Why no one has heard of the Wonder Mite?

See below, or watch the video here.

Shortly after dawn on a summer day that woke with the promise of sunshine, fluffy clouds and a cooling breeze, two government researchers set out into an orchard in Ontario. Their task was simple: Determine what – if anything – had survived the damaging chemical pesticide initiative that had been approved in hopes of eradicating an invasive pest. This pest was such a potential threat that even chemicals that had been banned were given a one-time-use-permit to fight it off. Days and days of chemical after chemical were applied.

First of all, the researchers needed to see if the target pest was dead. It was. Their next task was to see what the treatment’s impact was on the non-target species. Sadly, the mortality was almost complete. One survivor, and seemingly un-phased, was the naturally-occurring predatory mite Neoseiulus fallacis. The researchers found several of these mites, and gathered them up to return to their offices to examine them further.

The fallacis they collected was immediately deemed resistant to many of the harshest chemicals. Furthermore, to keep them alive they had provided a diet of two spotted spider mite, on which they thrived. But what had they been eating in the orchard? As the fallacis culture grew, they fed some other food sources and measured the dietary suitability. They compiled a list of prey that fallacis may control:

  • two spotted spider mites
  • thrips (various species)
  • whitefly (eggs)
  • wind-blown pollen
  • eriophyid mites (Russet mite and other species)
  • tarsonemid mites (Broad mite and other species)
  • eggs of many pests
  • most species of spider mites
  • bamboo mite
  • RedBerry mites
A common application is in cannabis.

The list continued to grow and has grown since. But this was enough data to be sure the Fallacis would be a very effect biological control agent. The researchers gave the culture to Applied Bio-Nomics Ltd. in order to develop fallacis as a commercially available biocontrol agent.

And they did. And they shared it with other producers. And while it is mass produced, used internationally, and has been for decades, it has remained an industry secret and only available through privately owned companies like Applied Bio-Nomics. Why?

The truth is: It’s bad for business.

Because of their longevity in crops, chemical resistance, voracious appetite, breadth of food preferences, and willingness to travel from plant to plant, many growers found success with the ultra-low preventative application rate of 2 mites per square meter. (To put this in perspective, most others start at 500 mites per square meter.) And even in a situation where inundation is required, applying fallacis for control of a pest like two spotted spider mite, was not only done with similar or lesser application rates, but they also remained in the crop longer, preventing the pests from returning, while turning to other prey to keep them alive.

Sometimes, the best mite for you, is the worst mite for business.

And that is what was determined at the board offices of many of the largest bio-control producers. It was proven that selling Neoseiulus fallacis would result in fewer sales of other predators and would not encourage reapplication. So the big companies that expect growers to buy their bugs, then buy them again a few weeks later, then buy them again, buy food for them, spray and then buy replacement bugs, decided not to sell fallacis.

But not everyone felt that way. Luckily, producers like Applied Bio-Nomics Ltd. felt that if it works for growers and it saves them money, then word-of-mouth will spread the news. But word of mouth sometimes doesn’t travel as quick as Sales Reps, and so the large companies tried to bury Fallacis behind add campaigns and market flooding of the more profitable options (Californicus and Swirskii, to name a few,) and simply by condemning fallacis with various claims.

But the truth is this: Not all bugs are equal.

Fallacis does the same as Californicus and in many cases better. But it’s application rate is a fraction of that of Californicus. So fallacis ultimately does a better job for a lesser price. Also, fallacis’ population can explode to 4 times the size in as little as 4 days, making it the most responsive of all the predatory mites to an increase in pest pressure.

Similarly, Cucumeris does the same as Swirskii, but is one quarter the price. Cucumeris is less effective, in some cases (but the difference isn’t by much). So even buying only twice the cucumeris, would make it both more effective and less costly than Swirskii.

But all four of these mites are so closely related that there are many similarities. For example, the trial that allows Swirskii producers to claim it controls thrips AND whitefly, was a trial using most of the commercially available predatory mites and feeding them only whitefly eggs. Swirskii did eat the most, but not by a large margin. Shockingly enough, Phytoseiulus persimilis, was used as a control because it was widely understood that it is not a generalist but can only eat two spotted spider mite. And this control, which was supposed to eat no whitefly eggs, still ate 10% of them.

So understand that when you’re scanning the web or listening to a talk that is promoting Swirskii and Californicus, know that they are coming from a place (in most cases unknowingly) that has simply ignored the Wonder Mite, Neoseiulus fallacis. And know that you CAN get it, and know that you CAN trial it against others to see for yourself.

Current Applications:

  • Cannabis (Two spotted spider mite and russet mites)
  • Hops (spider mites)
  • Arborvitae (spider mites)
  • Orchards (Spider mite spp. some Eriophyid mites)
  • Propagation greenhouses (cyclamen mite, spider mites, thrips)
  • Poinsettias (Lewis mite)
  • Gardens (Bamboo mite, spider mites)
  • Nurseries (evergreen shrubs for spider mites)
  • Raspberries, Blackberries (Redberry mite and spider mites)
  • Agricultural Greenhouses (peppers, eggplant, cucumbers – for spider mites and generalist pest management)

Perhaps the most famous use of fallacis was with a massive company that sells primarily evergreen trees in Oregon. They have hundreds of thousand of acres. To conserve water, they moved away from overhead watering and went with drip irrigation. This resulted in spider mite pressure that required them (based on their size) to have designated crews that would spray different areas every day with miticides. Fallacis was explored as an alternative. At the time, an arborvitae was ready for sale 7 years after propagation and being set out into the field. After a year with fallacis in the field, not only did they stop the use of miticides, but because of the reduction in chemical use, the plants grew faster and healthier.

But the benefits continued. Fallacis was continuously observed in the crop, and growers began finding them in adjacent crops. They even found them in propagation, and spider mite pressure continued to decline. But most spectacularly of all: Without the use of chemicals, the same arborvitae were ready for sale at 5 years instead of the 7 before. The owner attributed fallacis to saving his staff (no one wanted to spray), the thousands of dollars spent annually on the pesticides and spray equipment and saved thousands of acres to be used for other plants. Ultimately, he claims it may have saved them several hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. But, with fallacis spreading naturally in his fields, he never had to buy fallacis again.

Now you can see why a mite so good for you is – in the eyes of biocontrol producers and distributors – so bad for business and why so few have heard of this Wonder Mite (Neoseiulus fallacis.)

So, spread the word and do your friends a favour.

Read more:

How to control spider mites

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