Bryobia mites – first of the season to impact canola

It’s not surprising that Bryobia mites are already damaging emerging canola – they are an early season pest and potentially problematic due to their natural tolerance to some insecticides 

Where have they been reported?

Initial infestations of Bryobia mites have been recording damaging canola in the Lockhart (Riverina) and Beckom (Central West Slopes & Plains) regions of NSW. They have also been observed in several emerging canola crops near Manangatang (Victorian Mallee).

Bryobia mite habits and behaviour

Bryobia mites (Bryobia spp.) are early-season pests and tend to cause most damage in autumn when they attack newly establishing pastures and emerging crops, greatly reducing seedling survival and retarding development. They prefer broadleaf plants such as canola, lupins, vetch, lucerne and clover, but they will also attack cereals. In pastures, Bryobia mites tend to prefer clovers and medics to the grasses.

Bryobia mites are active during the warmer parts of the day and may be difficult to detect during the early morning or in wet conditions. Unlike other mite species that spend a lot of time on the soil surface, Bryobia mites are mostly found on the lower and upper leaf surfaces of plants, and are a lot less active than other earth mite species. They feed on the upper surfaces of leaves and cotyledons by piercing and sucking leaf material. This feeding causes distinctive trails of whitish-grey spots on leaves, compared to the general silvering caused by other mites. Extensive feeding damage can lead to cotyledons shrivelling. On grasses, Bryobia mite feeding can resemble that of redlegged earth mites.

Our advice

It is important to distinguish Bryobia mites from other mite species before deciding on control options. Inspect paddocks during the warmer parts of the day. Look for mites and evidence of feeding damage on newly established crops and pastures. Established crops can tolerate moderate infestations of Bryobia mites and it is likely that Bryobia numbers will naturally decline in most areas with the onset of cooler late autumn and winter conditions.

Control options

Crops that follow pastures with a high clover content are most at risk. Early control of summer and autumn weeds within and around paddocks, especially broadleaf weeds such as capeweed and clovers, can help prevent mite outbreaks. Some insecticides are registered for Bryobia mites, however, be aware that recommended rates used against other mites might be ineffective against Bryobia mites. Bryobia mites have a natural tolerance to several chemicals. Generally speaking, organophosphate insecticides provide better control against Bryobia mites than synthetic pyrethroids.

It is a possible that some reports of control failures with bifenthrin are associated with particular species of Bryobia, which are numerous in cropping systems. In 2013 there were several reports of chemical control failures after alpha-cypermethrin was applied to paddocks. This insecticide should not be used to control Bryobia mites.


There are at least seven species of Bryobia mites (often called ‘clover mites’) found in broadacre crops in Australia, all very similar in appearance. They are often misidentified as the redlegged earth mite, however, Bryobia mites can be distinguished by their long forelegs, which are about 1.5 times their body length. Bryobia mites are smaller than other commonly occurring pest mites and reach no more than about 0.75 mm in length as adults. They have an oval shaped, dorsally flattened body that is dark grey, pale orange or olive in colour and have eight pale red/orange legs. If seen under a microscope, Bryobia mites have a sparsely distributed set of broad, spade-like hairs, appearing like white flecks.


* Sources of field reports of Bryobia mites

Andrew McMahen – Agronomist, Landmark (Victorian Mallee)

Elisa Strong – Agronomist, Delta Ag (NSW Riverina)

Craig Warren – Agronomist, Landmark (NSW Central West Slopes & Plains)

Cover image: Photo by Andrew Weeks, Cesar Australia

What is Pestfacts south-eastern?

PestFacts south-eastern keeps growers and advisers informed about invertebrate pests and beneficials in broadacre crops and pastures during the winter-cropping season in Victoria and southern New South Wales.


Never miss a beat. Get articles, advice and more straight in your inbox.

Since 2019 PestFacts south-eastern has been running through IPMforGrains: Best Practice Insect Pest Management, a project delivered by the National Pest Information Network (Cesar Australia, DPIRD, QDAF, NSW DPI, and SARDI). This project aims to provide grain growers and advisors with information on invertebrate grain pest occurrence and equip industry with the knowledge needed to implement integrated pest management practices. This initiative is a GRDC investment and includes in-kind contributions from all project partner organisations.

The online PestFacts south-eastern collection also includes a selection of articles published between 2015 – 2018 when the service was run through a previous GRDC investment, The National Pest Information Service.

PestFacts south-eastern is supported by