NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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The privet mite, Brevipalpus obovatus, is a member of the family Tenuipalpidae, commonly called false spider mites or flat mites. It feeds on a variety of woody ornamental plants. The privet mite is very small (0.3 mm), reddish, flat, and strongly textured on top (if you have a microscope to admire the texture). Flat mites cause the same sort of damage that spider mites do except that flat mites do not spin silk and their damage accrues more slowly. Female flat mites lay eggs that take 20 to 21 days to hatch at room temperature. Larvae hatch from the eggs and feed for about two weeks before molting into protonymphs. After 15 days of feeding, the protonymphs molt into deutonymphs. Two weeks later, the deutonymphs molt into adult mites. Development is slower outdoors in cold weather. We have four to six generations of privet mites per year (whereas spider mites have 18 to 36 generations per year).

Two privet mites on a Japanese holly leaf show how small they are

Privet mites are tiny, reddish, and flat.

Photo by J.R. Baker

Privet mites are small and flat.

Privet mites are tiny, reddish, and flat.

The privet mite, Brevipalpus inornatus, is a pest of several shrubs.

Privet mites are tiny, reddish and flat.

Host Plants

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The privet mite has been reported from Andrachne sp., Barringtonia racemosa, Bignonia sp., blackberry, boxwood, Callistemon sp., Camellia sinensis, Chamaemelum sp., chrysanthemum, Citharexylum quadrangulare, cotton, cucumber, elephant ear, English ivy, Epimedium, Eriobotrya japonica, fig, Gerbera sp., golden rod, grape, Hibiscus, Kunzea baxteri, lemon, Ligustrum spp., mints, oregano, persimmon, Phoenix, Phytolacca sp., Pittosporum undulatum, Rhododendron, Solanum esculentum, S. tuberosum, thyme, tulip bulbs, Verbena bonariensis, and Viburnum. Privet mites cause the same sort of damage that spider mites do except that flat mites do not spin silk. With their needle-sharp mouthparts, false spider mites puncture the epidermis of the host plant and suck out the juices. This causes a pale spot that may later turn brown. Infested shrubs slowly turn reddish-brown and appear to have "winter injury". This damage resembles that of spider mites but the onset of symptoms is much slower. In addition, privet mites are vectors of certain plant viruses.

Residential Recommendation

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Flat mites have not been reported to be resistant to pesticides. Use one of the insecticidal soaps, a horticultural oil, or one of the pyrethroids as a thorough spray. These pesticides should be available in most plant shops and garden centers.


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For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension Center.

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.


Professor Emeritus
Entomology and Plant Pathology

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: Nov. 8, 2013
Revised: Oct. 11, 2019

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