and eggs overwinter under the bark, in its cracks, and in fallen leaves. In spring, females emerge from hibernation after air temperature exceeds +12°C and transfer to leaves and buds of plants, where they feed intensively and lay new eggs. Depending on temperature, the period from egg to imago may vary from 6-7 to 20 days. Mites form up to 25 generations per year in enclosed areas. In garden plots, they produce 6 to 10 generations during the warm season (especially in southern areas). Female lives up to one month and is capable to lay up to 200 eggs.

Ticks are plant-eating garden pests
Signs of leaf damage by Gall mites.

A single generation passes the following temporal stages of development

  • eggs keep vitality up to 5 years
  • larva hatch from egg on the third day, its lifetime is 1 day
  • nymphs develop 4 days and grow into sexually dimorphic adult.

This means that under optimal conditions in any region one generation takes only 8-9 days. Females are larger than males. Each stage of mite development is accompanied by a molt. As can be seen, the mite's fecundity is very high, and the short time cycle of development contributes to its rapid reproduction. Reproduction halts only during cold winter weather and resumes with the onset of spring, continuing without interruption until the next cold spells.

Area of mite distribution

In Russia, the garden spider mite is the most widespread mite. Its distribution area covers the Black Earth and non-Black Earth zones of European Russia, Transcaucasia and southern regions. The Brown Fruit Mite has moved further to northern regions, but it manages to form only 1-2 generations under the conditions of limited warm period. As a species, in the south, brown garden mites are the most harmful and can form 4-5 full-fledged generations during the warm season. Gall mites are less common and most often breed on certain garden, forest and park crops.

Methods of mite control

Methods of mite control include:

  • preventive-preventive,
  • agrotechnical,
  • chemical,
  • biological,
  • public.
Ticks are plant-eating garden pests
Tomato dying from spider mite

Preventive and preventive control measures

Preventive and preventive measures will not only help protect crops from the mite, but also other pests that winter on or under trees.

Maintain the site in a clean condition. It is not necessary to constantly destroy weeds and leave the soil without shade protection under the sizzling-hot rays of the summer sun. They can be cut back to a high (up to 10 cm) stubble before they are overgrown. Moisture will be saved, the roots of weeds will help keep the soil loosened. And in the fall, they will replenish the soil with organic matter.

Autumn you should clean the soil under the crowns of trees from dry leaves and branches, cut shoots and other debris.

Autumn and spring pruning, skinning boles and skeletal branches from sick, dying, peeling bark should destroy all waste.

Be sure to bleach tree boles with a freshly prepared solution of lime with copper sulfate and other ingredients.

Be sure to apply trapping belts and change them monthly in summer. Be sure to apply trap belts during harvesting and replace with new ones after leaf fall. The old ones shall be destroyed.

Agro technical

to observe agrotechnical requirements of crop care: watering, feeding, protective measures etc.

To plant only local varieties resistant to pests.

Cultures which timely received necessary organo-mineral nutrition increase their resistance to pests. Therefore, in hot dry weather (dry period) it is necessary to sprinkle the garden plot and adjacent territory. Such a simple method (especially in spring when the first generation develops) will get rid of the parasites, and the freed plants will quickly recover.

Ticks are plant-eating garden pests
Macroscope of spider mite. © luxurytrees

Chemical control measures against mites

If the garden and adjacent areas are invaded by pests, you can't do without chemical preparations. But you must remember that they have a negative impact on human, animal and insect health, and take all measures to protect your health and the environment. Dilution of the preparation, spraying of plants, the recommended time interval of application of poisonous substances must be strictly observed in accordance with the recommendations.

Mites are not insects, they are an arthropod group and insecticides are not suitable for fighting them. A group of chemicals acaricides and insecto-acaricides has been developed to control ticks. All of them are classified as dangerous for humans and animals. The action on the pest is intestinal-contact. The number of plant treatments depends on the ambient temperature. The higher is the temperature, the less is the interval between treatments. Under average air temperature +18 ... +22°C, we conduct 3-4 treatments once in 1-2 weeks. If the temperature rises above +25 ... +30°C, the treatment interval is reduced to 3-4 days, because the hatching female has no time to mature and lay new eggs.

Horticultural crops may be treated in the spring by

  • 10% carbophos (75 g/10 L of water),
  • 10% trichlorometaphos (50-100 g/10 L of water), as recommended by the specialists when the number of exiting overwinterings is high.

Two times spraying with Decis-KE or Mmitak-KE is efficient; 2-5 and 20-30 ml of the preparation can be used for 10 L of water correspondingly.

Cultan, Telik, Difocol according to recommendations can be used for plant treatments

In summer time tank mixes are effective. To the insecticidal preparations against aphids, codling moth, other caterpillars you can add chloroethanol, isophen or colloidal sulfur, respectively 20, 60, 100 g per bucket of water. The additives should be tested for compatibility beforehand.

Actellic, neoron, abamectin, agravertin are the most common preparations at present. Pay attention to the new class of drugs for their effect on the pest. The drugs oberon, invidor, Judo. They act as inhibitors of lipid metabolism and to some extent can replace systemic acaricide preparations (there are no effective ones on sale yet).

From chemical preparations for treatment of berries we can recommend arbophos and colloidal sulfur. Only colloidal sulfur solution is effective against strawberry mite.

The last chemical treatments must not be carried out later than 35 days before harvesting. Pay attention to the frequency of egg laying. The most frequent are in June, the lowest in March and October. The frequency of protective measures should change accordingly.

Biological control measures against mites

For private garden plots, biological methods of protection are the most suitable. Biopreparations are developed on the basis of useful soil fungi, bacteria, not harmful to humans, animals, fish and useful insects. After 2-3 days the berries and fruits can be used for food.

We must bear in mind, however, that 1 or 2 sprays are not enough. Systematic plant treatments over a long period of time are necessary (at least 5-6 treatments). The preparations lose their efficiency at temperatures below +18 °C and in damp weather. The result of treatment shall appear on the 2nd-4th day.

Actophyte (Akarin), bicol, bitoxybacillin, fitoverm, gardenite are effective against plant-eating mites. By the way, these biopreparations destroy up to 5-10 species of sucking and biting pests. By the way, these preparations can also be used to protect indoor and greenhouse plants. The concentration of the working solutions for plant treatment and frequency of spraying are specified in the documentation accompanying the biopreparation. An increase in the concentration of the solutions by yourself will not provide the expected efficacy, but will require additional financial expenses.

Ticks are plant-eating garden pests
Arabs on a mite-infested plant. © Michael Z.

Natural remedies against mites

The use of folk remedies is the preparation of solutions, infusions from plants with acaricide properties and treatment of plants with them. When preparing solutions of such plants it is necessary to exercise caution and use personal safety measures. Plants-acaricides/insecticides can be classified as chemical preparations in terms of their effect on human and animal health. Therefore, it is better to use non-poisonous plants (excluding hemlock, hogweed, aconite, ...).

Spray them only in the evening hours, when beneficial insects are not working in the gardens (bees, bumblebees, beneficial insects). Solutions from herbs and other green plants belong to the group of preventive control methods. When the pest multiplication is high it is necessary to use more effective preparations, better from biological group.

Propagation spraying can be recommended as safe for human:

  • Tincture of husk.
  • Tincture of pine or scrub. An infusion of garlic shoots is effective.
  • Two-hour infusion of 200-400 g of dandelion leaves and roots in 10 liters of heated water is effective against leaf mites and thrips.
  • Add about 1 kg of dried above-ground mass of Yarrow to 10 liters of boiling water, insist in a closed container for 1,5-2,0 days and spray the plants with filtered solution. The solution also works against aphids and thrips.
  • Alder leaves are used to protect the root system of seedlings from root mites. A glass of dried alder leaves is used per liter of boiling water. Insist for a day. Heat up to +40...+-50 ° C and dip the roots of seedlings into the solution for 5 minutes.
  • In spring shrubs and small trees (seedlings) are treated for preventive purposes with a solution of organic soap .
  • Effective use ash infusion. A glass of ashes is poured into 5 liters of water. Let it stand for 2-3 days. Filter it, add 30-50 grams of laundry or green soap. The same effect is produced by mixture of 2-3 ml of kerosene in 10 liters of water with 30-40 grams of soap.
  • Cherry bushes and currants can be protected from mite invasion by placing banks with water and fresh branches of black and red elderberry between bushes.
  • Mite repellent plants include types of pyrethrums (Dalmatian, Caucasian, Persian chamomile), Barchanthes, calendula.

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