Do Mites Control Pests in Blueberry Farms?

Jenn Hoskins
1st May, 2024

Do Mites Control Pests in Blueberry Farms?

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In the Southeastern U.S., two mite species can reduce Southern red mite numbers in blueberries
  • These predatory mites decreased red mite eggs and mobile stages in lab and greenhouse tests
  • The study suggests a move towards sustainable pest control in agriculture, reducing chemical use
The Southern red mite, Oligonychus ilicis, is a widespread pest that poses a significant threat to various crops, including ornamentals, coffee, and particularly blueberries in the Southeastern United States. Growers in regions such as Florida and Georgia have reported substantial crop losses due to this pest. In the ongoing battle against agricultural pests, predatory mites have emerged as a valuable ally, offering a biological alternative to chemical pesticides. A recent study by the Federal University of Lavras[1] has shed light on potential biological control methods for managing O. ilicis infestations in blueberry crops. This research focused on three predatory mite species: Amblyseius swirskii, Phytoseiulus persimilis, and Neoseiulus californicus. All three have been recognized for their effectiveness in controlling other mite pests in different agricultural systems. The study conducted both laboratory and greenhouse experiments to assess the predatory capabilities of these mites against the Southern red mite. In the laboratory setting, P. persimilis and N. californicus showed promise by significantly reducing the number of motile stages—meaning the mobile life stages of the pest mite—compared to untreated controls. This result suggested that these two species could effectively suppress O. ilicis populations. However, A. swirskii did not demonstrate the same level of control, which contrasts with its previously documented success in managing other pests[2]. When the experiments moved to the greenhouse, the results were consistent with the laboratory findings. Both N. californicus and P. persimilis significantly decreased the number of O. ilicis eggs within a week of release and continued to reduce the motile stages after two weeks. These findings are particularly noteworthy as they represent the first instance of phytoseiid mites being used against O. ilicis in blueberry systems in the United States. The success of N. californicus aligns with earlier observations of its predation and oviposition habits when fed on different developmental stages of the pest mite Oligonychus punicae[3]. The ability of N. californicus to adapt to various prey stages and its correlation with environmental factors like temperature and precipitation may contribute to its effectiveness as a biological control agent. The study also highlights the need for further research into the behavior and feeding preferences of these predatory mites, as well as how they interact with chemical pesticides. Understanding these factors is crucial for integrating biological control agents like P. persimilis and N. californicus into pest management programs for blueberries and potentially other crops affected by O. ilicis. The implications of this research extend beyond the immediate concern of controlling the Southern red mite in blueberries. It underscores the broader potential for biological control in agriculture. As seen with the case of Amblyseius swirskii in Spain, where the need for pesticide-free produce led to the almost complete adoption of biological control methods for sweet pepper cultivation[2], there is a growing trend towards sustainable and environmentally friendly pest management strategies. In conclusion, the study from the Federal University of Lavras provides promising evidence that P. persimilis and N. californicus could be effective biological control agents against the Southern red mite in blueberry crops. This research paves the way for more sustainable pest management practices and could lead to reduced reliance on chemical pesticides, which is beneficial for both the environment and the agricultural industry. Further studies will be essential to fully integrate these predatory mites into comprehensive pest management programs and to ensure the long-term success of biological control methods.



Main Study

1) Are predatory mites effective as biological control agents to suppress Oligonychus ilicis (Acari: Tetranychidae) in blueberry plantings?

Published 30th April, 2024

Related Studies

2) Amblyseius swirskii: what made this predatory mite such a successful biocontrol agent?

3) Biocontrol Potential of Neoseiulus californicus (Mesostigmata : Phytoseiidae) Against Oligonychus punicae (Acari: Tetranychidae) in Avocado.

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