Tiny, but mighty – the lychee erinose mite

By Ralph E. Mitchell

Pest problems can come on a large or small scale.  Think of the myriad of microbes that can bring us to our knees.  A flea may be tiny, but look at the aggravation  it causes!  Just when you thought your lychee tree was safe, in steps the lychee erinose mite – a new microscopic mite that can severely damage a lychee tree and its production of fruit.

As we enter the season when lychee fruit ripens and trees here and south of us are laden with red, delicious fruit, a new villain is on the scene.  Originally showing up in Cape Coral and Pine Island last year, the  lychee erinose mite is now in Charlotte County as well as Collier County. In fact a quarantine prevents lychee fruit or plant parts from moving out of Lee County to other locations in Florida.  The mite is so small that it can be moved about by air currents, honeybees, moving infested plants and by human activity.  As such, do not move these plants and make sure to disinfect any pruning tools.  While you cannot see the mite with the naked eye, you can detect the damage which is very diagnostic.  The mite feeding activity causes small blisters on the top side of the leaf.  This is followed by distinct reddish-brown, hairy, felt-like growths on the underside of leaves.  Loss of fruit production can reach eighty-percent for infested trees.

The lychee erinose mite was previously detected in 1955 and 1993 when these infestations were successfully eradicated. Presently, if you find what you think is a lychee mite infestation in your backyard tree, please contact the  Department of Plant Industry at DPIHelpline@FreshFromFlorida.com  or call 1-888-397-1517.  Please look at the above photos and those documented at the various lychee erinose mite links for diagnostic help – http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/trec/2018/03/19/new-serious-pest-lychee-longan-trees-found-florida/, here – https://www.freshfromflorida.com/content/download/79300/2326248/PEST_ALERT_-_Aceria_litchii_-_Erinose_mite_pest_on_lychee.pdf, and here – https://trec.ifas.ufl.edu/media/trecifasufledu/public-notices/Control-recommendations-for-lychee-mite-UF-IFAS-MIA-EXT-4-17-18-JHC-(2).PDF.

We can also help you with identification, and getting you in touch with the Department of Plant Industry  which is part of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).  Together we can hopefully snuff out this pest one more time!  For more information on all types of insects pests in our area, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area.  Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/charlotteco/files/2018/03/Plant-Clinics-Schedule.pdf.   Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or ralph.mitchell@charlottecountyfl.gov.

Resources:
Carrillo, D., Crane, J.  H. & Wasielewski, J. (2018) Commercial Grower Control Recommendations for the Lychee Erinose Mite (LEM) UF/IFAS Extension Miami-Dade County
Bolton, S. (2018) Aceria litchii (Keiffer, 1943), lychee erinose mite.  Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry
Carrillo, D., Revynthi, A. M., Wasielewski, J., Miller, C.  & Crane, J.  H. (2018) New Serious Pest of Lychee and Longan Trees Found in Florida.  UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center

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