Cyclamen Mites

Problem type: Insect

Name of problem: Cyclamen mites

Plant name(s): Cyclamen and African violet

Symptoms / Characteristics:
Cyclamen mites prefer to feed on the succulent tissue of newly emerging leaves and buds. Feeding injury results in darkened, deformed and upward-cupped leaves, stunted growth, blackened flower buds and streaked flower petals. African violets may exhibit twisted leaves with white bumps on the upper surface. Bloom time and flower quality is reduced in symptomatic plants.

Cyclamen mites are extremely small (0.2 mm) and are difficult to see without the aid of a hand lens. Adults are oval-shaped with eight legs and shiny, light brown bodies. Larvae are whitish with only six legs. Cyclamen mites thrive in cool, humid conditions whereas spider mites (another common house plant pest) generally prefer hot, dry conditions. Given the appropriate conditions, the cyclamen mite can complete its life cycle within two weeks

Control / Preventions:
Carefully inspect plants prior to purchase, paying particular attention to leaf axils and growing tips. Avoid any plant that shows signs of insect/mite activity or feeding injury. Because of their small size, cyclamen mites are easily concealed and often escape treatment.

A warm water treatment is often recommended for controlling cyclamen mites in house plants. This technique involves submerging the plant (including the pot) into a tub filled with 43ºC water and allowing it to soak for fifteen minutes. Warm water must be added as necessary to ensure that the temperature is maintained at a constant 43ºC. Temperature control is crucial and exceeding this recommended temperature can potentially harm the plant. If performed carefully and correctly, this procedure can eradicate all existing stages of cyclamen mite. Because the water bath procedure is somewhat risky, it should perhaps be reserved for plants that are not highly valuable.

If chemical control is preferred, apply only a miticide/acaricide that it is registered for the control of cyclamen mites on house plants. Avoid overusing a particular chemical, as mites are infamous for developing resistance. Heavily infested plants should simply be discarded.