Fuchsia gall mite

Fuchsia gall mite is was found for the first on the mainland of Britain in 2007. Since becoming established it has become widespread along the south coast and is spreading inland. This pest is no longer notifiable, if found in private gardens.

Fuchsia gall mite

Quick facts

Common nameFuchsia gall mite
Scientific nameAculops fuchsiae
Plants affectedGarden and greenhouse fuchsias
Main symptomsGrowth at the shoot tips is swollen and grossly distorted, often with a yellowish green or reddish discolouration. Flowers are also deformed or fail to develop
Most activeMay to September

What is fuchsia gall mite?

Fuchsia gall mite is a microscopic sap-sucking pest that is specific to fuchsias. It can cause extensive galling and distortion ruining the appearance of fuchsias. Gall mites are tiny sap-sucking creatures that cause a variety of abnormal growths on various plants. Although too small to be seen without a microscope, the galled tissues that they create are often very distinctive and easily recognised.

Symptoms

Signs of infestation;

  • Fuchsia gall mite is a microscopic creature, but it has a profound effect on fuchsia plants
  • The mites are 0.25mm long, too small to be seen without a microscope
  • They infest new growth at the shoot tips where they suck sap and secrete chemicals that prevent the normal development of leaves and flowers
  • As the infestation increases, foliage becomes increasingly distorted until plants can no longer produce normal leaves or flower buds
  • Growth at the shoot tips consists of a mass of yellowish green or reddish-pink distorted tissue instead of leaves or flower buds
  • Pictures of damaged plants can be seen on the Fera Plant Health factsheet

Control

Non-chemical control

  • Cutting off infested shoot tips will remove many mites but regrowth is likely to become infested
  • In California, it has been noted that that Fuchsia species and cultivars vary in susceptibility to this pest. Susceptible species include Fuchsia arborescens, F. magellanica and F. procumbens
  • Species and cultivars noted as being less susceptible, and which are listed in RHS Plant Finder as being available from one or more UK nurseries, are 'Baby Chang', 'Cinnabarina', 'Mendocino Mini', ' Miniature Jewels', 'Space Shuttle', Fuchsia microphylla subsp. hidalgensis, Fuchsia thymifolia and Fuchsia venusta

Chemical control

Gall mites in general are relatively tolerant of pesticides and home garden products will be ineffective. While this pest remains uncommon in the UK it is better to destroy infested plants to prevent the mite spreading to other gardens in the locality.

Biology

  • Fuchsia gall mite was first discovered in Brazil in the late 1970s. It has since spread elsewhere, including California, France, Germany and the Channel Islands
  • The mite was first found on the mainland of Britain in September 2007 when samples of infested fuchsias were sent to the RHS Advisory Service at RHS Wisley
  • The affected plants were previously healthy hardy fuchsias that had been growing in a private garden near Fareham, Hants, for about 20 years
  • Subsequently the mite has been found in other gardens from most coastal counties and occasionally further inland in southern England. 
  • The gall mite may have been introduced by the nursery trade on imported pot plants, or it could have arrived on cuttings collected by someone who had been staying in the Channel Islands or the Brittany region of France, where the mite is now widespread
  • Being tiny animals, gall mites cannot travel far by their own means, but, while crawling around, can get blown by the wind to another plant. They can also hitch a ride on insects and other animals that alight on infested fuchsias.
  • The mite has several generations between late spring to autumn and it takes about 21 days to complete the life cycle at 18°C (64°F)
  • The mites overwinter under bud scales but may remain active during the winter on glasshouse fuchsias
  • The mites cold tolerance is not well studied but it may not survive temperatures below 5°C (41°F). Therefore cold winters may kill it on hardy garden fuchsias.

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