NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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The citrus red mite, Panonychus citri, is a spider mite often associated with citrus, but it also feeds on roses, pears, almond, and some broad-leaved ornamentals. It is a serious pest of citrus in Florida and California. Females are red, plump, and about 0.5 mm long. Males are smaller and taper to the rear. The setae ("hairs") are white with red bases. Females lay 20 to 30 eggs that are are almost spherical. The eggs have a crooked "hair" sticking up from the top called the "stipe." Females lay two or three eggs per day and often spin a thin silk web from the stipe to the substrate surface. Citrus red mite larvae hatch in 8 to 30 days and have three pairs of legs. They then develop through two nymphal stages (with four pairs of legs), each lasting several days, and then molt into adults. In hot weather, development from egg to egg may be as short as 3 weeks, and adults may live 18 days. Development is slower in cool weather. Extremely hot, dry weather or prolonged periods of high humidity are unfavorable for citrus red mite survival.

Citrus red mite, Panonychus citri, on a lemon fruit.

Citrus red mites feed primarily on plants in the citrus family.

Photo by J.R. Baker

A citrus red mite on a lemon fruit.

Citrus red mite females are plump with white setae.

Photo by J.R. Baker

Citrus red mite egg on lemon fruit.

Citrus red mite eggs have a central stipe.

Photo by J.R. Baker

Host Plants

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The citrus red mite feeds on citrus leaves, stems, and fruit as well as Skimmia japonica, rose, and pear. It can invade homes in the fall and spring to infest citrus plants on porches and sunrooms. At first the mites cause a silvery stippling of the leaves as they suck out the contents of the plant cells in the epidermis and mesophyll. Scratch-like feeding marks turn leaves and green immature fruit noticeably pale. Injured mature oranges and lemons turn a pale straw yellow. If uncontrolled, citrus red mites may cause complete leaf drop.

Residential Recommendation

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One of the plant-shine oils, horticultural oils, or insecticidal soaps should give adequate control of citrus red mites. These are both effective and safe for humans when used according to the directions on the label. Several house plant spray mixtures are also on the market. These should control citrus red mites as well.


Professor Emeritus
Entomology and Plant Pathology

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Publication date: Nov. 9, 2013
Revised: Sept. 12, 2019

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