Southern Red Mite

Facts, Identification, & Control

Scientific Name

Oligonychus ilicis


What Do They Look Like?

Red Mite
Red Mite image licensed under CC

  • Size: The adults are very small. They are roughly the size of a pinhead. Nymphs are smaller versions of the adults.
  • Color: Adults and eggs are reddish in color.
  • Legs: Adults have eight legs while nymphs have six.

How Did I Get Southern Red Mites?

These pests appear on plants with broad leaves in fall and spring. Weather plays an important factor in infestations, and mild, dry conditions allow populations to grow. Homeowners may only see southern red mites a few months out of the year.

How Serious Are Southern Red Mites?

Southern red mites do not enter houses. Both their diet and breeding habits require outdoor foliage. An infestation usually causes brown leaves and bare branches on shrubs and plants. While a southern red mite does not bite or sting humans, high populations can severely affect costly landscaping.

Signs of Infestation

The presence of mites and their feeding damage are the most obvious signs of a southern red mite infestation. These mites prefer to feed on the lower surfaces of the plant’s leaves, but if populations are high they will feed on the top surfaces, as well. Because the pests feed on the undersides of leaves, infestations often go unnoticed until significant damage occurs.

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.

How Do I Get Rid of Southern Red Mites?

What You Can Do
Inspect host plants approximately every two weeks during the cool weather months. An easy way to inspect for these and other species of mites is to place a white piece of cloth, paper, or cardboard under a plant branch and hit the plant. In so doing, 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 population reduction is 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.

What Orkin Does
Your local Orkin technician is trained to help manage southern red mites and similar pests. Since every building or home is different, your Orkin technician will design a unique program for your situation.

Orkin can provide the right solution to keep southern red mites in their place…out of your home, or business.

Behavior, Diet, & Habits

What Do They Eat?
The southern red mite feeds on a variety of plants, but prefers woody broad-leaved plants such as:

  • Azaleas
  • Hollies
  • Rhododendrons
  • Roses
  • Yews

Geographic Range
Southern red mites are found primarily in the eastern United States and the State of California.

Life Cycle

The southern red mite’s life cycle consists of four stages:

  1. Eggs
  2. Larvae
  3. Nymphs
  4. Adults

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.

Seasonal Populations
When autumn brings cooler weather, populations begin to increase again. This is why southern red mites are commonly described as cool season mites. Under normal weather conditions Southern red mites may have several generations per year.