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Oligonychus ilicis

Southern red mite damage on cherry laurel, Prunus laurocerasus. Photo: Frank A. Hale, University of Tennessee, Bugwood.
Scientific Name: 
Oligonychus ilicis
Common Name: 
Southern Red Mite
Growing Degree Days (GDD's): 
7-91 GDD's (Dormant); 246–363; 618–802; 2500-2700, Base 50F, March 1st Start Date (Source: Robert Childs UMass Extension and Cornell Cooperative Extension.)
Host Plant(s) Common Name (Scientific Name): 
Azalea (Rhododendron spp.)
Camellia (Camellia spp.)
Firethorn (Pyracantha spp.)
Holly (Ilex spp.)
Japanese holly (Ilex crenata 'Convexa')
Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
Rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.)
Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)
Viburnum (Viburnum spp.)
Insect Description: 

The southern red mite is considered by some to be the most significant and widespread spider mite pest of broad-leaved evergreens, primarily plants in the Ericaceae and Aquifoliaceae families. While it was first described in North America, it may be native to parts of Asia. The southern red mite is known at least from the United States, Brazil, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and Paraguay. It is considered widespread on broad-leaved evergreens in the eastern United States. The mite overwinters as red eggs on host plant leaf undersides. If the mites are not managed, by the summertime eggs become very abundant. Summertime eggs are a darker red than those found in the winter. Multiple generations can occur per year; however the southern red mite may be most abundant during periods of cooler weather. Therefore, population densities can be the most abundant in the spring and fall. Prolonged periods of high humidity also favor the southern red mite. During the height of the heat of summer, most of the population is in aestivation (a summer time dormancy) in the egg stage (Johnson and Lyon, 1991). Adult males and females are similar in size, with females being slightly bigger (approximately the size of a period). Both require magnification to see, such as a hand lens. Southern red mites are reddish brown and darker in color than most other common spider mites, with translucent coloration on the body nearest the head.

Damage to Host: 

The southern red mite feeds on the undersides of host plant leaves. This feeding causes bronzed or stippled foliage. On occasion, it is possible for leaves to become distorted if they are fed upon while young and still expanding. It is primarily a pest of azaleas and camellias. Some sources report that populations of southern red mite may disappear when new spring growth develops. 


A hand lens may be required to detect the presence of southern red mites during cooler parts of the growing season, particularly with high humidity. Look for the mites themselves, eggs, cast or shed skins, and webbing. Look for damage to the foliage, such as stippling or bronzing that is visible from the upper side of the leaf. Another technique for monitoring also includes shaking foliage over a white piece of paper or other similar surface. This makes seeing the mites easier, even with magnification. With the naked eye, the southern red mite may look like tiny, red dots (about the size of a period) moving on the paper. Focus scouting efforts during the spring and the fall and plan management accordingly.

Cultural Management: 

Syringing, or spraying mite infested foliage with a heavy stream of water, may help knock the spider mites off their host and provide management on ornamental/specimen trees or shrubs. If done on a regular basis, syringing can have the same effect as strong rain events which help dislodge the mites and reduce the severity of their feeding. This option will not reverse feeding damage (bronzing) that has already occurred. 

Natural Enemies & Biological Control: 

Populations of southern red mite can be impacted by natural predators. Of those, some information is known about their predatory mite (Phytoseiidae) natural enemies. Laboratory studies of Iphiseiodes zuluagai, Euseius citrifolius, and Amblyseius herbicolus have been conducted and revealed that the adult female life stage of each of those species are the most effective at eating the southern red mite, prefering to feed on their larvae. However, the nymph, adult male, and larval life stages of each of the predatory mites will also feed on southern red mite (Franco et al., 2007). Much of this research, however, has been done in the context of coffee plants. In Brazil, the southern red mite is known as the coffee red spider mite. 

Chemical Management: 

Abamectin (NL)

Acephate (NL)

Beauveria bassiana (NL)

Bifenthrin (NL)

Chlorpyrifos (N)

Chromobacterium subtsugae (NL)

Cypermethrin (NL)

Etoxazole (N)

Fenazaquin (NL)

Gamma-cyhalothrin (L)

Hexythiazox (NL)

Horticultural oil (L)

Insecticidal soap (NL)

Lambda-cyhalothrin (L)

Malathion (L)

Metarhizium anisopliae (robertii) (NL)

Neem oil (NL)

Spinosad (NL)

Spiromesifen (L)

Tau-fluvalinate (NL)


Active ingredients that may be applied systemically include: Abamectin (injection), acephate (injection), Metarhizium anisopliae (robertii) (soil drench), and neem oil (soil drench).

When used in a nursery setting, chlorpyrifos is for quarantine use only.

Make insecticide applications after bloom to protect pollinators. Applications at times of the day and temperatures when pollinators are less likely to be active can also reduce the risk of impacting their populations.

Note: Beginning July 1, 2022, neonicotinoid insecticides are classified as state restricted use for use on tree and shrub insect pests in Massachusetts. For more information, visit the MA Department of Agricultural Resources Pesticide Program.

Read and follow all label instructions for safety and proper use. If this guide contradicts language on the label, follow the most up-to-date instructions on the product label. Always confirm that the site you wish to treat and the pest you wish to manage are on the label before using any pesticide. Read the full disclaimer. Active ingredients labeled "L" indicate some products containing the active ingredient are labeled for landscape uses on trees or shrubs. Active ingredients labeled "N" indicate some products containing the active ingredient are labeled for use in nurseries. Always confirm allowable uses on product labels. This active ingredient list is based on what was registered for use in Massachusetts at the time of publication. This information changes rapidly and may not be up to date. If you are viewing this information from another state, check with your local Extension Service and State Pesticide Program for local uses and regulations. Active ingredient lists were last updated: January 2024. To check current product registrations in Massachusetts, please visit: .