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Tiny Pests, Big Damage: How Cyclamen Mites Stealthily Harm Your Plants

Tiny Pests, Big Damage: How Cyclamen Mites Stealthily Harm Your Plants

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Plants add vibrance and beauty wherever they grow, whether you grow them outdoors or indoors in your house.

But, sometimes, you see that your plant is struggling, with its leaves curling and wrinkling, eventually becoming brittle. Moreover, the flowers become distorted, and the plant looks unhealthy.

Finally, it succumbs to its illness and dies.

Would it surprise you if I told you that the culprit behind this damage is a tiny pest you can’t see?

Read this article to learn about cyclamen mites, how they damage plants, and the best way to control them.

What are Cyclamen Mites?

Cyclamen mites are tiny arthropods that are hard to detect and see.

Yet, even without seeing them, you’ll notice their presence because of the severe damage they cause to flowering plants when left untreated.

Phytonemus pallidus pests are about 0.2 mm to 0.3 mm long when mature, and they’re waxy orange or brown-tinted, which makes them impossible to see. They thrive in cool and humid environments and are widespread in greenhouses and indoor gardens.

Each mite has four pairs of legs, and it’s easy to distinguish the female and male mites by examining their legs.

The fourth pair of legs in females ends with a single long hair and isn’t used for walking, while their peer ends in a claw for male mites. Moreover, the males are slightly smaller than the females.

These pests lay translucent eggs that measure about 0.1 mm long in dark and moist places. They’re oblong and rounded at the ends, and they’re challenging to find because the mites hide them.

Each female lays two or three eggs per day once mature, and the eggs are relatively large compared to the size of mites, almost half the size of the adult pest.

They take about 11 days to hatch white larvae, each with three pairs of legs. These legs have suction cups and microscopic claws that allow the larvae to stick to the leaves of various flowering plants.

They have wrinkled skin that stretches as they grow and crawl on the leaves for about one week before they become immobile and don’t feed. After that, they molt into the adult stage.

Cyclamen mites hide between the stems and folded leaves and between the stamens and ovaries of flowers as they try to avoid the light. This technique makes them difficult to spot.

How Do Cyclamen Mites Damage Plants?

Cyclamen mites feed on the sap of host plants, mainly cyclamen.

However, they also infect several types of flowering plants, especially strawberries, African violets, geraniums, delphiniums, and dahlias.

The mites have puncturing mouthparts that allow them to penetrate the plant tissue and suck the sap. Moreover, their toxic saliva causes twisted growth as the infection worsens.

They’re often seen between the leaves, away from the sun where the humidity is high, and the damage is usually challenging to spot at the beginning.

It’s easy to confuse their damage with viral diseases, but it’s often more localized because those tiny mites move slowly.

The symptoms vary depending on the host plant.

  • In cyclamen plants, the symptoms include stunted growth and deformed flower buds.
  • The leaves of strawberry plants fold and become wrinkled. Later, the berries and flowers become deformed, and the leaves turn bronze or silver.
  • When cyclamen mites infect African violets, they stunt the plant’s growth, and the foliage becomes discolored.
  • Geraniums have twisted and stunted growth when cyclamen mites attack them.
  • Cyclamen mites make the flower buds of delphiniums turn brown and don’t open.
  • Twisted new growth means that cyclamen mites have attacked your dahlias.

How Long Do Cyclamen Mites Live?

Female cyclamen mites live between eight and 13 days, but male pests don’t live that long. They usually live between five and nine days only.

These pests are native to the Mediterranean region but are currently widespread in Europe and North America, especially in indoor gardens and greenhouses, where it’s more humid.

Do Cyclamen Mites Live in Soil?

Cyclamen mites might hibernate in the soil when there’s no host plant around.

Yet, these pests can survive in older cyclamen corms, especially the ones kept in a greenhouse.

Female mites usually semi-hibernate until a host plant is available so they can lay their eggs. These pests won’t be able to continue their life cycle until a host plant is present, allowing the larvae to feed.

Since these pests are heat-sensitive, the cool soil will allow them to survive without feeding.

What Do Cyclamen Mites Eat?

Cyclamen mites feed on the sap of plants.

Their piercing mouthparts suck the sap and content of plant cells to nourish the larvae, allowing them to reach maturity.

This, however, damages the plant, as the larvae inject toxic compounds into the plant’s tissue, hindering its growth.

How Can You Detect Cyclamen Mites?

There are several ways to detect the presence of cyclamen mites, and early detection is crucial in helping you control the infestation before it worsens.

Magnifying Glass

Although these pests are hardly visible to the naked eye, you can detect them using a magnifying glass.

Inspecting the young leaves and buds, especially in cool and humid conditions is a must to detect an early infestation before it gets worse.

Environmental Conditions

It’s essential to identify the conditions that allow these pests to thrive.

So, if you grow plants in cool and humid conditions, you should inspect them regularly.

Detect Symptoms

It’s crucial to keep an eye on your plant to notice the slightest changes.

Young leaves might start to look twisted and the whole plant will experience stunted growth. If you notice that the flower buds look unhealthy and don’t open, there’s a big chance that this plant is infected with cyclamen mites.

You might also notice that the foliage is becoming discolored with dark patches and the buds are becoming brown.

Does Neem Oil Kill Cyclamen Mites?

Neem oil doesn’t kill cyclamen mites on the spot but prevents them from eating the leaves, leading to their death.

This oil makes the plant unpalatable, discouraging the plant from eating. As a result, the mites will starve and eventually die.

What Kills Cyclamen Mites?

Cyclamen mites are rather hard to kill because they’ve become resistant to most pesticides.

However, their numbers can be controlled using several chemicals and potent methods that can prevent their populations from spreading in your garden.

First, you should know that the best way to control the number of cyclamen mites is effective prevention.

It’s quite easy to deal with an infestation before it spreads since these mites move slowly.

Ideally, you should make sure that your plants aren’t growing in cool and humid conditions which create the perfect environment for these pests.

If you notice that there are damaged leaves or flower buds, remove them to get rid of the mites. This will help control their number.

Quarantine new plants before introducing them to your indoor garden, greenhouse, or outdoor garden to make sure that they aren’t infested.

Once you notice that you have an infested plant, you should move it away from the rest.

Since the pests attack the lower folded leaves, you can lower your plant in hot water that measures around 111 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the cyclamen mites on the spot. This won’t harm your plant, and you’ll be able to eliminate them efficiently.

Biological control is preferable, so you can introduce Typhlodromus bellinus and T. reticulatus in your garden, as they feed on your cyclamen mites.

Nevertheless, since they spread too slowly, they might not be potent at controlling a serious infestation.

Finally, you can use insecticidal soap, horticultural oils, and miticides. Unfortunately, cyclamen mites have become more resistant, so they might not work on the spot, but they usually smother them and damage their cells with regular application.

However, you should be careful about using different types of chemicals because these mites can quickly become resistant.

Final Thoughts

Cyclamen mites are annoying pests that you won’t see, but they can damage your flowering plants, especially if you grow them in a greenhouse or indoor garden.

These miniature pests live for a few days, but they suck the sap, distorting the foliage and preventing the flowers from blooming.

It’s easy to deal with a cyclamen mite infestation before these pests mate and increase in number because they move slowly. Once the infestation has spread, it becomes more challenging to deal with.

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