Feared fuch­sia mite found in the UK

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - East Kent Property - - GARDENING -

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

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