Brevipalpus phoenicis

Scientific Name Brevipalpus phoenicis (Geijskes, 1936)
Common Names English: False spider mite, red and black flat mite; Spanish: Acaro rojo de los citricos; Portuguese: Ácaro da leprose
Description The adult is oval, flat, greenish or red-orange in color, about 280 µm in length and 150 µm wide.
The larvae (~140 µm in length) have six legs and are orange-red. The bodies of the protonymph and deutonymph are slightly transparent and show some of the inner organs as diffuse green, yellow or black patches: like the adult, they have eight legs. The clusters of reddish-orange eggs are noticeable even with the naked eye.

Biology

Damage

The mites inject toxic saliva into plant cells and ingest their contents. The feeding punctures are very numerous and close together: chlorotic spots appear around them, and these later coalesce into larger brown patches, which can stop plant growth and lead to deformations. Fruits may split or their skin may rip open; leaves may fall off and shoots sometimes die back. In tea, for example, the canopy of infested bushes can be visibly thinned out.
On papaya, the mites start feeding on the trunk and, as population density increases, they migrate upwards onto the fruits and leaves. The areas around the feeding sites dry up, and become brownish, suberized and callous. If latex glands are punctured, the fruits may be soiled with the sticky liquid.
On citrus, damage can be especially severe. If the chlorotic spots are numerous ('phoenicis blotch'), the loss in the photosynthetically-active surface results in a significant reduction in fruit yield. Attacked plants may produce galls ('brevipalpus gall') at the nodes, and sprouting of buds is prevented. Shoots can be heavily distorted, with only a few leaves developing on the affected twigs, which can eventually lead to death of the tree.
Besides the direct damage it causes, B. phoenicis is a vector of citrus leprosis virus and coffee ringspot virus.

Lifecycle

B. phoenicis is parthenogenetic and its populations consist almost entirely of females.
The mite develops from egg to adult over a period of 12-24 days, passing through three developmental stages - larva, protonymph and deutonymph. Before each moult, there is a quiescent period without food intake, during which the mite is attached to the plant by the inserted stylet only, and the legs are held straight.
The mature female has a lifespan of up to 5-6 weeks, during which it lays about 50-60 eggs that hatch after 8-16 days. Often, several females will deposit their eggs in the same place, thus forming clusters of 4-8, usually in cracks or inside 'hollow' leaves, in which the mesophyll has been destroyed.
There are 4-6 generations per year in warm-temperate regions, and at least 10 with continuous reproduction in the tropics. The most favorable conditions are temperatures of 25-30°C (77-86°F) and a high relative humidity.

Occurrence

Additional Crop Information

The false spider mite has a very broad host range.
It is considered a serious pest mainly on citrus, tea, papaya, guava, coffee, several fruit trees and vine, but it can also cause heavy damage on many other crops.

Agricultural Importance

B. phoenicis is found worldwide, primarily in the tropics, but also in some states of the USA and in the Mediterranean region. It has frequently been reported from greenhouses in other areas. Given its high reproductive potential, B. phoenicis may cause enormous crop losses under certain conditions, especially in citrus.

Control

Integrated Crop Management

In some crops, careful pruning can reduce mite population densities significantly.

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