Citrus rust mites are pests that affect a variety of citrus trees. While they do not do any permanent or serious damage to the tree, they do make the fruit unsightly and virtually impossible to sell commercially. Because of this, control is really only a necessity if you are looking to sell your fruit. Keep reading to learn more about managing citrus rust mites in your backyard or orchard.
Citrus Rust Mite Info
What are citrus rust mites? The citrus rust mite (Phyllocoptruta oleivora) is a pest that feeds on citrus fruit, leaves and stems. On oranges, it is commonly known as rust mite, while on lemons, it is called silver mite. Another species, called the pink rust mite (Aculops pelekassi) is also known to cause problems. The mites are too small to see with the naked eye, but with a magnifying glass, they can be seen as pink or yellow in color and wedge shaped.
Mite populations can explode quickly, with a new generation appearing every one to two weeks at the height of growth. This usually occurs in midsummer. In the spring, the population will exist mostly on new leaf growth, but by summer and into autumn, it will have moved to the fruit.
Fruit that is fed on early in the season will develop a rough but light-colored texture known as “sharkskin.” Fruit that is fed on in summer or fall will be smooth but dark brown, a phenomenon called “bronzing.” While citrus rust mites can cause stunted growth and some fruit drop, the damage done to the fruit is basically cosmetic – the flesh inside will be untouched and edible. It is only a problem if you’re looking to sell your fruit commercially.
How to Kill Citrus Rust Mites
The damage caused by citrus rust mites is mostly cosmetic, so if you aren’t planning to sell your fruit, citrus rust mite control isn’t really necessary. It is, however, possible to control populations with miticides.
An easier, more practical solution, is canopy density. Mite populations are less likely to explode under a thick canopy of leaves, so judicious pruning may help to lessen their numbers.