by Piter Kehoma Boll
Some months ago I introduced a tiny wasp that causes galls in eucalyptus trees. Now I am going to present another tiny creature, even smaller than that wasp, that causes a very abnormal type of gall in species of the genus Aloe.
Called Aceria aloinis and commonly known as the aloe mite, this microscopic arachnid can be a nightmare to aloe species and to those that cultive them. They are so tiny that they are barely seen with the naked eye. Their body is elongate and cylindrical, vermiform, like a microscopic sausage, and the adults have only four legs instead of the typical eight of most arachnids. This is the typical appearance of most mites of the family Eriophyidae, known as gall mites.
Feeding on the epidermal cells of aloe plants, the aloe mite leads to a huge problem in its host. Its effect leads to an abnormal and ugly growth forming a shapeless gall that is adequately known as aloe cancer. This cancer often has a sponge-like appearance and sometimes, more than only strange growths from the leaves, stems and inflorescences, it can appear as a cluster of malformed leaves.
This malformation most likely has some negative effects on the plant’s fitness but the main concern is because it makes ornamental aloe species aesthetically unappealing. The most simple way to get rid of the aloe mite is to cut off the infected parts and burn them.
But how did they get to the plant in the first place? Well, eriophyid mites in general use the wind to be carried from one place to another and the aloe mite is no exception. So you may be able to cure your plant with an amputation but if there are other infected plants in the region, the mites may soon be back.
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Deinhart N (2011) Tiny Monsters: Aceria alionis. Cactus and Succulent Journal 83(3): 120–122. doi: 10.2985/0007-9367-83.3.120
Villavicencio LE, Bethke JA, Dahlke B, Vander Mey B, Corkidi L (2014) Curative and preventive control of Aceria aloinis (Acari: Eriophyidae) in Southern California. Journal of Economic Entomology 107(6):2088-2094.
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