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Blue oat mites

Agronomist, Peter Watt (Elders), has reported a control failure involving blue oat mites (Penthaleus spp.) near Forbes, in the Central West Slopes and Plains district of NSW. Several paddocks of oats and wheat were treated with alpha-cypermethrin, but Peter says mites were still present and causing significant feeding damage. The affected paddocks were sown to canola last year.

There are three pest species of blue oat mite which differ in their biology, but to the eye look identical. The species responsible for these control failures was not identified, although it is likely to be Penthaleus falcatus. This species is relatively rare and favours canola crops, but will also attack cereals, pastures and even broad-leafed weeds. Importantly, this species has a significantly higher tolerance than the redlegged earth mite and other blue oat mite species to a range of registered pesticides.

Agronomist, Todd Jones (Elders) has reported blue oat mites causing severe damage to a variety of cereals in west Narrabri, in the North West Slopes and Plains district of NSW. Heavy infestations have been observed in oats, winter wheat and barley crops. Todd reports that the characteristic ‘silvering’ of the leaves, caused by mite feeding, is evident. Agronomist, Karla Whittaker (AGnVET Services), also reports blue oat mites causing feeding damage to pastures near Boree Creek, in the South West Slopes of NSW.

Blue oat mites are often mistaken for redlegged earth mites due to their similar appearance and sympatric life-cycle. However, blue oat mites and the redlegged earth mite differ markedly in their biology and require separate management strategies. Blue oat mites are the most abundant earth mites in many cropping and pastoral areas of Victoria, Tasmania and NSW. Blue oat mites can be distinguished from other mites by their blue-black coloured body and characteristic red mark on their back.

Several of the latest reports suggest that the damage caused by emerging mites this season may be negated by the vigorous plant growth. However, continual monitoring of mite populations is recommended and samples should be accurately identified.

For further information on blue oat mites, click here or refer to PestFacts Issue No. 3.

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