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Abstract

The red palm mite (Raoiella indica Hirst Tenuipalpidae), a pest of coconuts and ornamental palms in Asia and Africa, was reported in the Caribbean in 2004. By 2008, it spread to at least twelve islands, to two counties in Florida and to Venezuela. Red palm mite causes yellowing and leaf necrosis with severe reduction of leaf stomatal conductance. Growers are reporting > 70% reduction in coconut yield. Genetic studies of red palm mite collected from multiple regions in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean revealed several distinct haplotypes. All Caribbean samples have the same haplotype, which matches samples from coconut in Réunion and areca palms in India. The populations from coconut in India exhibited a different haplotype. Biological control and pesticide options are being studied to manage the pest. The efficacy of acaricides against red palm mite was tested to provide palm, banana and ornamental nursery growers with an updated list of acaricides with good control potential. Natural enemy studies in the Caribbean have shown that thrips, phytoseiid, lacewing, and coccinelid predators attack red palm mites. Fungal infections have been reported in Puerto Rico, Dominica and Trinidad. Predatory mite numbers, especially in the Phytoseiidae, increase in response to higher numbers of red palm mites. However, these local predators are apparently not controlling red palm mite outbreaks. Foreign exploration for natural enemies is being conducted in Mauritius and India. A phytoseiid predator is currently being evaluated in quarantine in Gainesville, Florida.

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