Feared fuchsia mite found in the UK
The potentially-devastating fuchsia gall mite (Aculops fuchsiae) has been found for the first time on mainland Britain in a fuchsia sample received by the RHS Members’ Advisory Service at RHS Garden Wisley. The pest has the potential to spread rapidly, affecting gardens and greenhouses throughout Britain. The fuchsia sample showing the distinctive distorted growth caused by the mite was received by the RHS from a private garden near Fareham, Hants, at the beginning of September. It had affected a hardy, previously-healthy fuchsia that had been growing in the garden for about 20 years. RHS experts believe the pest came into the country on imported fuchsia plants or cuttings and that there are likely to be other affected plants in the Fareham area. 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.” The symptoms of the mite are particularly distinctive and none of the other pests and diseases that affect fuchsia in Britain cause similar effects. The damage by the mite occurs at the shoot tips where the leaves are severely malformed and fail to expand. These damaged leaves are covered in downy hairs among which the mites live and feed by sucking sap. The flower buds are distorted and unable to develop. Commercial nurseries should be able to limit infestations through a combination of hygienic production and, if necessary, pesticide sprays. Amateur gardeners meanwhile, with access to only a limited range of pesticides will find the mite more difficult to control. Anyone who suspects they may have this pest on their fuchsias should contact their local PHSI office (www.defra.gov.uk/planth/offices) or send samples of infested plants in sealed polythene bags to PHSI, Central Science Laboratory, Sand Hutton, York, YO4 1LZ.
A healthy fuchsia