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The rise and rise of the dreaded Broad Mite & Cyclamen Mite

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In this article it will explain exactly what these pests are, how to recognise if you have them and the many guises or symptoms they display, but most important of all, the treatment schedule you will need to follow. So the number one MOST NOT WANTED pests are BROAD or CYCLAMEN MITES.

Broad or Cyclamen Mites are the indoor grower’s worst nightmare and anyone who has experienced the devastation that they can cause would welcome spider mites, powdery mildew or any other such problem as these little critters aka ‘bastards’ are truly a nightmare like no other.

There is no confirmed date or exact knowledge of when or how these dreadful insects found their way over to the UK. In fact from extensive research we have carried out we believe these two mites have been over here for quite some time, but they have steadily increased year on year. Reports indicate that these pests have been known about since the 1930’s.

The main problem is they are NOT like spider mites:
A) Spider mites are visible to the naked eye.
B) Spider mites leave a tell-tale sign with their web weaving.
No such luck with Cyclamen or Broad mites. In fact your plants will show you they have a problem, although you may not be able to tell straight away what the source of the problem is. Depending on the crops you are growing, your plants may indicate one or more of a range of problems which may include; magnesium deficiency, heat stress, slow growth, twisted deformed leaves, fungal disease and many others. After checking all these ailments, you’ll find that magnesium levels are ok, temps are ok, humidity levels are ok and all else seems perfect. Then more than likely you will have this super mite, but to be 100% sure you will need at least a microscope capable of 60-100x to look for their eggs.

                          

Broad mites & eggs courtesy of the University of California   Cyclamen mites & eggs pictures courtesy of the University of California

A test survey was conducted by Go Grow Hydroponics shop over two years ago and thirty microscopes were given out to 30 indoor gardeners with a scope range of 60-100x and they were shown exactly what to look out for and where. The verification testing period lasted over several months. From the thirty microscopes tested from different gardeners across London, the results were that 28 out of 30 had either broad mites or cyclamen mites and in some cases BOTH! So that’s only two lucky gardeners from thirty. In fact Go Grow went a little further and asked the question why these two gardeners had not been contaminated. After further research and with the help of the two lucky gardeners in question, it was established that they had not cross-contaminated (Cross-contamination: the swapping of plant cuttings, seeds etc or visiting an indoor or outdoor garden and returning to your own garden without changing clothes) themselves, their garden or their plants. Whereas all the other gardeners had either cross contaminated themselves, their garden or brought them in with cuttings. Another thing to bear in mind is that our loving pets can also carry these mites into your grow rooms, so DO NOT LET YOUR PETS IN!

Polyphagotarsonemus latus & larvae AKA Broad mite & egg

So let’s take a closer look at these pests. Cyclamen mites are so small, they cannot be seen by the naked eye. These mites measure a mere 0.3 mm long. Cyclamen mites can be colourless or brown tinted and waxy looking, they have four pairs of legs. The egg of the cyclamen mite is elliptical, 0.1 mm long, slightly milky in colour and smooth. These mites avoid light and prefer high humidity and cool 60º F (15º C) temperatures. They hide inside flowers, under leaves and any protected place on foliage. Eggs hatch in about 11 days when deposited in dark moist locations.

Broad mite eggs are even smaller, they are elliptical, see through, colourless, and about 0.08 mm long, and are each covered by 28 to 38 off white bumps. The mite’s larvae are only 0.2 mm long and are also off white in colour. Broad mites reproduce most prolifically at temperatures between 70-80º F (21-27º C). In fact, 9 or 10 Broad mites can easily hitch a ride into your garden on an unsuspecting whitefly!

Unsuspecting whitefly able to carry up to nine broad mites into your garden.

The mite’s worst effect on your plants is the secretion of a plant growth regulator or toxin through their saliva as they feed. This ultimately can cause severe damage to your crops. Broad mite and Cyclamen feeding damage deforms and distorts young buds and leaves. Leaf edges can curl up or entire leaves can cup down, twist, crinkle, become brittle and even show signs of scarring. Internodes shorten, growing tips are stunted and overall growth is underdeveloped. Both mite species feed on young leaves and flower parts, including flower buds, which may retard your plant growth and prevent your flowers or fruits from fully developing to their potential. In the worst cases new growth can blacken and even die. The damage caused appears like fungal damage, but can also be confused with viral diseases, micronutrient or nutrient deficiencies and heat stress or pesticide injury.

Unfortunately, in most cases damage is usually not detected until significant damage is sustained. Damaged foliage will not recover. A microscope will be necessary to detect the mites otherwise you will be pulling your hair out as to why your plants and garden are not performing. Regular inspections with a microscope of your crops is essential, look for their feeding damage, as this is the best way to detect for infestations. Tip: Look on the underside of damaged deformed twisted leaves.

  

Broad mite damage on pepper plants. Pictures courtesy of Iowa State University

Now you may think we’re safe in the UK, but unfortunately this resilient super mite is definitely here on our shores, so unless you’re aware of what plants carry these horrid pests you may be an unaware victim of these devious mites. Fruit and vegetable crops listed here act as hosts for these mites and they include: apple, avocado, cucumber, potato, chilies, citrus fruits, coffee, aubergine, grapes, pears, string & pole beans, strawberries and tomatoes. In addition to fruit and vegetable crops, these mites in actual fact adore many plants and can feed on over sixty plant family varieties including African violets, ageratums, azaleas, begonias, chrysanthemums, cyclamens, dahlias, gerberas, English ivy, jasmine, marigolds, daisies, snapdragon and grape vines to name a few. Realistically these guys have been here for a long time.

Agricultural farmers have dealt with them by using very strong pesticides. Some farmers have used enormous heated water troughs where all their cuttings are submerged into the heated water. This treatment has proven quite successful in agriculture. When using heat treatment, different plant types will require different heat temperatures as some plants can’t take the same heat treatment temperatures as others.

Hot water treatment involves lowering the plant into water held at a temperature of 43 to 49° C (109.4-120.2° F) for 15 minutes for best results try 111° F, but remember the water temperature has to be the same throughout your dunking tank to achieve the desired effect. The same goes for when you heat treat your rooms or garden space. Between each crop in your room/garden ensure you clean obsessively, then turn heaters and lights on and turn all fans off. Turning off fans enables you to reach the desired high temperatures in your grow space.
Smaller room/gardens are easier to heat up and maintain the desired temperatures. Room/garden heat treatment temperature is about 140° F sustained for approximately
Heat treatments should only carried out while you are there to oversee it as you MUST NOT just leave it to do its thing as the high temperatures need to be managed.

So you may have harboured these mites for years unawares, all the while battling numerous plant deficiencies and growth abnormalities. If you identify an infestation and it’s quite bad on just a few plants, the recommendation is to discard them, take them out of your grow room/garden environment ASAP and concentrate on the less infected plants.

Even the BEST growers in the world have fallen prey to this pest. Most are unaware of the cause and some have even given up growing, but the true discerning grower will always persevere.

These mites are able to walk short distances and are spread long distances by being carried by wind or by clinging on and attaching themselves to our pets and wild animals… even your own clothing, which also means humans can transport them too. Their most devious way of entry into your garden is via winged insects like aphids, and whiteflies. For example, these canny insects can simply hitch a ride by clinging onto the legs of whiteflies. Male mites actually transport eggs to new foliage, so if you have removed an infested plant, ensure that you treat the other plants too.

You will learn that no one thing will completely rid you of these mites but you will be able to manage them better with a regime of an array of different treatments at different stages of your plants life cycle.

There are many strong miticides out on the market currently, but unfortunately the majority of them are Not organic. Worst still most of these non-organic mite killers are usually systemic and no discerning organic grower will even look at these types of products.

NEEM OIL is a good thing to have as a preventative measure, and acts as a great anti feeding deterrent.

COMPOST TEA for battling these mites is also a great tool to have up your sleeve. There are some on the market which claim to deal with these mites but nothing you couldn’t really make yourself.

MONOMERIC PHENOLS have been proven to act as a great anti feeding deterrent or pest feeding deterrent. Monomeric phenols are found in worm humus or worm manure. Worms uptake soil particles and absorb humic acids through their guts, then excrete monomeric phenols and polychlorinated phenols into vermi-compost. Drenching your plants with a vermi-compost tea has shown in various tests and studies to reduce damage between 25-50%. So introducing compost teas is a must and your plants will definitely thank you for it.

DIATOMACEOUS EARTH can also act as a great organic killer for these mites and slow down their cycle quite dramatically. Diatomaceous Earth can be bought in powder form and literally puffed onto your plants and any crawling creature will quite literally get torn apart. It can be seen as mother natures barbed wire, the downside to this is that you need to manage and time the uses of this powder especially if foliar spraying (Diatomaceous Earth is no longer effective if wet). So puff it on the plants after they have had their foliar spray and left to dry.

NUKE EM by Flying Skull, has recently entered the fight against these mites. An organic OMRI listed product that actually helps to lower and decrease numbers of mites drastically by penetrating their outer shell and ultimately destroying their life cycle. This product cannot be used together with other solutions. Nuke Em can be sprayed right up till the day of harvest if needed.

PREDATORY MITES can be used when your fruits and flowers begin their bloom period because it becomes more difficult to spray some edibles regularly. Therefore it is also strongly recommended that biological predatory mites are introduced throughout your blooming cycle. They are called Swirskii mites (Amblyseius swirskii). These predatory mites eat the mites you don’t want and they love eating broad and cyclamen mites. The Swirskii’s die off when their food source finishes.

Tip: If you have any leftover predatory mite sachets, it’s very good to share a few in your propagator with any new seedlings or even new cuttings you’ve brought in as a precaution.

Remember that these organic methods need to be staggered varied and time managed professionally, meaning you will have to put the effort in. There is no easy way and no two schedules or regimes may turn out the same. Plants, like people are varied and where one regime/schedule may work well with one breed it may need tweaking for another. So be prepared for some frustration and ongoing research.

PREVENTION is the best form of defence. Even if you’re sure you have no such mite infestation, it is still better to use these organic methods of combat as a form of prevention, as these are not the type of pest I would wish on anyone as it is so devastating.

Flyers courtesy of University of Florida