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Twospotted Spider Mites Continue to Threaten Soybeans

July 19, 2002
In previous issues of the Bulletin, we have encouraged you to keep your eyes open for buildups of twospotted spider mites in soybeans. These pests were first noted in fields in southern Illinois, but now they are showing up elsewhere. As the hot, dry weather has continued, the spider mites have been true to form, their densities increasing in size rather quickly. John Fulton, Extension unit leader in Logan County, reported that some soybean fields are being sprayed with miticides in his area, despite an inch of rain that fell on July 11.

As most people realize, infestations of twospotted spider mites are associated with prolonged hot, dry weather. Spider mites feed by inserting their needlelike mouthparts into leaf cells and extracting the liquid contents. They ingest a more nutritional diet when water is in short supply, resulting in greater fecundity of females (more eggs per female). In addition, hot, dry weather speeds up their development, so generations overlap and populations build quickly.

Close-up of twospotted spider mite adult.

Stages of growth of twospottted spider mites include egg, larva, protonymph, deutonymph, and adult. Adults are extremely small (0.002 inch) and have 8 legs. They are green-yellow with two large, irregular-shaped black spots on each side of the body. Twospotted spider mites can complete their life cycle in 10 to 20 days, depending on weather conditions.

Twospotted spider mite injury to soybean plants at the field edge.

Twospotted spider mites overwinter as females in noncrop areas such as field margins. Spider mites disperse by crawling and by airborne movement. Their crawling from the weeds in field margins to soybean plants usually results in initial infestations along field edges. Initial symptoms of injury are yellow stippling of the leaves and stunting of the plants. As injury becomes more severe, leaves turn completely yellow and may turn brown, die, and drop from the plants. If densities of the mites continue to increase, the mites group up at the tips of leaflets and spin out strands of webbing that catch in the wind, which carries the mites to other areas of the field.

Twospotted spider mites clumped at the tip of a soybean leaflet.

Management of twospotted spider mites in soybeans depends greatly on vigilance. At the first sign of injury caused by spider mites, you should examine the injured area to look for the mites. A quick way to check for mites is to hold a piece of paper under soybean leaves and tap the leaves gently to dislodge the mites. If mites are present, you will be able to see them moving across the paper. A good magnifying glass will enable you to see some of their morphological characteristics. Another telltale clue of a spider mite infestation is the presence of webbing on the undersides of the leaves.

If you find spider mites only in field edges, spot treatments to prevent additional damage and to halt their movement may be justified. However, you should make certain that spider mites are not present throughout the field. Even healthy appearing plants may be supporting a few spider mites, and a few spider mites can become a lot of spider mites rather quickly. Dimethoate (check various labels for formulations and rates of application) and *Lorsban 4E at 1/2 to 1 pint per acre both have provided satisfactory control of spider mites in the past. Lorsban 4E is restricted for use by certified applicators. Please follow all label directions and pay attention to the precautions.--Kevin Steffey

Author: Kevin Steffey

The Pest Management and Crop Development Bulletin
Executive Editor: Kevin Steffey, Extension Entomologist

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