Sep 14, 2023
Mastering pest management at the GL EXPO

Tom Bilbo to share insight at Great Lakes EXPO on how to combat two-spotted spider mites

Spider mites are common pests that can invade various crops, causing stress and decreased yield and quality. During the 2023 Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO, attendees gain insight into controlling two-spotted spider mites through the use of predatory mites, insecticides and more.

Tom Bilbo

Tom Bilbo, assistant professor and research and extension specialist for vegetable and strawberry entomology at Clemson University, will discuss using a field-released predatory mite to control two-spotted spider mites.

During Bilbo’s brassica portion of his session at Great Lakes EXPO, he will discuss how to “improve biological control for diamondback moths and other pests.” Bilbo will explain the ongoing research on how to best deploy and select flowering plants for enhancing natural enemies. Plus, Bilbo will share promising results from a pheromone-based mating disruption trial that is ongoing in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

In the tomato section of Bilbo’s session, he will describe his research on improving “the use of predatory mites in staked tomatoes and strawberries for managing two-spotted spider mites.” Specifically, Bilbo will discuss the “dos and don’ts” of using predatory mites, when to release them, the differences among predator strains, how to use compatible insecticides and why this approach is economical and effective.

According to Bilbo, spider mites primarily feed on foliage, damaging plant cells and reducing photosynthetic capability. As numbers increase, spider mites can also feed on developing tomato fruit, which can cause bronzing – reducing the overall yield and quality.

“Spider mite problems are more likely to occur under certain situations. These include when the weather is hot and dry, when a crop is planted adjacent to another crop with spider mite problems or when broad-spectrum insecticides are routinely used, such as pyrethroids, which eliminate beneficial natural enemies,” Bilbo said. “It is also critical to get into fields and scout for spider mites when their numbers are still low. Under the right conditions, spider mite numbers can increase dramatically over a short period of time. Once numbers are high and webbing is present, it becomes difficult to knock a pest population back.”

Predatory mites work best when released early during a pest infestation, according to Bilbo. When working with tomatoes, Bilbo recommends scouting your fields weekly, releasing predators where spider mites first invade the field and using compatible pesticides. This approach is more successful when compared to using acaricides and will keep spider mites suppressed during the entire cropping season.

“Expectations for biologicals are different than for chemical control. You don’t usually get the satisfaction of seeing dead bugs and it doesn’t work overnight,” Bilbo said. “Biocontrol also works better as a preventative approach and not a curative approach. It requires keeping your eyes on the field, closely observing what is going on and staying on top of pest issues. However, when done right, successful biological control can save time and money and provide greater overall benefits to the environment.”

Learn more about this session and others at The 2023 Great Lakes EXPO will be held Dec. 5-7 at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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