Southern Red Mite

Facts, Identification & Control

Scientific Name

Oligonychus ilicis


The southern red mite adult is very small – only 1/64th of an inch. It is eight-legged and colored dark red or brown. The southern red mite’s life cycle consists of 4 stages: eggs; larvae that have six legs; pupae that look like smaller versions of the adult; and the eight-legged adult.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

The southern red mite feeds on a variety of plants. This mite prefers broad-leaved evergreens such as azaleas, rhododendrons, hollies, roses and yew found in much of its eastern U.S. range. Plants that are weakened by drought, poor growing conditions and other pest infestations are more likely to suffer severe damage by this mite species. An important symptom of mite damage is leaves that turn gray or brown and prematurely fall from the plant. Heavy, unmanaged populations of southern red mites will eventually kill the plant. Southern red mites overwinter in the egg stage unless the cold weather months are abnormally mild, in which case all stages of the mite can survive winter. Overwintering eggs are attached to the lower surface of the leaves and feeding damage begins to occur in early spring. In the hot summer weather, most of the mite adults, nymphs and larvae may die leaving only the eggs to survive. When autumn bring cooler weather, populations begin to increase again. This is why southern red mites are commonly described as cool season mites.

More Information

Since inspection is the best, first line of defense to reduce or avoid damage from southern red mites, inspect host plants approximately every two weeks during the cool weather months. Gardeners and ornamental experts often use the place a white piece of cloth, paper or cardboard under a plant branch to hit the plant. Mites will be dislodged from the plant and show up on the white surface. Since southern red mites are cool weather mites, control efforts may not be needed in the hot summer months. When homeowners decide that control products are needed, they may be able to reduce the mite population by using the garden hose to wash mites away with a strong stream of water applied to plants every other day for about 2 weeks. If you try these do-it-yourself methods and you still have a mite problem, contact your pest management professional who can provide recommendations for using the safest and most effective ornamental pest control products.