Small red insects all over container tomatoes: what are they?

bananastandJune 21, 2011

Hello everyone,

In the tomato forum, I didn't get many responses. I'm trying here in the hopes someone can positively ID these insects and tell me whether I need to worry about killing them. I did find some on a container cherry tomato a couple of weeks ago, and it looked like they were on the leaves. The leaf I had seen them on eventually died and had to be taken off the plant. I treated the whole plant with neem oil based insecticide. Now I am seeing these red insects all over some other tomatoes in containers. They are not on the plants this time, just on the containers. But I fear they will be on the plants soon. Also, I am finding BB sized little egg globes in the soil of my plants. They burst when squeezed and seem to be mostly water filled.

Here is a photo of the insects. Tomato forum people thought either spider mites or clover mites. I do not see webs on any of my plants and these seem too large for spider mites. Any thoughts?

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Dan Staley

Some sort of mite. If they move quickly they are predators. If they sit there, they are sucking on the plant. If you see mite damage on plants, look for mites at site of damage.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 2:12PM
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They do move very quickly. However, when I just googled "predatory mites," it seems that most mites are supposed to be just tiny: barely visible. These are clearly large enough to capture with just a regular camera so I'm just not sure what they are. They do have four sets of legs, so some kind of mite I agree.... but what!?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 3:05PM
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Dan Staley

What is the extent of the mite damage on your plants, and do these mites match the mites found at the location of the mite damage?


    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 3:32PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Red clover mites. Not a problem. Don't spin webs. Does well in moist conditions.

Stop spraying. It's NOT needed.

If the plant is damaged, came from something else.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 7:27PM
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There had been a stem/branch on the first plant I found the mites on that was damaged, but it's possible it was something else, as that one had a leaf touching the soil. The rest of the plants do seem OK with no damage so far. I have only sprayed the one plant that one time 2 weeks ago. Weird, never knew there were clover mites. Do any others agree?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 11:03PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Well, they don't look so clover mite-ish to me, but I sure would like to see more pictures of the little things. Maybe a different angle would help.

The little 'egg globes' you're finding in the soil are most likely the prills of a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote. Hard when first mixed into the soil, they absorb water through tiny micro pores and burst when the volume of water exceeds what the outer shell can hold. This is how the fertilizer is released for plant uptake. Since the prills are different sizes, fertilizer is released at different times over several months.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 1:33PM
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I have not put Osmocote into the soil... however, I did use Miracle Gro potting mix. Maybe those are built in. I'll try to get more pics of my odd little red mite-like guys.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 2:37PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Did you grow the tomatoes from seed or purchase the plants from a nursery? (Osmocote is often present in nursery/garden center plants.)

The reason I'd like to see more images is that the shape of your little things doesn't seem quite 'right' to me. However, I sure don't know what else they could be (aside from the clover mites), considering their location and behavior. They are phytophagous (plant eaters) and in large numbers could possibly cause problems for young plants. They really aren't considered a pest, though.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 3:17PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

I'm thinking clover mites.


Here is a link that might be useful: Mite be

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 4:32PM
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The mites are nowhere to be found right now! It's been very wet and rainy, so perhaps they'll come out again if/when the sun ever does. But I'm much less worried now, thanks for all the help. I'll update photos if they come back.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 12:00PM
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