Agriculture: Strawberry Pest Management Guidelines

Spider Mites

  • Carmine spider mite: Tetranychus cinnabarinus
  • Strawberry spider mite: Tetranychus turkestani
  • Twospotted spider mite: Tetranychus urticae
  • Description of the Pest

    Twospotted spider mite

    Twospotted spider mite eggs are about 0.006 inch (0.14 mm) in diameter and are laid on the undersides of leaves. They are spherical, clear, and colorless when laid but become pearly white as hatch approaches.

    Nymphs, adult males, and reproductive adult females are oval and generally yellow or greenish. There are one or more dark spots on each side of their bodies, and the top of the abdomen is free of spots.

    Adult female twospotted spider mites may stop reproduction during the coldest winter months in production areas of colder inland valleys. Diapause is indicated by a change in color to bright orange. In coastal growing areas it is rare to have a significant proportion of the population undergo diapause. Mating and egg laying typically occur year-round in all coastal strawberry-growing regions.

    Carmine spider mite

    Carmine spider mite, a close relative of the twospotted spider mite, is bright red. It is commonly found at low densities in Southern California, Central Coast, and San Joaquin Valley growing regions. Carmine mite numbers usually decline as temperatures warm in spring.

    Strawberry spider mite

    Both strawberry and twospotted spider mites look similar; they can only be distinguished by the morphological characters of male genitalia. Twospotted spider mite is the predominant species in strawberries grown on the Central Coast. Strawberry spider mite occurs in some of these areas, with mixed populations of both twospotted and strawberry spider mites seen particularly during the warmer parts of the production season.


    Twospotted spider mite and carmine spider mite damage appears as stippling, scarring, and bronzing of the leaves and calyx. Twospotted spider mite feeding is particularly damaging during the first 2 to 5 months following transplanting in late summer or fall. Mite feeding during this critical period of plant growth substantially reduces berry number per plant and overall plantation yield. Yield loss is detectable at all mite infestation levels exceeding one mite per leaflet.

    Plants are less sensitive to mite feeding after initial berry set.

    • Substantial yield loss results from 15 to 20 mites per mid-tier leaflet after berry set.
    • Plants that sustain infestations greater than 75 mites per leaflet may become severely weakened and appear stunted, dry, and turn red.

    The highest numbers of twospotted mites are often observed following the peak spring fruit harvest. This peak is typically followed by a rapid, natural decline in mite numbers when the plant enters a vegetative growth cycle. Twospotted mite numbers may again increase later in summer as fruit production by day-neutral cultivars again increases.


    • Cultural practices such as vernalization of transplants that favor vigorous plants are key to minimizing damage from spider mites.
    • Protect natural enemies as much as possible by choosing insecticides and miticides that are least harmful to natural enemies.
    • If necessary, supplement natural enemies by releasing predatory mites.
    • When treating for mites, choose the most selective miticide and alternate it with a miticide of a different chemistry or mode of action to avoid the development of resistance.

    Biological Control

    Predator mites commercially available for release:

    Of the commercially available predatory mites, only the first three are commonly used for spider mite suppression, most frequently Phytoseiulus persimilis. P. persimilis is an aggressive feeder, multiplies and spreads rapidly, and is a specialist predator that feeds exclusively on pest mites. However, in the absence of these pest mites, P. persimilis feeds on its own species, causing the population to gradually disappear.

    Predatory Mite Releases

    1. Monitor fields on a regular basis to determine spider mite numbers.
    2. Applying a short-residual miticide to reduce spider mite numbers before a predator release may improve biological control under some conditions.
    3. Make predatory mite releases early in the season before spider mite numbers begin to increase or following winter spider mite treatments intended to reduce overwintering mites. On the Central Coast, spider mites are first observed typically in January or February, while further south spider mite infestations may first develop in fall.
    4. Following predator mite release, monitor spider mite numbers closely to evaluate the effectiveness of the predatory mites in maintaining the pest mites below economically injurious levels.

    If low spider mite numbers are present in localized areas, make spot releases. Although research is lacking, experience suggests the following release rates:

    • When pest numbers are low:
      • Release of an average of two to three predators per plant.
      • For more widespread infestations early in the season when spider mite numbers are low: make releases of about 30,000 per acre (about 1.5 predatory mite per plant) either as a single, large release or as three smaller releases of 10,000 per acre, depending on severity of weather conditions and spider mite numbers in the field.
    • When the pest mite numbers are at threshold level:
      • Release an average of five predators per plant.
      • Once mite numbers increase to threshold levels, inundative releases may reduce twospotted spider mite infestations, but these must be made at release rates exceeding 100,000 per acre because once spider mite numbers begin to increase, it is difficult for predators to reduce their numbers below economic thresholds.

    Insecticides, miticides, and certain fungicides that are not selective will kill the predators. Make releases only after residues are below lethal levels following any pesticide application.

    Phytoseiulus persimilis has become established in most coastal strawberry-growing areas, and naturally occurring populations often move into spider mite-infested fields on their own. Neoseiulus (Amblyseius) californicus has also been found to naturally infest strawberry plantations in some growing areas and can effectively maintain spider mite populations that are below threshold levels. Another predator mite, Phytoseiulus macropilus, occasionally occurs in strawberries early in spring.

    Other natural enemies of mites include minute pirate bug (Orius tristicolor), a small, black lady beetle (spider mite destroyer, Stethorus spp.), a small, black rove beetle (Oligota oviformis) , bigeyed bugs (Geocoris spp.), brown lacewings (Hemerobius spp.), green lacewings (Chrysopa spp.), sixspotted thrips (Scolothrips sexmaculatus), damsel bugs (Nabis spp.), and a predaceous midge larvae (Feltiella sp.).

    Cultural Control

    Strawberry cultivars vary in susceptibility to twospotted spider mite infestation and tolerance of twospotted spider mite feeding. When transplanted in fall, short-day cultivars are generally less tolerant of mite feeding than day-neutral cultivars, particularly later in the fruit-production season. When transplanted in summer, short-day cultivars are relatively tolerant of mite feeding.

    Preplant chilling (vernalization) directly promotes plant vigor. Fall transplant, nursery location, preharvest chilling, nursery harvest date, and length of pretransplant supplemental cold storage can all affect a plant's vernalization. Plants with low amounts of chilling have low vigor and can develop intolerable mite infestations. Excessive chilling promotes increased vigor and reduces mite abundance, but other production factors are adversely affected (i.e., delayed flowering, large plant size, and increased vegetative runner production at the expense of flowering and fruiting). Be sure transplants have received adequate chilling for the variety and area and receive proper irrigation and fertilization.

    Other controllable factors that can be used to promote plant vigor are

    • soil preparation and fumigation,
    • use of polyethylene plastic mulch, and
    • proper irrigation to prevent water stress.

    Road dust control is also important in inhibiting mite infestations.

    Cultivars and cultural practices vary between production regions. Obtain information on cultivars and cultural practices pertinent to a particular growing region from your University of California County Cooperative Extension office or from transplant nurseries before making planting decisions.

    Organically Acceptable Methods

    Use cultural and biological controls, including releases of predatory mites, sprays containing plant-derived oils or organic stylet oil, and bioinsecticides such as Beauveria bassiana, Burkholderia sp. strain A396, or Chromobacterium subtsugae strain PRAA4-1 on organically certified strawberries.

    Miticide Resistance

    Twospotted spider mites have a history of rapidly developing resistance to miticides when a miticide is repeatedly applied to the same population.

    • Alternate miticides that have different modes of action to reduce development of resistance to a specific miticide.
    • Spray based on sampling, to avoid unnecessary pesticide applications. Spray only infested portions of the field, if applicable.
    • Organophosphate, carbamate, and pyrethroid insecticide applications can induce twospotted spider mite outbreaks. If possible, avoid early season insecticide applications or apply insecticides that are less disruptive to beneficial arthropods. Careful selection and use of insecticides early in the season can potentially reduce the number of miticide applications.

    Monitoring and Treatment Decisions

    Vigorous plant growth during the first 4 months following fall transplant is a key factor in successful strawberry production. Monitor mid-tier leaves during this critical period when mite feeding is extremely damaging.

    1. Randomly select 10 leaflets per acre in small fields and 5 leaflets per acre in larger fields. When using a mite-brushing machine, the leaves from each acre can be brushed as one sample.
    2. Examine the undersurface of mid-tier leaflets with a hand lens to count the number of mites or use a mite-brushing machine.
    3. Record your observations on a sampling form (PDF).

    The established economic threshold for this period is an average of five mites per mid-tier leaflet. Summer transplants have a higher threshold of an average of 10 mites per mid-tier leaflet during this same period. Once harvest begins, strawberries become more tolerant of mite feeding and treatment thresholds increase to an average of 15 to 20 mites per mid-tier leaflet. Treatment thresholds may vary somewhat depending on location, time of season, cultivar, overall plant vigor, yield potential, and the availability of an effective miticide.

    Common name Amount per acre REI‡ PHI‡
    (Example trade name) (hours) (days)
    Not all registered pesticides are listed. The following are ranked with the pesticides having the greatest IPM value listed first—the most effective and least harmful to natural enemies, honey bees, and the environment are at the top of the table. When choosing a pesticide, consider information relating to air and water quality, resistance management, and the pesticide's properties and application timing. Always read the label of the product being used.
      (Nealta) 13.7 fl oz 12 1
      COMMENTS: For resistance management, do not make more than one Nealta application before using an effective miticide with a different mode of action.
      (Kanemite 15 SC) 21–31 fl oz 12 1
      COMMENTS: Do not use less than 100 gal water/acre and do not apply more than twice per year. Allow a minimum of 21 days between treatments. Crops other than strawberries may not be rotated for at least 1 year following treatment.
      (Oberon 2SC) 12–16 fl oz 12 3
      COMMENTS: Do not make more than two applications per crop season.
      (Zeal Miticide) 2–3 oz 12 1
      COMMENTS: A mite growth regulator that is most effective against eggs and immatures. Most effective when applied before high numbers develop, but it will eventually control even high numbers of mites. Effective against both twospotted and carmine spider mites but not against cyclamen mite. Do not apply more than 3 oz/acre per season.
      (FujiMite 5SC) 2 pt 12 1
      COMMENTS: FujiMite provides an alternative mode of action to manage development of resistance in mites. Although it is a contact material, it is effective on all developmental stages of mites. It is active on all important mite species including: two-spotted spider mite, Lewis mite, and cyclamen mite. FujiMite is toxic to predatory mites but is non-toxic to most other natural enemies. Spray coverage is key in obtaining maximum results.
      (Acramite 50WS) 0.75–1 lb 12 1
      COMMENTS: Do not make more than one application per harvested crop. Two sprays may be made per year if more than one crop is harvested each year; minimum period between applications is 21 days. A good resistance management strategy is to use bifenazate as the winter spray (if needed) and as a rotational pesticide with abamectin and hexythiazox during the season. It has low toxicity to predatory mites and predatory insects. Bifenazate can be used once per year in strawberry nurseries. Toxic to bees; do not spray directly or allow to drift onto blooming crops or weeds where bees are foraging.
      (Savey 50DF) 6 oz 12 3
      COMMENTS: Limited to one application per season. Follow label directions for last date this pesticide can be applied because this varies by region. Most effective against eggs and nymphs, so best used when mites begin to actively reproduce. Not registered for nurseries.
      (Agri-Mek 0.15EC) 16 fl oz 12 3
      COMMENTS: Abamectin is less effective under cold weather conditions than in warm weather because movement into the leaf does not readily occur. Abamectin is most effective when used in paired applications 7 to 10 days apart when mites reach detectable levels under warmer temperatures in late winter and spring. Repeat the paired applications if necessary to maintain twospotted spider mite control. Do not exceed 16 fluid oz/acre per application or 64 fl oz/acre (four applications) in a growing season. Do not apply in less than 100 gal water/acre (200 gal/acre is optimal). Do not repeat treatment within 21 days of second application. Abamectin is not registered for strawberry nurseries. Highly toxic to bees; do not spray directly or allow to drift onto blooming crops or weeds where bees are foraging.
      (Omni Oil 6-E) 1–2% 12 0
      MODE OF ACTION: Contact including smothering and barrier effects.
      COMMENTS: The potential for phytotoxicity has not been fully evaluated. Growers are encouraged to test product or product mixes for phytotoxicity before field applications to determine safety margins. Acceptable for use on organically grown crops only when fruit are not present. Apply in 60 gal water/acre with air-assist, low-volume ground equipment or 200 gal water/acre with standard ground spray equipment.

    • Use this miticide for low-to-moderate spider mite numbers; higher levels of mite infestation require treatment with more effective miticides. Make applications only during winter months when plants are semi-dormant to reduce the risk of phytotoxicity.
    • Do not use oil from peak bloom through fruiting period or when air temperatures are expected to exceed 75°F within several days following application. Do not apply from Jan. 16 to May 30 in Orange and San Diego counties or the Oxnard Plains; do not apply from Feb. 1 to Jun. 15 in the Santa Maria Valley; and do not apply from Mar. 1 to Jun. 30 in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.
    J. NEEM OIL#
      (Trilogy) 1–2 gal/100 gal water 4 0
      MODE OF ACTION: Unknown. A botanical insecticide.
      COMMENTS: Apply with sufficient water carrier to provide complete coverage. Most effective when applied before mites and eggs are present in large numbers. Repeat applications on 7- to 21-day intervals until mite pest pressure is over. Oil sprays need to be applied frequently to achieve acceptable control, however, frequent applications of oils can damage the plant and compromise fruit yield.
      (GC-Mite) 1 gal/100 gal water 0 0
      COMMENTS: Good coverage is essential for control; the use of a spreader/sticker may improve contact and efficacy of treatment. Oil sprays need to be applied frequently to achieve acceptable control, however, frequent applications of oils can damage the plant and compromise fruit yield. Apply no more than once in a 7-day period.
      (Ecotec) 1–4 pt 0 0
      MODE OF ACTION: Contact including smothering and barrier effects.
      COMMENTS: The potential for phytotoxicity has not been fully evaluated. Growers are encouraged to test product or product mixes for phytotoxicity before field applications to determine safety margins. Danger of phytotoxicity is greater when used at higher rates and when temperatures are warm. Do not apply in less than 50 gal water/acre. No residual activity, so repeat applications at 10-day intervals while mite numbers are increasing.
      (Organic JMS Stylet Oil)#
      (JMS Stylet Oil) 72 fl oz in 75 gal 4 0
      MODE OF ACTION: Contact including smothering and barrier effects.
      COMMENTS: The potential for phytotoxicity has not been fully evaluated. Growers are encouraged to test product or product mixes for phytotoxicity before field applications to determine safety margins. There is a danger of phytotoxicity when oils are applied incorrectly, especially under conditions of high temperature and low humidity; not recommended for use in Southern California. Use of ceramic spray nozzles is recommended by the manufacturer. Make applications at a minimum pressure of 400 psi. Lower pressures lead to larger droplet sizes, increasing the potential for phytotoxicity. Only organic JMS Stylet oil is acceptable for use on organically certified produce.
      (Venerate) Label rates 4 0
      (Grandevo) Label rates 4 0
      (Mycotrol ESO, BotaniGard ES) Label rates 4 0
    Restricted entry interval (REI) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (PHI) is the number of days from treatment to harvest. In some cases, the REI exceeds the PHI The longer of two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest.
    * Permit required from county agricultural commissioner for purchase or use.
    # Acceptable for use on organically grown produce.
    1 Rotate insecticides with a different mode-of-action group number, and do not use products with the same mode-of-action group number more than twice per season to help prevent the development of resistance. For example, the organophosphates have a group number of 1B; insecticides with a 1B group number should be alternated with insecticides that have a group number other than 1B. Mode-of-action group numbers for insecticides and miticides (un=unknown or uncertain mode of action) are assigned by IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee).
    Text Updated: 07/18
    Treatment Table Updated: 07/18