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Southern Red Mite and Spruce Spider Mite

S. Bambara and Steven Frank, Extension Entomologists

CAUTION: This information was developed for North Carolina and may not apply to other areas.

[General Information] [Biology] [Control] [Other Resources

Southern red mite, Oligonychus ilicis (McGregor), Tetranychidae, PROSTIGMATA
Spruce spider mite, Oligonychus ununguis (Jacobi), Tetranychidae, PROSTIGMATA

General Information

Cool weather mites are dark red (southern red mite) or almost black (spruce spider mite) and with the eight legs spread out would just cover the period at the end of this sentence. The legs of the spruce spider mite are pale yellowish brown. Males are smaller and more slender than females.

The eggs of these mites are red or brown, round and a little flattened. They have a tiny hairlike "stripe" that sticks up in the center.

The larvae of cool weather mites are slightly larger than the eggs and have six legs. Nymphs are similar to adults although some nymphs are smaller. 


Spruce spider mites are found throughout North America. Southern red mites are found in the eastern United States and California. Southern red mites prefer azaleas, hollies and camellias but they have been recorded from a number of shrubs and herbs. Spruce spider mites feed on junipers, spruce, arborvitae, and other coniferous evergreens.

Southern red mites feed on the lower leaf surface, causing mesophyll collapse. Infested leaves turn gray or brown and may fall prematurely. Heavily infested shrubs may die. Spruce spider mites are the most destructive mite pest of ornamental conifers. Infested needles turn yellow or brown and may drop prematurely. Heavily infested shrubs may be noticeably webbed with silk. After several years of heavy feeding even large trees may be killed.

Spider mites hatch from eggs and develop through a larval stage and nymphal stages before maturing into adults. Males mate with females as soon as the females molt into the adult stage and females soon begin laying eggs. Southern red mites overwinter as eggs glued to the lower leaf surface. If the winter is mild, all stages of this mite may survive. As the weather moderates in late winter, southern red mites increase. Most of the feeding damage occurs in early spring. When populations of predaceous insects and mites are active in summer, southern red mites dwindle away so that only the eggs survive in hot weather. If the summer is mild, all stages of this mite may survive. As temperatures cool in autumn, mite populations build up again.

spruce spider mites on branch tipSpruce spider mites also overwinter as eggs usually laid at the base of needles. In April and May the eggs hatch and larval mites begin feeding. Most feeding damage and reproduction takes place in spring and fall. At upper elevations, the spruce spider mite may be active all summer long. 


Because these mites are active in cool weather, infestations should be treated in cool seasons. For best results monitor shrubs in spring and fall for active stages. Spruce spider mites tend to feed on older leaves so that thorough coverage is essential for good control. Some eastern states report spray timing coincides with mid-bloom period of red bud. Two or more treatments at two-week intervals may be necessary for good control. If mites are present in damaging numbers, use one of the following appropriate pesticides. For additional recommendations on chemical use, consult the North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual.
Active Ingredient Trade Name Mite stage affected Labeled site(s) Residual Signal word
Compatibility with Beneficials
abamectin Avid immature, adult N, L, G short warning Yes. (May be mixed with 1% hort oil.)
acequinocyl Shuttle egg, immature, adult N, L, G long caution Yes
bifenazate Floramite egg, immature, adult N, L, G, I long caution Yes
bifenthrin Talstar immature, adult N, L, G, I long warning No
fluvalinate Mavrik Aquaflow immature, adult N, L, G short caution  
etoxazole TetraSan egg, immature, adult N, L, G, I long caution Yes
hexythiazox Hexygon egg, immature N, L, G, I long caution Yes
*horticultural oil Sunspray, Ultra Fine, and others immature, adult N, L, G, I none warning Yes
*insecticidal soap Safer's, M-Pede, and others immature, adult N, L, G, I none warning Yes
spiromesifen Forbid egg, immature, adult L, I long caution Yes
spiromesifen Judo egg, immature, adult G, N long caution Yes

*suitable for home use.  L=Landscape, N=Nursery, G=Greenhouse, I-Interiorscape.   Short = less than 14 days

Cornell Spruce Spider Mite Fact Sheet.
A Texas Publication about using high pressure water spraying.

Recommendations of specific chemicals are based upon information on the manufacturer's label and performance in a limited number of trials. Because environmental conditions and methods of application by growers may vary widely, performance of the chemical will not always conform to the safety and pest control standards indicated by experimental data.

Recommendations for the use of chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact your county North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service agent.

Other Resources

For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service personnel.

Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.
© 2001 NC Cooperative Extension Service

Prepared by Stephen Bambara and Steven Frank.  Revised from the original publication by James R. Baker.  Photos by J.R. Baker except where noted.

Web page last reviewed January, 2011 by the webperson.