Farm Focus: Two Spot Mite Season
It is two spot mite season again. Two spot mites are a species of spider that can cause devastating damage to peaches and nectarines if left unchecked. They overwinter in the soil, and every year, almost like clockwork, they migrate up and we start to see their webs on the leaves of our trees during the second and third week of July.
Mites love both hot weather and dust. By mid July, we’ve started to have plenty of both! Luckily, control for this pest is pretty straightforward and effective. We can’t control the weather, as much as we’d like to, but we can mitigate the dust in the orchard by managing our farm roads. In late May we work on getting the dusk under control in order to help reduce pest pressure. Humberto, our tractor driver, spends two days driving through the orchard and spraying the roads. He makes two passes - the first pass puts water down in a thin layer into the soil while the second pass lays down magnesium chloride. When the water and magnesium chloride combine, they bind and create a layer on the road that keeps the dust in check and thus mite populations too.
Inevitably, we still find little red spots, which are the bodies of these tiny spiders, on our trees. That’s when we know it’s time to begin spraying. When the red spots and webs start to appear, Humberto spends another two days driving through the orchard and spraying down the peach and nectarine trees with oil. This past week he sprayed thyme oil on all of the leaves of the trees. The oil creates a barrier that the mites do not like and dissuades them from biting into the leaves of our trees and sucking out all of the chlorophyll from within them.
We are grateful that we have effective strategies to manage this particular pest. Now, if we could only control the weather….