Citrus Mites (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) are small insects with wingspans of less than 1 mm. They have two pairs of legs, which they use to move around. Their bodies are brown or blackish green in color, but their head and thorax are white, while the abdomen is yellowish orange. The females lay eggs on leaves and fruit where they feed on the sap of plants such as oranges, lemons and limes. Mature adults may be found on trees up to 10 meters tall.
The adult female citrus mite feeds on the sap of fruits and leaves, thus it is called “fruitbiting” mites. The male citrus mite does not feed at all. The males do not bite humans, but they are known to carry the disease called “citrus rust”.
Mating season lasts from June until September. During this time, the female lays between 100 and 500 eggs on each leaf of the tree. She will lay them anywhere she finds suitable places to deposit her eggs. After mating, the female stays on the same place for several days before moving off again. The male must leave after mating if he wants to mate again with another female within a few weeks.
After mating, both mites go back into hiding and wait for the next generation of moths to emerge from hibernation. The eggs will hatch in spring and the larvae will stay on the trees until they are big enough to molt. Then they find a safe place away from the leaves, where they pupate. They will remain in this stage of development until the next spring, when they emerge as adult mites.
The adult citrus mite has a lifespan of only 2 to 3 weeks. The female lays about 500 eggs during her lifetime, which she only lives long enough to do once. The male lives even shorter, only living long enough to mate once during the summer.
The eggs of the citrus mite do not hatch immediately. They can survive for a year or more before hatching when there is sufficient food available. The larvae resemble tiny white worms. They have no legs and cannot move around. Their mouthparts are barely visible as small black dots near their mouths.
The larvae feed on the leaves of the tree until they are ready to molt and become adults.
The immature stages of the citrus mite are called nymphs. Between molts, they shed their exoskeleton and grow larger. Each time they shed, the nymphs become larger and their color changes. This process is known as “molting”. After several molts, the mature into adults, which are small and compact enough to move around the outside of leaves.
They can fly or move to another host plant.
Sources & references used in this article:
Low volume applications to citrus trees: Effectiveness in control of citrus red mite and California red scale with petroleum oils and pesticides by LR Jeppson, GE Carman – Journal of Economic Entomology, 1974 – academic.oup.com
Spraying for the control of insects and mites attacking citrus trees in Florida by WW Yothers – 1922 – books.google.com
Pathogens infecting insects and mites of citrus. by CW McCoy, RA Samson, DG Boucias… – … and mites of citrus., 2010 – cabdirect.org
Residues on Citrus Trees in Florida: Changes in Purple Scale and Rust Mite Populations following the Use of various Spray Materials. by JT Griffiths, FF Fisher – Journal of Economic Entomology, 1950 – cabdirect.org
Survey and population density of tarsonemine mites under citrus trees in Monoufeia Governorate, Egypt. by SM Abo-Korah – Bulletin de la Societe Entomologique d’Egypte, 1980 – cabdirect.org
… of the rust mite Phyllocoptruta oleivora Ashmead, flat mite Brevipalpus californicus Banks and its side effect on Amblyseius scutalis (Athias-Henriot) on citrus trees. by NG Iskander – Egyptian Journal of Agricultural Research, 1993 – cabdirect.org
Entomogenous Fungi attacking Scale Insects and Rust Mites on Citrus in Florida. by FE Fisher – Journal of Economic Entomology, 1950 – cabdirect.org