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Cabbage tree mite - Tetranychus species 1

By N A Martin (2018)

Classification

Phylum:
Arthropoda
Class:
Arachnida
Subclass:
Acari
Order:
Trombidiformes
Suborder:
Prostigmata
Superfamily:
Tetranychoidea
Family:
Tetranychidae
Scientific Name:
Tetranychus species 1
  • A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown eggs, large adult females, the adult male with a narrow pointed abdomen and the pale larva (right). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown eggs, large adult females, the adult male with a narrow pointed abdomen and the pale larva (right). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown live eggs and the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown live eggs and the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
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Common Names

Cabbage tree mite
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Biostatus and Distribution

Little is known about this distinctive unnamed endemic spidermite. It has only been found on the common cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae) and only in two cities in the North Island. I suspect that it occurs in low numbers on wild plants, but that populations are kept low by its natural enemies.

Conservation status: Rarely found, status unknown.

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Life Stages and Annual Cycle

Life stages of Tetranychus mites. Image: Crop & Food Research © based on figure 21 in Crop & Food Research Broadsheet 112.
Life stages of Tetranychus mites. Image: Crop & Food Research © based on figure 21 in Crop & Food Research Broadsheet 112.

These mites are very small and live in colonies on the underside of leaves. Adult female mites are about 0.5 mm long. Adult males are slightly smaller and have a pointed end to their abdomen. The adult females have a pale head, front of body and legs. Most of the abdomen is a dark red. The male and juvenile mites are a pale orange-red. Adults are typical mites, having four pairs of legs.

Adult female mites lay brown, spherical eggs in dense clusters on the underside of leaves. The larva that hatches from an egg looks like a tiny adult, but only has three pairs of legs and is a pale orange-red. The mite larva moults (changes skin) into a nymph which has four pairs of legs like the adult. The first nymphal stage moults into a second nymph. Both nymphal stages are orange-red. The large nymphs become darker red like the adult female. The last juvenile stage moults into an adult mite. Adult males mate with newly emerged adult females.

Feeding
The mites have pointed mouth parts that puncture the surface cells of leaves. They suck out the contents of the cells. The black areas in the abdomen are part of their gut where the plant cell contents are digested.

Walking and web spinning
The mite uses its legs for walking. As they walk they produce a web from their abdomen which is attached to the leaf surface. When a dense colony forms the surface of the leaf becomes covered by webbing.

Dispersal to new leaves and new plants
When a dense colony develops or a plant leaf is no longer suitable, mites may walk to another leaf on the same branch or a nearby branch. Spidermites are also dispersed by wind. Mated female mites will climb to the top of the plant produce a strand of silk and stand waiting for a gust of wind to take them away. The mites form new colonies on the underside leaves.

  • A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown eggs. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown eggs. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • A small group of the Cabbage tree mites, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the adult male with a narrow pointed abdomen (left). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    A small group of the Cabbage tree mites, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the adult male with a narrow pointed abdomen (left). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown eggs and the white egg shells and moulted skins. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown eggs and the white egg shells and moulted skins. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown eggs and the white egg shells and moulted skins. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown eggs and the white egg shells and moulted skins. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown live eggs and the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown live eggs and the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Remains of a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Remains of a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown eggs, large adult females, the adult male with a narrow pointed abdomen and the pale larva (right). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown eggs, large adult females, the adult male with a narrow pointed abdomen and the pale larva (right). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Remains of a very large colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Remains of a very large colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
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Recognition

This mite requires special procedures and taxonomic knowledge to identify specimens. However, it is the only species of spidermite known to live on cabbage trees. It also forms colonies with large groups of brown eggs that leave large groups of white egg shells.

  • Remains of a very large colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Remains of a very large colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown live eggs and the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown live eggs and the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown eggs and the white egg shells and moulted skins. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown eggs and the white egg shells and moulted skins. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Natural Enemies

Predators
Several species of spidermite feeding ladybirds, Stethorus species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), are present in New Zealand. One of which has been found feeding on a colony of Cabbage tree mite. Both adults and larvae feed on the mites.

The mite may also be eaten by predatory mites and predatory fly larvae.

  • An adult ladybird, Stethorus species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), on a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae) with a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    An adult ladybird, Stethorus species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), on a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae) with a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • An adult ladybird, Stethorus species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), on a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae) with a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    An adult ladybird, Stethorus species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), on a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae) with a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • A young larva of a spidermite feeding ladybird, Stethorus species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    A young larva of a spidermite feeding ladybird, Stethorus species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Several larvae a spidermite feeding ladybird, Stethorus species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae): note the large moulted skins of the ladybirds. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Several larvae a spidermite feeding ladybird, Stethorus species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae): note the large moulted skins of the ladybirds. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • A pupa of a spidermite feeding ladybird, Stethorus species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    A pupa of a spidermite feeding ladybird, Stethorus species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • A moulted pupal skin of a spidermite feeding ladybird, Stethorus species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    A moulted pupal skin of a spidermite feeding ladybird, Stethorus species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Host Plants

Cabbage tree mite have only been found on the common cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (G.Forst.) Endl. (Asparagaceae). The mites live on the underside of leaves and may form large dense colonies.

The mites have only been found on young plants in cities. In native habitats they may live on mature plants, but populations are probably kept low by natural enemies, hence the lack of observations. The mites may also live on other species of cabbage tree.

The mites have pointed mouth parts that puncture the surface cells of flax leaves. They suck the contents of the cells. Feeding removes the green cell contents.

  • A young urban Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae) with a high infestation of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of leaves. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    A young urban Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae) with a high infestation of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of leaves. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Remains of a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Remains of a colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown live eggs and the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown live eggs and the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown live eggs and the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    A colony of the Cabbage tree mite, Tetranychus species 1, (Acari: Tetranychidae) on the underside of a leaf of Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae): note the brown live eggs and the white hatched eggs and moulted skins. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Control

Occasionally large colonies of Cabbage tree mite develop on the underside of leaves of young cabbage trees away from native ecosystems. These colonies do not appear to weaken plants. Predatory mites, tiny ladybirds and larvae of predatory flies will control populations.

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Information Sources

Plant-SyNZ: Invertebrate herbivore-host plant association database. plant-synz.landcareresearch.co.nz/

Zhang Z-Q, Henderson R, Flynn A, Martin NA. 2002. Key to Tetranychidae of New Zealand. Landcare Research Contract Report. LCO102/144: 1-62.

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Acknowledgements

The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited (Plant & Food Research) for permission to use photographs.

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Suggested Citation

Martin NA. 2018. Cabbage tree mite - Tetranychus species 1. Interesting Insects and other Invertebrates. New Zealand Arthropod Factsheet Series Number 148. http://nzacfactsheets.landcareresearch.co.nz/Index.html. Date Accessed. ISSN 1179-643X.

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