Strawberry mite

This subspecies is a serious pest of outdoor strawberries. The mites cause discoloration and distortion of foliage and severe stunting of plants; fruits are also affected, those on badly infested plants remaining small and becoming leathery and dull in colour. Damage is most evident from July onwards and tends to be most significant on older plants, especially those grown in perennial matted rows. Heavy infestations in 1 year will also lead to a significant reduction in cropping in the following season.

BIOLOGY

Strawberry mites overwinter as adult females, deep within the crowns of plants. They become active in the following spring, and small colonies then develop in sheltered sites on the furled and unfurling leaves. The mites also occur under rolled edges on expanded leaves. Populations increase gradually to reach a peak in the late summer and early autumn. There are several overlapping generations each year, development from egg to adult taking 2-3 weeks during the summer months. Most females breed parthenogenetically and males usually form only a small proportion of the population. Unlike Tetranychus urticae (p. 267), the strawberry mite occurs mainly on young foliage; maturing leaves are unsuitable feeding sites and are abandoned as they harden.

DESCRIPTION

Morphological differences between this subspecies and Phytonemus pallidus (see p. 260) are uncertain.

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