Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Brevipalpus phoenicis
(false spider mite)



Brevipalpus phoenicis (false spider mite)


  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Vector of Plant Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Brevipalpus phoenicis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • false spider mite
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Chelicerata
  •         Class: Arachnida

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Brevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); false colour SEM of adult mite. Note scale.
CaptionBrevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); false colour SEM of adult mite. Note scale.
CopyrightErbe Pooley/USDA ARS EMU - Public Domain
Brevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); false colour SEM of adult mite. Note scale.
AdultBrevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); false colour SEM of adult mite. Note scale.Erbe Pooley/USDA ARS EMU - Public Domain
Brevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); SEM of adult mite. Note scale.
CaptionBrevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); SEM of adult mite. Note scale.
Copyright©J.S. Kennedy
Brevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); SEM of adult mite. Note scale.
AdultBrevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); SEM of adult mite. Note scale.©J.S. Kennedy
Brevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); distorted tea leaf caused by the attack of B. phoenicis.
TitleLeaf damage symptoms
CaptionBrevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); distorted tea leaf caused by the attack of B. phoenicis.
Copyright©J.S. Kennedy
Brevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); distorted tea leaf caused by the attack of B. phoenicis.
Leaf damage symptomsBrevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); distorted tea leaf caused by the attack of B. phoenicis.©J.S. Kennedy
Brevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); weathered and discoloured stem of tea plant caused by the attack of B. phoenicis.
TitleStem damage symptoms
CaptionBrevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); weathered and discoloured stem of tea plant caused by the attack of B. phoenicis.
Copyright©J.S. Kennedy
Brevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); weathered and discoloured stem of tea plant caused by the attack of B. phoenicis.
Stem damage symptomsBrevipalpus phoenicis (flat or false spider mite); weathered and discoloured stem of tea plant caused by the attack of B. phoenicis.©J.S. Kennedy


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Brevipalpus phoenicis (Geijskes, 1936)

Preferred Common Name

  • false spider mite

Other Scientific Names

  • Brevipalpus macbridei Baker, 1949
  • Brevipalpus papayensis Baker, 1949
  • Brevipalpus pseudocuneatus Baker, 1949
  • Brevipalpus yothersi Baker, 1949
  • Tenuipalpus phoenicis Geijskes, 1939

International Common Names

  • English: passion vine mite; red and black flat mite; red crevice mite; scarlet mite
  • Spanish: agente causante de lepra explosiva en citrus; falsa aranuela roja (Argentina)

Local Common Names

  • : acaro rojo de los cotricos
  • Argentina: false araneula roja
  • Brazil: acaro da leprose dos citros
  • Netherlands: palmmijt

EPPO code

  • BRVPPA (Brevipalpus papayensis)
  • BRVPPH (Brevipalpus phoenicis)
  • BRVPPS (Brevipalpus pseudocuneatus)

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Chelicerata
  •                 Class: Arachnida
  •                     Subclass: Acari
  •                         Superorder: Acariformes
  •                             Suborder: Prostigmata
  •                                 Family: Tenuipalpidae
  •                                     Genus: Brevipalpus
  •                                         Species: Brevipalpus phoenicis

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page In describing this species Geijskes (1939) placed it in the genus Tenuipalpus - at this stage Brevipalpus was considered as a synonym of Tenuipalpus, until Baker (1945) reinstated it as a separate genus (see Brevipalpus). The species B. phoenicis is the only one in the genus Brevipalpus characterized to possess two sensory rods on tarsus II together with five dorsolateral hysterosoma (Pritchard and Baker, 1958).

Unaware of the extent of possible variation in certain characters of B. phoenicis, Baker (1949) named B. yothersi, B. mcbridei and B. papayensis as separate entities; this was based on the differences noticed in the size of the dorsolateral setae of the nymphs of yothersi and mcbridei and on the presence of a prominent edentation on the second palpal segment, as well as on the less-distinctive areolate pattern of the dorsum of the adults of B. papayensis. However, in later studies Pritchard and Baker (1951) found these characters to be intraspecific variations, and thus the three names were declared as synonyms of B. phoenicis.

The genus Brevipalpus Donnadieu, originally described in 1875, is separated into two major groups according to the marginal hysterosomal setae (González, 1975). The larger group has six pairs of these setae and contains 46 species including B. australis [B. californicus] (Pritchard and Baker, 1958). The other group has five pairs of these setae and contains nine species including B. phoenicis and B. obovatus. The division of this group is further based on the number of sensory rods (solenidia) on the distal part of tarsus II. Until 1975, B. phoenicis alone was known to possess a full combination of key characters, but in that year González (1975) described another four species sharing these characters. The reticulation of the dorsomedian propodosomal area and the length of the propodosomal setae distinguish B. phoenicis from the new species.

Nevertheless, the identification of this species has not been well documented, or has been outdated by the revision of Pritchard and Baker (1958) and González (1975). Hence it is desirable that this species is re-identified and redescribed.


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B. phoenicis is a highly variable species, but can be readily distinguished in the adult stage from the other members of the genus by having five pairs of dorsolateral hysterosomal setae and two sensory rods on tarsus II. The chaetotaxy of false spider mite is described according to Haramoto (1969).

The larvae and nymphs also have five pairs of dorsolateral hysterosomal setae, but unlike the adults they have only one sensory rod, located posteriodistally on tarsus II. Morphologically, the immature stages of B. phoenicis resemble those of B. obovatus, and like the latter they are subjected to considerable variation in size and shape of some of the dorsal setae. The number and arrangement of the setae on the dorsum of idiosoma of the larva, protonymph and deutonymph conform to those of the adult and to the genus Brevipalpus (Pritchard and Baker, 1951). Twelve pairs of setae are present on the dorsum, three pairs on the propodosoma and nine pairs on the hysterosoma. Of the dorsal setae, dorsolateral hysterosomal setae I and II and dorsocentral hysterosomal seta III are the most variable in size and shape, varying from tiny and serrate to large, broadly lanceolate and serrate, similar to dorsal propodosomal setae II and III. The number of setae on the venter is not constant but increases from four pairs on the larva, five pairs on the protonymph, seven pairs on the deutonymph to eight pairs on the adult. These additions take place in the hysterosomal regions of the body. A pair of medioventral opisthosomal setae is present in the two nymphal and adult stages but not in the larval stage. The medioventral propodosomal setae, which are present in the larval, nymphal and adult stages, and the posterior medioventral metapodosomal setae, which are present only in the deutonymphal and adult stages, are filamentous and smooth. The remaining ventral setae are smooth.

In general, the size of an individual of a stage varies according to the availability of resources (Dosse, 1952). The average size (in µm) of different stages is given below according to Nageshchandra and Channabasavanna (1974b).

Body dimensions (µm):
Egg, L 90, W 59; larva, L 145, W 102; protonymph, L 192, W 115; deutonymph, L 238, W 135; adult male, L 268, W 135; adult female, L 277, W 140.

Length of legs (µm):

Larva, I 61, II 45, III 42; protonymph, I 77, II 61, III 52, IV 56; deutonymph, I 100, II 82, III 75, IV 77; adult male, I 147, II 126, III 112, IV 130; adult female, I 142, II 121, III 114, IV 121. These values reveal that the growth of this mite is rather rapid until it reaches the deutonymphal stage, and then is more or less static. The reason might be that in the adult stage most of the food consumed is utilized for the production of eggs, whereas in the earlier stages it is used for its own growth. These mites live longer than other Tetranychid mites, but are half the size.


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The false spider mite has a cosmopolitan distribution both in the continental and insular areas, and is found primarily throughout the tropics of the world (Haramoto, 1969). Although it has chiefly been found between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, it has also been recorded beyond this boundary. So far its northernmost incidence has been recorded in The Netherlands (Geijskes, 1939), and the southernmost record was in Argentina (Baker, 1949).

The few reports of recoveries of this mite from areas other than tropics probably represent temporary establishments as a result of dispersal from the generally favourable range into pockets of favourable environment (Haramoto, 1969). Hence the outbreaks of false spider mite reported in European glasshouses could be examples of such dispersal and fortuitous establishments. Since its initial description in The Netherlands in 1939, it was not observed again in Europe until 1951, when it was found infesting Phoenix canariensis in glasshouses in Vienna, Austria (Dosse, 1957). The only areas outside the tropics where it is firmly established are Florida, USA (Muma, 1958) and the Mediterranean region (Baker, 1949; Attiah, 1956; di Martino, 1960), where the climate is mild and similar to that of the tropics. Jeppson et al. (1975) reported that this mite is distributed in the following locations: The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Sicily, Italy, Kenya, Tanganyika, Ethiopia, Mauritius, India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Syria, USA (Hawaii, California, Texas, District of Columbia, Florida), Cuba, Trinidad, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Japan (Okinawa), Philippines and Australia. Meyer (1979) and Ochoa et al. (1996) published records of its distribution in Africa and Latin America, respectively. A distribution map of this pest has been compiled by the Commonwealth Institute of Entomology, London (now CABI Bioscience, Egham) (CIE, 1970).

This mite is not endemic to the type locality, and hence it is speculated that it might have a tropical origin (Haramoto, 1969). However, a critical analysis of the literature concerning its distribution reveals that, even in the tropical region, it is concentrated more in elevated areas although it may be found elsewhere in smaller numbers. Therefore it is possible that B. phoenicis originated somewhere in the Mediterranean belt and was disseminated to different parts of the world by traders.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


BangladeshPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
ChinaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-Hong KongPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
Georgia (Republic of)PresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
IndiaWidespreadCABI/EPPO, 2013
-AssamPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-HaryanaPresentAnupam and Putatunda, 2004; CABI/EPPO, 2013
-Himachal PradeshPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-Indian PunjabPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-JharkhandPresentRabindra et al., 2006; CABI/EPPO, 2013
-KarnatakaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-KeralaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-Madhya PradeshPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-Tamil NaduPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-Uttar PradeshPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-West BengalPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013; Gupta and Shreya, 2014
IndonesiaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-JavaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-SumatraPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
IranPresentArbabi et al., 2002; CABI/EPPO, 2013
IsraelPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
JapanPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-Ryukyu ArchipelagoPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
LebanonPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
MalaysiaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-SabahPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
MyanmarPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
OmanPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
PakistanPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
PhilippinesPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
Sri LankaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
SyriaPresentJeppson et al., 1975; CABI/EPPO, 2013
TaiwanPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
TajikistanPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
ThailandPresentYano et al., 1995; CABI/EPPO, 2013
TurkeyPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
YemenPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013


AngolaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
BurundiPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
CameroonPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
Central African RepublicPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
EgyptPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
EthiopiaPresentJeppson et al., 1975; CABI/EPPO, 2013
KenyaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
MalawiPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
MauritaniaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
MauritiusPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
MoroccoPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
MozambiquePresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
NigeriaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
RéunionPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
RwandaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
Saint HelenaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
South AfricaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-Canary IslandsPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
SudanPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
TanzaniaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
TunisiaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
UgandaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
ZimbabwePresentCABI/EPPO, 2013

North America

MexicoPresentRosas-Acevedo and Sampedro-Rosas, 2006; CABI/EPPO, 2013; EPPO, 2014
USARestricted distributionCABI/EPPO, 2013
-CaliforniaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-District of ColumbiaPresentJeppson et al., 1975; CABI/EPPO, 2013
-FloridaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-HawaiiPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-MarylandPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-TexasPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013

Central America and Caribbean

Costa RicaPresentOchoa et al., 1996; Aguilar and Murillo, 2012; CABI/EPPO, 2013
CubaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013; EPPO, 2014
Dominican RepublicPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
El SalvadorPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
GuadeloupePresentCABI/EPPO, 2013; EPPO, 2014
GuatemalaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
HondurasPresentRodrigues et al., 2007; CABI/EPPO, 2013
JamaicaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
Lesser AntillesPresentFlechtmann and Etienne, 2006
PanamaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
Puerto RicoPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
Trinidad and TobagoPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013

South America

ArgentinaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
BoliviaPresentGómez et al., 2005; CABI/EPPO, 2013
BrazilWidespreadCABI/EPPO, 2013; EPPO, 2014
-AmazonasPresentRodrigues et al., 2008; CABI/EPPO, 2013
-BahiaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-Fernando de NoronhaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-GoiasPresentRocha Santas Veloso et al., 1988; Miranda et al., 2007; CABI/EPPO, 2013
-MaranhaoPresentMoraes et al., 2006; CABI/EPPO, 2013
-Mato GrossoPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-Minas GeraisPresentSpongoski et al., 2005; CABI/EPPO, 2013
-ParanaPresentMaia and Buzzi, 2006; CABI/EPPO, 2013
-PernambucoPresentRosa et al., 2005; CABI/EPPO, 2013
-Rio de JaneiroPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-Rio Grande do SulPresentMoraes et al., 1995; CABI/EPPO, 2013
-RondoniaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-Santa CatarinaPresentChiaradia and Souza, 2001; CABI/EPPO, 2013
-Sao PauloPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013; EPPO, 2014
-SergipePresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-TocantinsPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
ChilePresentIPPC, 2010; CABI/EPPO, 2013; EPPO, 2014
ColombiaPresentLeón et al., 2006; CABI/EPPO, 2013
EcuadorPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
GuyanaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
ParaguayPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
VenezuelaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013


AustriaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
CyprusPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
FrancePresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
GreecePresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
HungaryPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013; EPPO, 2014
ItalyPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-SicilyPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
NetherlandsPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
PolandPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
PortugalRestricted distributionCABI/EPPO, 2013; EPPO, 2014
-AzoresPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-MadeiraPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013; EPPO, 2014
SpainPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013; EPPO, 2014
UkrainePresentCABI/EPPO, 2013


AustraliaRestricted distributionCABI/EPPO, 2013
-QueenslandPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
-Western AustraliaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
Cook IslandsPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
FijiPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
French PolynesiaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
New CaledoniaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
New ZealandPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
Norfolk IslandPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
Papua New GuineaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
SamoaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
Solomon IslandsPresentCABI/EPPO, 2013
TongaPresentAPPPC, 1987; CABI/EPPO, 2013

Habitat List

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Hosts/Species Affected

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The first report of a host plant of B. phoenicis was Phoenix sp., a greenhouse palm (Geijskes, 1939). Since then, many different plants have been reported as infested by this species of mite in different parts of the world (Cromroy, 1958; Pritchard and Baker, 1958; Baker and Pritchard, 1960; de Leon, 1961; Rimoando, 1962; Haramoto, 1969; Nageshchandra and Channabasavanna, 1974a). Of these, Pritchard and Baker (1958) listed 63 host plant genera, and Nageshchandra and Channabasavanna (1974a) listed 35 genera in India alone. Jeppson et al. (1975) listed citrus, tea, coffee, peach, papaya, loquat, coconut, apple, pear, guava, olive, fig, walnut and grape as its principal hosts.

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Abutilon (Indian mallow)MalvaceaeOther
Acalypha hispida (Copperleaf)EuphorbiaceaeOther
Acer (maples)AceraceaeOther
Ageratina adenophora (Croftonweed)AsteraceaeOther
Alcea rosea (Hollyhock)MalvaceaeOther
Anacardium occidentale (cashew nut)AnacardiaceaeOther
Annona squamosa (sugar apple)AnnonaceaeOther
Anthurium andreanumAraceaeOther
Apium (celery)ApiaceaeOther
Artocarpus altilis (breadfruit)MoraceaeOther
Bauhinia (camel's foot)FabaceaeOther
Buddleia (Butterflybush)LoganiaceaeOther
Callistemon (Bottle brush)MyrtaceaeOther
Camellia sinensis (tea)TheaceaeMain
Canna indica (canna lilly)CannaceaeOther
Carica papaya (pawpaw)CaricaceaeMain
Citrus aurantium (sour orange)RutaceaeMain
Citrus limon (lemon)RutaceaeMain
Citrus medica (citron)RutaceaeOther
Citrus reticulata (mandarin)RutaceaeMain
Citrus sinensis (navel orange)RutaceaeMain
Citrus x paradisi (grapefruit)RutaceaeOther
Clerodendrum (Fragrant clerodendron)LamiaceaeOther
Cocos nucifera (coconut)ArecaceaeMain
Coffea (coffee)RubiaceaeMain
Coffea arabica (arabica coffee)RubiaceaeMain
Cordyline fruticosa (ti plant)AgavaceaeOther
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm)ArecaceaeOther
Eriobotrya japonica (loquat)RosaceaeMain
Erythrina spp.FabaceaeOther
Ficus carica (common fig)MoraceaeMain
Geranium (cranesbill)GeraniaceaeOther
Gerbera (Barbeton daisy)AsteraceaeOther
Helianthus annuus (sunflower)AsteraceaeOther
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (China-rose)MalvaceaeOther
Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato)ConvolvulaceaeOther
Jatropha curcas (jatropha)EuphorbiaceaeOther
Juglans (walnuts)JuglandaceaeMain
Litchi chinensis (lichi)SapindaceaeOther
Malpighia glabra (acerola)MalpighiaceaeOther
Malus domestica (apple)RosaceaeMain
Mangifera indica (mango)AnacardiaceaeOther
Maranta (arrowroot)MarantaceaeOther
Melicoccus bijugatus (Spanish lime)SapindaceaeOther
Mimosa (sensitive plants)FabaceaeOther
Morus (mulberrytree)MoraceaeOther
Musa (banana)MusaceaeOther
Myrtus (myrtle)MyrtaceaeOther
Nerium oleander (oleander)ApocynaceaeOther
Olea europaea subsp. europaea (European olive)OleaceaeMain
Passiflora edulis (passionfruit)PassifloraceaeOther
Phoenix (date palm)ArecaceaeOther
Phoenix dactylifera (date-palm)ArecaceaeMain
Pithecellobium avaremotemoFabaceaeOther
Polyscias quilfoyleiAraliaceaeOther
Prunus persica (peach)RosaceaeMain
Psidium guajava (guava)MyrtaceaeMain
Pyrostegia venusta (Goldenshower)BignoniaceaeOther
Pyrus (pears)RosaceaeMain
Rosa (roses)RosaceaeOther
Senna siamea (yellow cassia)FabaceaeOther
Senna siamea (yellow cassia)FabaceaeMain
Solanum melongena (aubergine)SolanaceaeOther
Spathodea campanulata (African tulip tree)BignoniaceaeOther
Swietenia mahagoni (Cuban mahogany)MeliaceaeOther
Theobroma cacao (cocoa)MalvaceaeOther
Vitis (grape)VitaceaeMain
Zea mays (maize)PoaceaeOther

Growth Stages

Top of page Flowering stage, Fruiting stage, Seedling stage, Vegetative growing stage


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Although false spider mite is considered to be polyphagous, it is thought to cause serious crop losses on citrus (Muma, 1964; Knorr and Denmark, 1970), tea (Baptist and Ranaweera, 1955; Rao, 1970; Danthanarayana and Ranaweera, 1972; Kalshoven and van der Laan, 1981; Oomen, 1982) and papaya (Haramoto, 1969). Losses on citrus due to this mite can be enormous.

Mites belonging to the family Tenuipalpidae feed in the same way as the Tetranychidae, by continually punching the leaf epidermis with their chelicerae (Jeppson et al., 1975). The sap that oozes out of the wounded leaf cells is mixed with saliva and imbibed into the digestive tract of the mite (Haramoto, 1969). The necrotic spots are visible as a brownish, shaded area on the affected leaves, and the affected leaf can be seen filled with red coloured eggs and white empty moults (Oomen, 1982).

In tea, damage is caused by sucking sap from the stems and leaves, producing a characteristic necrotic brown spot extending along the midribs and borders of the leaves. The whole underside becomes brown, which may lead to defoliation and subsequently reduce the production of green tea leaves (Benjamin, 1968; Oomen, 1982). It is typical for affected bushes to have a thin canopy of maintenance leaves causing increased light penetration into the frame of the bush, which permits the growth of mosses and lichens. This is a traditional indication to planters that the tea bushes are in poor condition, although they are often not aware of the relation with false spider mite infestation.

On papaya plants, this mite usually feeds on the trunk at the level where the bottom whorl of leaves is attached. As intraspecific competition for food and space intensifies, the mites feed upwards on the trunk and outwards onto the leaf petioles and fruits, leaving a large, conspicuous, damaged area behind them. The immediate area around the feeding puncture becomes raised and blister-like, as though caused by a toxic substance. Later the affected tissue dries up, dies and becomes discoloured. As many punctures occur close together, the affected areas coalesce to form a large and continuous area which is callous-like, tannish and scaly and/or scabby. The feeding becomes pronounced when young papaya fruits are attacked, as the affected areas become sunken due to the differential growth of the injured and uninjured tissues. The mites sometimes puncture the latex glands while feeding, causing a copious outflow of a milky white liquid that mars the appearance of the fruits. All stages of the mite in the path of the flow of sticky latex are engulfed and drowned in it. The papaya stem, which normally remains green for a long time, becomes tannish and suberized in appearance, and makes spindly growth when heavily infested by B. phoenicis (Haramoto, 1969).

The damage caused by false spider mite is of a higher magnitude on citrus than any other crop plants, including tea and papaya. On citrus, it can cause Brevipalpus gall and halo scab with phoenicis blotch - a combination of fungus and mite attack (Knorr and Denmark, 1970; Carter, 1973). Plants attacked by the mite produce galls in the nodal region, which eventually the hinder the sprouting of new buds. The gall-like protuberances may be barely visible and woody. They look like axes that have proliferated to resemble a bud-studded cushion. No leaves develop at the axis occupied by these cushions, and when the buds are replaced by the cushions the trees become devoid of leaves and soon die. Gall formation follows the initial loss of leaves; adventitious buds sprout but are successively killed, producing hypertrophies at the bud loci (Knorr et al., 1960; Knorr, 1964; Jeppson et al., 1975). This type of symptom is common among seedlings, which ultimately die. The fungus Elsinoë fawcetti causes scab on sour orange without causing leaf drop; however, when scab lesions are also colonized by B. phoenicis, leaf drop is conspicuous. The combination of fungus and mite attack in the nursery could pose a serious problem. High populations of false spider mite are associated with a diffuse chlorotic spotting in orange trees. When such chlorotic spottings increase, they reduce the area of photosynthesis, ultimately reducing fruit production. As well as causing feeding damage, the mite transmits a viral disease caused by citrus leprosis rhabdovirus (Kitajima et al., 1972; Carter, 1973). A disease of oranges known in Argentina as 'lepra explosiva', originally thought to be caused by a fungus (Marchionatto, 1935) and later by a virus (Marchionatto, 1938; Blanchard, 1939), is now attributed to toxins injected by Brevipalpus obovatus in the process of feeding (Carter, 1952). B. phoenicis has also been collected from orange trees exhibiting these symptoms in Paraguay (Nickel, 1958).

In addition to these symptoms, B. phoenicis can cause pitting and splitting of the skin of orange fruits (Planes, 1954); scarring of tangerine fruits (Nickel, 1958); defoliation and vine dieback of passion fruit (Haramoto, 1969); and splitting of guava fruits (Nageshchandra and Channabasavanna, 1974b). It also transmits coffee ringspot virus disease on coffee (Chagas, 1973).

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Leaves / necrotic areas
Stems / discoloration of bark
Stems / honeydew or sooty mould
Stems / mould growth on lesion
Whole plant / distortion; rosetting
Whole plant / dwarfing

Biology and Ecology

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Jeppson et al. (1975) stated that mites of the family Tenuipalpidae have a long life span compared with the two other economically important families, the Tetranychidae and Eriophyiidae. Many studies of the life history of B. phoenicis (Baptist and Ranaweera, 1955; Dosse, 1957; Razoux Schultz, 1961; Haramoto, 1969; Nageshchandra and Channabasavanna, 1974b; Lal, 1979; Oomen, 1982) have found the duration of development and fecundity to vary with temperature and humidity. Reports of different life stages by the authors listed above are in the following ranges (in days): egg 8.7-21.6; larva and protochrysalis 2.8-10.4; protonymph and deutochrysalis 2.1-8.4; deutonymph and teleochrysalis 2.1-8.3; total development time 15.7-47.7.

B. phoenicis has many similarities to the other well-known false spider mites B. obovatus and B. californicus, including their polyphagous nature, parthenogenetic mode of reproduction, fairly long life cycle, and tolerance to organophosphorus insecticides and acaricides (Haramoto, 1969). However, it also possesses certain attributes that appear to be distinct for this species, the most striking being its ability to thrive only within a fairly narrow temperature range, with very little mortality occurring during the developmental stages (Manglitz and Cory, 1953; Morishita, 1954).


The mites generally follow the classic pattern of fertilization and subsequent production of male and female progeny, but may also reproduce by parthenogenesis. The general mode of reproduction of B. phoenicis is thelytokous parthenogenesis (female offspring), and it has a haploid genome. This led Haramoto (1969) to assume that the genetic composition of the mite within an area is fairly uniform. Resistance to pesticides is less likely to be selected out from such a population because the gene pool is more limited than that of sexually reproducing species such as the spider mites. Haramoto (1969) suggested that this is probably the main reason why resistance to acaricides that were once effective has not been reported for false spider mites, whereas resistance to pesticides is a notorious and serious problem in the case of spider mites (Jeppson, 1961).

Males in the population of B. phoenicis are very few and rare. Razoux Schultz (1961) estimated the proportion of males on tea as about 1.5%, and Haramoto (1969) estimated the proportion on papaya as about 1%. The significance of the rarity of males and the mechanism of sex determination is not clear (Pijnaker et al., 1980).

Although males are very scarce in nature, Haramoto (1969) and Nageshchandra and Channabasavanna (1974b) observed mating in isolated instances. In every case, the males mated with non-gravid females about 1 day old and remained in copulation for between about 15 min (Haramoto, 1969) and 24 min (Nageshchandra and Channabasavanna, 1974b). During mating, the male approaches the female from the posterior, rests his two pairs of front legs on the dorsum of the female opisthosoma, and crawls beneath the female. Simultaneously, the opisthosoma of the male is bent upward and forward in a C-shape until the tip comes into contact with the posterior end of the female's opisthosoma. This attempt lasts for a few minutes, after which the male succeeds in fixing his posterior end into the female genital opening aided by vigorous shaking movements of the body. According to Haramoto (1969), mated females produce only female progeny, as do unmated females. Oomen (1982), from a personal communication of Helle, concludes that during copulation the transfer of sperm is ineffective. Kennedy (1995) observed mating in a single, isolated incident that lasted for 20 min. The mated female lived for another 22 days but surprisingly no eggs were produced. Hence the functional response of males in the population of false spider mites remains a mystery.


Haramoto (1969) stated that the genetic composition of B. phoenicis within an area is fairly uniform because of spanandry (the occurrence of few males in a thelytokous species). Resistance to pesticides is less likely to be selected out from such a population because the gene pool is more limited than that of sexually reproducing species such as the spider mites.

Contrary to the situation for the spider mites (Tetranychidae), karyotypic information on the false spider mites (Tenuipalpidae) is scarce. Two chromosomes (n=2) have been found in the somatic cells of Brevipalpus spp. (Helle and Bolland, 1972); the reproduction of B. phoenicis is haploid thelytoky, a character unique to B. californicus, B. obovatus and B. phoenicis in the whole animal kingdom. Hence it is postulated that spanandry and the occurrence of intersexes in the population of these mites are due to a critical sex balance (Helle et al., 1980; Pijnacker et al., 1980).

Nevertheless Wrensch et al. (1994), after observing the karyotype of B. obovatus mites published by Pijnacker et al. (1981), argue that the chromosomal number is 2n=2 rather than n=2. Females showing obligate thelytoky occasionally produce spanandric males, and males can be induced by irradiation. Both sexes have the same karyotype, and their 2n=2 ploidy is exceptional, being the lowest known in animals. No cells contain just one chromosome and the two chromosomes are heterologous. Their evolutionary success, however, is in the inverted meiotic sequences of their holokinetic chromosomes. An equatorial first division permits all four meiotic nuclei to contain both the chromosomes, and no restitution of nuclei is required. The formation of a singleton bivalent is accommodated by pre-meiotic doubling of the heterologous chromosome pair.

Bolland, Helle and co-workers examined photomicrographs of chromosomes of the family Tenuipalpidae, and correlated the chromosomal number with the phylogenetic trend. The phylogenetic relationship of the genera of the family Tenuipalpidae is determined by reduction of segmentation of the pedipalps. In more primitive genera (Aegytobia and Brevipalpus) the palpus has four or five segments; in more advanced genera the number of palpal segments is reduced. For example, there are three segments in Tenuipalpus, Raoiella and Dolichotetranychus, and as an extreme the palpus has a single segment in Obuloides. On the basis of this phylogenetic trend, n=2 was considered by this group to be the primitive number and n=3 to be more advanced. Although Wrensch et al. (1994) do not claim that such low numbers of chromosomes constitute a phylogenetic clade within the Tenuipalpidae, the euryphagy and economic importance of Brevipalpus mites suggest that the evolutionary vagility of such a superficially 'dead-end' genetic system (obligate thelytoky) works because of inverted meiosis.


B. phoenicis feeds mostly on perennial plants, which provide a comparatively stable, unmanipulated environment. However, their abundance and outbreaks vary with certain abiotic and biotic factors and with human manipulation of the ecosystem.

B. phoenicis usually co-exists with B. obovatus and B. californicus. The population density has never been observed to reach a point where food and space become limiting due to intra- and inter-specific competition, but may become limiting on individual plants. Under competition conditions, many individuals of B. phoenicis die from starvation or from predation by ants, predatory mites or spiders.

Haramoto (1969) stated that abundance of host plants, a warm and humid climate, and paucity of natural enemies favour the high population density of this mite. Baptist and Ranaweera (1955) and Oomen (1982) reported that this mite is more prevalent at high altitudes. However, Haramoto (1969) recorded higher numbers of B. phoenicis in the coastal regions of Hawaii than at higher altitudes. According to Laycock and Templer (1973) and Danthanarayana and Ranaweera (1972), the incidence of this mite appears to be higher in the drier months or after a prolonged drought. Muraleedharan and Chandrasekharan (1981) stated that the mite population in tea gardens increases with conducive weather conditions, i.e. moderately high temperature (25-30°C), high relative humidity (88-92%), low precipitation (10-12 mm), and longer duration of sunshine. Among the various weather parameters, low rainfall seems to be the most important single factor affecting the numerical abundance of the mite. However, Danthanarayana and Ranaweera (1974) suggested that the red carotinoid pigment rhodoxanthin, synthesized in tea leaves during the dry months, might act as a phagostimulant or a reproductive stimulant and contribute more than the rainfall levels to increasing the population.

Pruning reduces the population to practically zero. During the first 2 years after pruning, the populations multiply slowly and more or less exponentially. It takes 2-3 years to reach a harmful level in tea, and 1 year in papaya; after this period the populations develop high densities. Pruning interrupts this constancy and determines the basic periodicity of development (Baptist and Ranaweera, 1955; Cranham, 1966b; Haramoto, 1969; Oomen, 1982; Muraleedharan, 1990).

It is widely believed that the extensive use of fungicides, normally applied in the wetter months for control of blister blight in tea plantations, increases the incidence of mites, particularly red spider mite (Oligonychus coffeae) and purple tea mite (Calacarus carinatus) in addition to Brevipalpus spp. (Cranham, 1960, 1961, 1962; Venkata Ram, 1963; Anandakrishna, 1964). Oomen (1982) reported that copper fungicides may have a cumulative effect leading to outbreaks of false spider mite. Nevertheless, Cranham (1962) speculated that population increase of the mites in US citrus plantations due to the application of copper fungicides might not be due to the copper salts per se, but to the inert diluents or the physical nature of the deposit. Oomen (1982) suggested that copper fungicides do not aid the increase of mite populations by directly stimulating reproduction, but perhaps by way of trophobiosis.

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Agistemus camerounensis Predator Adults/Nymphs
Agistemus denotatus Predator Adults/Eggs/Larvae/Nymphs
Agistemus sanctiluciae Predator Adults/Nymphs
Agistemus terminalis Predator Adults/Eggs/Larvae/Nymphs
Amblyseius citrifolius Predator Adults/Nymphs
Amblyseius herbicolus Predator Adults/Nymphs
Amblyseius idaeus Predator Adults/Nymphs
Amblyseius largoensis Predator Adults/Eggs/Larvae/Nymphs
Exothorhis caudata India; Assam tea
Lestodiplosis oomeni Predator Adults/Eggs/Larvae/Nymphs
Metaseiulus occidentalis Predator Adults/Nymphs
Mexecheles hawaiiensis Predator Adults/Eggs/Larvae/Nymphs
Phytoseiulus macropilis Predator Eggs
Phytoseiulus persimilis Predator Adults/Nymphs
Typhlodromus homalii Predator Adults/Nymphs
Zetzellia Predator Adults/Eggs/Larvae/Nymphs

Notes on Natural Enemies

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The search for natural enemies of this mite began as early as 1958 in citrus plantations. Muma (1958) noted a strong negative correlation between summer/autumn infestations of B. phoenicis and a complex of Typhlodromus and Amblyseiopsis on citrus in Florida, USA. In Hawaii, Haramoto (1969) reported Phytoseiulus macropilis and Amblyseius largoensis as effective predators against this mite. However, there was no evidence that these predatory mites could live and reproduce exclusively on false spider mite. A prostigmatid predatory mite, Mexecheles hawaiiensis, has been reported from Florida citrus gardens (de Leon, 1962; Muma, 1964). Oomen (1982) recorded as many as 22 predatory mites including some unidentified species feeding on false spider mite: of these, the Amblyseius group was the most promising. Oomen (1982) estimated that this group of predators could check the population of false spider mite up to 82%.

In addition to the natural enemies listed, B. phoenicis is preyed upon by a large complex of Phytoseiidae, Coccinellidae, Staphylinidae, Cecidomyiidae etc.


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The intrinsic rate of natural increase of false spider mite reared under favourable laboratory conditions is fairly low when compared with other phytophagous mites. Nevertheless, the offspring of a single population would soon attain astronomical abundance (20 billion billion in 2 years) if left unchecked (Oomen, 1982), making control measures necessary.

B. phoenicis is the main vector of Citrus leprosis virus C (CiLV-C). It is recognized as the most damaging species in citrus-producing areas where the virus has been reported (Guillermo, 2012). 

Detection and Inspection

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A diagnostic Lucid key to 19 species of Brevipalpus is available in Flat Mites of the World.

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Cultural Methods

Pruning, one of the main cultural practices in plantations, has been reported by many authors to control the build-up of B. phoenicis populations (Baptist and Ranaweera, 1955; Cranham, 1966a; Haramoto, 1969; Oomen, 1982; Muraleedharan, 1990). Pruning (along with the developmental stage of the crop in the pruning cycle) affects the distribution of mites and the intensity of outbreaks, as it removes a large part of the foliage and stem and also the mites feeding on them. Similarly, the intensity of shade tree cover in a plantation increases the mite population; regulated shade and avoidance of alternative hosts would help prevent the incidence of mites and other sucking insects.

Host-Plant Resistance

Most of the economically important hosts of B. phoenicis are perennial plants, and the development of a resistant variety is thus a time-consuming process. Information regarding plant resistance for this pest is scarce, and confined only to tea. Muraleedharan (1991) reported that in tea, the Chinese varieties are generally more susceptible to mites than the Assam varieties of India. Kennedy and Hance (1995) confirmed this, suggesting that genes responsible for antibiosis-based resistance are present in the varieties originating from north-east India.

Oomen (1982) stated that the differences in the abundance of false spider mite on different host plants, the levelling off of numerical increase 2 years after pruning, and numerical increase after application of copper fungicides, are probably all caused by differences or changes in the resistance of the host plant. Hence resistance is very important as a factor restricting the multiplication of false spider mite in tea.

Chemical Control

Chemical control involves costly inputs, including pesticides, fuel, labour and spraying equipment; thus the correct choice of pesticides, their dosage, timing and methods of application are of great importance. The misuse of pesticides and the improper execution of pest control technology may result in crop loss, health hazards, environmental pollution and pest resurgence.

Many chemicals with acaricidal properties have been available, but only a few can be used against this pest due to various limitations. Some pesticides that have been proven effective for the control of the common species of spider mites (Tetranychidae) have been shown to be ineffective against false spider mites (Tenuipalpidae) (Pritchard, 1949; Hamilton, 1953; Morishita, 1954). Some of the pesticides toxic to false spider mite cannot be used on certain kinds of plants because of their phytotoxic nature (for example, most of the organic pesticides were phytotoxic to papaya; Haramoto, 1969).

Muraleedharan (1990) lists the following as effective acaricides against false spider mite - chlorinated hydrocarbons: dicofol, tetradifon; organophosphates: ethion and quinalphos.

Sulfur has been a widely used pesticide against this pest over a long period in almost all crops affected (Jeppson et al., 1975). However, Cranham (1965) indicated that since sulfur does not have an ovicidal effect, it needs to be applied many times, leaving a yellow taint on the plants. Jeppson et al. (1975) also state that this mite is susceptible to dicofol, but not to the organophosphorus and carbamate compounds. In particular, the organophosphorus compounds such as malathion, fenitrothion and dimethaote are not generally useful (Cranham, 1966a). Crow (1965) and Prebble (1972) found that dicofol and dinocap were successful against attacks by this mite in Africa. Apart from these chemicals, bromopropylate, chinomethionat and mixtures of dicofol+tetradifon were found to be useful against these mites (Das and Gope, 1983; Oliviera et al., 1983; Roman, 1983). In Africa, permethrin and dimethoate were found to be effective (Sudoi, 1990).

Biological Control

A number of natural enemies of false spider mite have been recorded (see Natural Enemies), although there are no records of control in the field specifically by this method.

Integrated Pest Management

Although chemicals continue to play an important role as the first line of defence, their over-use poses an acute danger of environmental contamination, pesticidal hazards, resurgence and development of resistance. Hence it has become necessary to minimize their use by other available methods.

Although the use of chemicals against this mite is presently inevitable, their use can be minimized by integrating with other available methods. Mites should be dealt with by judicious use of acaricides and by agronomic practices such as hand plucking, shade regulation, etc.



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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

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