This week, the RHS advisory service has identified the Fuchsia gall mite, Aculops fuchsiae, after a gardener in Fareham, Hampshire, brought it in.
The infected plant material was from a hardy Fuchsia bush that was 20 years old. But RHS scientists believe the pest came into the country on imported Fuchsia plants or cuttings and it could now spread across Britain.
Fuchsia grower Angela Cowles, owner of Mount Folly Fuchsias in Wickham which is 3km from the infected plants, said: “It could have been one of our customers. This is the first I’ve heard of it. We produce lots of cuttings here and I will have to examine our fuchsias very carefully. We use biological control so I will have to investigate if there is anything to control this pest.”
Aldershot-based Little Brook Fuchsias owner Carol Gubler was visiting the RHS on the day of the announcement. “Thankfully, we haven’t seen the pest at my nursery so I am concerned but not panicking. I have asked my staff to be vigilant. I think that the trade has a lot more chance of controlling this pest because we can use an array of chemicals but the amateur grower may suffer.”
RHS principal entomologist Andrew Halstead said: “The Fuchsia gall mite is very bad news for anyone who grows fuchsias.
“The damage the mite causes prevents further growth at the shoot tips and it destroys the flowers. Gall mites are difficult to control with the pesticides available to amateur gardeners and so the only effective treatment may be the destruction of infested plants.”
DEFRA recommends Abamectin (Dynamec) and Bifenthrin (Talstar) as chemical control, but advises that application of any of these products needs to be made before the mites enter the terminal growth and when symptoms become evident it may already be too late to apply acaricides.
Biological controls are considered ineffective because of the mites’ ability to hide in plant structures and the large size of predators. The predatory mite, Amblyseius californicus, has some reputation for controlling Fuchsia gall mite populations.
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