Rust mites cause serious damage to citrus trees. Although pink citrus rust mite pests (Aculops pelekassi) may be a pretty color, there is nothing cute about these destructive insects. Anyone growing citrus in a home orchard should be able to recognize pink citrus mite damage. If you need more information on these mites or want to learn how to kill pink citrus rust mites, read on.
Pink Citrus Rust Mite Pests
There are two types of rust mites that cause fruit loss in citrus trees, the citrus rust mite and the pink citrus rust mite. Both types suck juices from citrus fruit and citrus foliage, causing blemishes on the peel and subsequent fruit drop. Pink citrus rust mite pests would be easy to recognize if they were larger. They are .005 inches (15 mm.) long and very difficult to view with the naked eye. These mites are pink and longer than they are wide. They have uniquely concave backs. You’ll often find them at leaf margins, while their flattened eggs are scattered about the leaf or fruit surfaces.
Pink Rust Mite Damage
The first pink rust mite damage you’ll see happens a long time before the fruit is mature, generally in April or May. Look at the skin of the fruit for broken epidermal cells and a reddish cast. This results in smaller fruit and is called “russeting.” In mature citrus fruit, the skin cells don’t break. Instead, they look polished and shiny. The leaves also turn glossy, with a bronze tinge, and you’ll see patches of yellow discoloration. This is called “bronzing.” All pink rust mite damage results in lower quality fruit. However, other problems can appear as well, like unusually small fruit, water loss in fruit, and fruit drop.
Pink Citrus Rust Mite Control
When you are thinking of pink citrus rust mite control, you’ll need to review all of the chemicals you are applying in your yard. Some broad-form pesticides used for other issues actually work to increase the rust mite population. For example, don’t apply broad-spectrum insecticides, especially pyrethroids like Banitol or Mustang. These products can kill off natural enemies of rust mites (like ladybeetles) and result in booming populations of pink citrus rust mite pests. Likewise, think twice before spraying copper to control citrus canker or fungal diseases. Copper can also boost the population of pink citrus rust mite pests. If you want to know how to kill pink citrus rust mites, your best bet is to select an appropriate miticide and apply it according to the label directions. Unless you use petroleum oil, you should limit miticide application to once per season.
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Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.
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