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Project description

Survey of predaceous mites in California agriculture and training in identification. (05XA015)
Program Exotic Pests and Diseases Research Program
Principal
investigator
E.E. Grafton-Cardwell, Entomology, UC Riverside
Host/habitat Pistachios; Stone Fruits; Almonds
Pest Spider Mite; Thrips
Discipline Entomology
Review
panel
Agricultural Systems
Start year (duration)  2005 (Three Years)
Objectives Survey tree, vine, and field crops throughout California to revise the host plant associations of predatory mites in the family Phytoseiidae.

Publish a key to the Phytoseiidae of California crops.

Teach a yearly course in identification of phytoseiids to pest control advisors, farm advisors, and insectary personnel.

Project
Summary
Native and introduced predaceous mites in the family Phytoseiidae are important biological control agents of spider mites and thrips in many California crops. Recently, the types of insecticides used in agriculture have dramatically changed from organophosphates and carbamates to a number of different chemical classes, many of which are more selective and favor phytoseiids. Thus, phytoseiid diversity and abundance has changed in recent years. Exotic pest mites and thrips have become established many times throughout California history and continue to invade agriculture. A current survey of phytoseiids in California crops is needed to improve control of established pest species and to prepare for future invasive pest species. The taxonomic key and training provided by this grant will prepare UC advisors and specialists for the introduction of new pest species. This project will help to promote phytoseiid mites as important biological control agents in California.

Third-year
progress
Predatory mites feed on small insects such as thrips and mites and are known to be important natural enemies in several crops including subtropical trees, stone fruits, nuts, vines, berries, and field crops. However, the different species of predatory mites vary in their feeding habits from specialized and feeding only on pest mites to general feeding on pollen, leaf sap, mites, and other insects. The more specialized mite species tend to exert greater control of pests than the more general feeders. Therefore, to be able to rely on predatory mites to assist with pest control in agriculture, it is critical to know which species is the major predator present in a crop.

Farm advisors, Extension specialists, and graduate students are conducting surveys of predatory mites in 13 agricultural crops in 15 counties in California. The results of this survey indicate that the western predatory mite that is thought to be a major predator in trees and vines is not always the most important species. In addition to the western predatory mite, an additional 21 species of predatory mites were found from 2005 to 2007.

We have also observed that within a crop, predatory mite species vary depending on what part of the state the crop is located. Data suggest that research is needed to find out how effective these predatory mites species are in the context of each crop and each region of the state. The taxonomic key to identify the predatory mites of crops is under development, and a course to train people to identify predatory mites was taught annually during 2005 to 2007.

Second-year
progress
Predatory mites feed on small insects such as thrips and mites and are known to be key natural enemies in a number of crops including subtropical trees, stone fruits, nuts, vines, berries and field crops. However, predatory mites can have different feeding habits and some exert greater control of pests than others. Therefore, it is critical to know which species is the major player present in a crop. Farm advisors and Cooperative Extension specialists have initiated surveys of predatory mites in agricultural crops in four regions of California. The taxonomic key to identify the predatory mites of crops is under development and a course to train personnel in mite identification was held in Davis.

First-year
progress
Predatory mites feed on small insects such as thrips and mites and are known to be key natural enemies in a number of crops including subtropical trees, stone fruits, nuts, vines, berries, and field crops. However, predatory mites can have different feeding habits and some exert greater control of pests than others. Therefore, it is critical to know which species is the major player present in a crop. Farm advisors and Cooperative Extension specialists have initiated surveys of predatory mites in agricultural crops in four regions of California. The taxonomic key to identify the predatory mites of crops is under development and a course to train personnel in mite identification is scheduled for May 2006.

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