IFAS Pest Alert: First report of Phyllocoptes fructiphilus, the vector of Rose rosette virus in Florida.
Xavier Martini1, Austin N Fife1, Gary Knox2, Mathews Paret3
1North Florida Research and Education Center, University of Florida; Entomology and Nematology Department
2North Florida Research and Education Center, University of Florida; Entomology and Nematology Department; Environmental Horticulture Department
3North Florida Research and Education Center, University of Florida; Entomology and Nematology Department; Plant Pathology Department
The eriophyid mite Phyllocoptes fructiphilus (Fig. 1) is the vector of Rose rosette virus (RRV), a lethal emaravirus identified as the causal agent of the devastating Rose Rosette Disease (RRD). Incidence of RRD has grown exponentially, as the range of P. fructiphilus spread from the non-native, invasive wild rose, Rosa multiflora (Thunb) into other cultivated and uncultivated roses in the southeastern United States. In July 2019, P. fructiphilus was collected for the first time in Florida from landscape roses in Leon County from non-symptomatic roses. Phyllocoptes fructiphilus is an established native pest of ornamental roses in the western United States and has become widely distributed in the eastern United States. However, the mite has never been previously found in Florida. RRV is currently not established in Florida. However, RRV infected plants have been identified on plants shipped for commerical production to Florida many times since 2013 and destroyed by UF-IFAS in collaboration with DPI-FDACS. Phyllocoptes fructiphilus were not present in any of these intercepted plants. This new confirmation of the presence of Phyllocoptes fructiphilus in the landscape is critical and warrants continued monitoring of the mite in Florida.
Description and biology
Eriophyid mites like Phyllocoptes fructiphilus are notable for their small size (P. fructiphilus is 140-170 μm long and 43 μm wide), carrot-shaped body and for having only four legs instead of the usual eight. P. fructiphilus lives on the new growth of buds and between stem and leaf petioles during the warm season. Mites overwinter under bark and old bud scales. Females begin laying eggs on shoots in the spring. Development from egg to adult takes 1 week. Adult females can live up to 30 days, and they can lay an egg each day. Therefore, these mites have the potential to build up to large numbers very quickly. P. fructiphilus lives and breeds on all cultivated roses, wild native roses and wild non-native roses such as multiflora roses.
It generally takes between 17 and 90 days for P. fructiphilus to transmit RRV to a rose. Symptoms appear 1 to 3 months after infection. As the mites are not visible to the naked eye, knowledge of how to recognize RRD symptoms is essential. Symptoms include: witches’ brooms (red small twisted leaves on elongated branches) (Fig 2A); severe thorn proliferation (Fig. 2B); leaf mosaic (Fig 2C); distorted leaves and flower buds (Fig 2D). Some of these symptoms can be misidentified and confused with herbicide damage or young leaf flush. In spring and fall, many healthy roses have reddened foliage; however, red pigmentation associated with RRD will persist for the life of the foliage. Plants usually die 1 to 2 years following infection.
Phyllocoptes fructiphilus dispersal is mostly aerial and the mite spreads via wind currents between plants. Therefore, the closer a rose is located to RRD roses the more likely it is to be infested, especially if the roses are situated downwind from the mite source. It is likely that humans also disperse these mites by moving infested plants or plant parts between different locations. Phoretic dispersal via insects and other animals is also possible but has not yet been demonstrated for P. fructiphilus. Another possible source of dispersion is by contaminated clothing and equipment.
There is currently no cure for RRD. If a plant is infected, it is recommended to uproot (as the virus survives in the roots) and destroy the plant immediately. A new plant can be planted 7 days later in the same location, as mites do not survive more than 5 days without a rose host. To avoid spread of the disease, it is recommended to inspect roses for RRD symptoms before being purchased and avoiding entering areas with roses after coming back from an infested area. RRD can be transmitted by grafting but not by pruning.
Cultural control of mites
As dispersal of the mites is mostly aerial, walls and windbreaks may reduce P. fructiphilus dispersal and the spread of RRD. When planting roses, leave enough space between plants to prevent leaves from touching, which allows mites to crawl from one plant to another. Pruning will reduce mite populations, but prunings and fallen debris may contain mites. To prevent prunings from dispersing mites, it is critical to immediately bag prunings on-site and transport bagged materials for off-site disposal.
Chemical control of mites
Spirotetramat (e.g. Kontos®) and abamectin (e.g. Avid®) based miticides include products labelled for eriophyid mite control in greenhouses and nurseries. Some studies indicate that carbaryl or bifenthrin based insecticides may effectively control P. fructiphilus. These chemicals can be found in some products labelled for use in landscapes and home gardens.
Scouting and collection
Due to their size, the mites are only visible under magnification. They can be found on leaf petiole bases and axillary buds, and are associated with fast-growing and soft tissues. There are a few different species of eriophyid mites that live on rose other than P. fructiphilus. Species identification can only be done under a microscope by a specialist. If the presence of either Phyllocoptes fructiphilus or RRD is suspected, please collect the damaged/infested shoots and/or fruit and place them into a sealable polyethylene bag. Place paper towels into the bag (to reduce mold) and then carefully seal the bag before sending it to the following addresses:
Division of Plant Industry/Entomology
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
The Doyle Conner Building, 1911 SW 34th St, Gainesville, FL 32608
samuel.bolton@FreshFromFlorida.com / phone: 352-395-4679
Dr. Xavier Martini
University of Florida
NFREC, 155 Research Road, Quincy, FL 32351
email@example.com / Phone: 850-875-7160
For more information on RRD, please follow these links:
Figure 1: The eriophyid mite Phyllocoptes fructiphilus.
Figure 2: Different symptoms of rose rosette disease, including (A) witches’ broom; (B) excessive thorn proliferation; (C) leaf mosaic; (D) distorted flower bud.
 Mentioning these pesticides does not signify endorsement or recommendation of any specific treatment option or chemical by the University of Florida.