Siteroptes graminum Reuter Grass cereal mite

Infestations of this widespread but sporadic and usually minor pest are sometimes noted on cereals (including wheat and barley) and grasses. Affected plants are stunted and their infloresences fail to emerge properly, becoming distorted and silvery in appearance (a condition known as 'silver top'). Attacks are usually established in association with the fungus Fusarium poae. A similar relationship occurs on glasshouse-grown carnation; this results in rotting and death of the buds (a condition known as 'bud rot' or 'central bud rot'). Such attacks are infrequent and usually initiated in the autumn after a period of hot, dry weather.

BIOLOGY

Colonies of this unusual mite occur in the shelter of leaf sheaths or bud scales. The females feed on plant tissue and on hyphae of the fungus Fusarium poae, with which they may form a symbiotic relationship. The immature stages (eggs, larvae and nymphs) develop within the swollen, sac-like body of the female. Adults eventually merge as the hysterosoma splits open and the maternal mite dies. There are several generations in the year, the mites being most numerous in the late summer and autumn.

DESCRIPTION

Adult female 0.19 x 0.07mm, shiny hyaline-whitish; hysterosoma elongate but globular and up to 3 mm or more in diameter when bloated with developing young. Adult male 0.15 mm long and stout-bodied; head very small.

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