Evaluation of Predatory Mite (Acari: Phytoseiidae) Releases to Suppress Spruce Spider Mites, Oligonychus ununguis (Acari: Tetranychidae), on Juniper

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A laboratory trial evaluated four phytoseiid species for their potential as biological control agents of spruce spider mite, Oligonychus ununguis (Jacobi) (Acari: Tetranychidae). An augmentative biological control approach, using the predatory mites Neoseiulus fallacis Garman and Galendromus occidentalis Nesbitt (Acari: Phytoseiidae), was evaluated for reducing pest mite densities and injury, and economic costs on Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ A. Henry (Cupressaceae) in an outdoor nursery. Sequential releases of predator species, individually and in combination, were tested and compared with two commonly used miticides, a low-toxicity miticide, horticultural oil, and a conventional miticide, hexythiazox. Timing of treatments was based on grower-determined need, and predator release rates were based on guidelines in literature received from producers of beneficial organisms. Predator releases were more expensive and provided less effective suppression of spruce spider mites, resulting in greater spider mite injury to plants, compared with conventional pesticides. However, spider mite damage to plants did not differ in an economically meaningful way between treatments. Unsatisfactory levels of control seem related to under estimations of actual spider mite abundance based on grower perceptions and the beat sampling technique used to estimate predator release rates. These data suggest that when initial populations of spruce spider mite are high, it is unlikely that sequential releases of predator species, individually or in combination, will suppress spider mite populations. In this trial, augmentative biological control was 2.5–7 times more expensive than chemical controls.
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