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Russet Mites are tiny pests that are a part of the eriophyid mite family. They are responsible for attacking and destroying tomato and cannabis plants and are so tiny they can only be seen in clusters.
They do not leave visible traces of their presence and often go unnoticed by plant owners until the damage is already done.
Russet mites have tapered bodies that are translucent with a yellow tint that is seen when they form in clusters. They are also unique in a sense that they only have two pairs of legs, unlike most mites.
They are often carried by the wind which allows them to reproduce in areas where plant growth is heavy like cannabis crops for example. However, the russet mite can also be found indoors in greenhouses and homes where the environment is ideal.
Female russet mites hibernate through the winter inside the stem of a plant. They lay their eggs in the spring and nymphs go through two stages before becoming adults.
Mites destroy plants by draining the sap at the cellular level. The first signs of damage are spotted near the base of the plant and move upward as the pest feeds. Lower leaves start to droop, curl and turn yellow, while the stem has a discolored appearance.
The mites are particularly fond of flower resins and will often seek shelter inside of blossoms and flowers where the greatest damage occurs.
Natural control for both indoor and outdoor plants is the best preventive method for growers who want to avoid chemical sprays and powders.
Inspecting plant leaves near the soil line regularly is crucial for early detection of the pests.
If your tomato or cannabis plants begin to look sickly, be sure to consider the possibility that what might seem like an iron or magnesium deficiency could actually be a russet mite problem.
Remove any leaves that are damaged and even the entire plant if necessary. Be sure to place the plant into a sealed bag or outdoor trash can when disposal is a must. Once you have disposed of the infected plant, clean and sanitize the area and container to prevent further infestations.
If you have plants outdoors that are in containers, check carefully for russet mites, since they frequent container gardens more than ground plantings.
Avoid buying commercial-grade soils where russet mites are often found. Instead, consider making your own soil.
Apply beneficial nematodes once soil temperatures start to warm. If the damage is already noticeable, consider applying a second round of nematodes to reduce russet mites and their eggs.
Introduce beneficial bugs like predatory mites to destroy the pests and their eggs.
Don't use a ton of fertilizer in your plants since the mites are attracted to nitrogen and green growth.
Consider herbal sprays made of garlic, cayenne pepper, and citrus oils to discourage the mites from depositing their eggs and feasting on plants.