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Tetranychus urticae

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Tetranychus urticae
A red individual
A yellow individual with two black spots
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Chelicerata
Class: Arachnida
Order: Trombidiformes
Family: Tetranychidae
Genus: Tetranychus
T. urticae
Binomial name
Tetranychus urticae

Tetranychus urticae (common names include red spider mite and two-spotted spider mite) is a species of plant-feeding mite generally considered to be a pest. It is the most widely known member of the family Tetranychidae or spider mites. Its genome was fully sequenced in 2011, and was the first genome sequence from any chelicerate.


T. urticae was originally native only to Eurasia, but has acquired a cosmopolitan distribution as a common pest in a wide range of agricultural systems.[1]


Zoological drawing

T. urticae is extremely small, barely visible with the naked eye as reddish, yellow or black spots on plants; the adult females measure about 0.4 mm (0.016 in) long.[2] Adult mites sometimes spin a fine web on and under leaves.[2]


This spider mite is extremely polyphagous; it can feed on hundreds of plants, including most vegetables and food crops – such as peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, pepinos, beans, maize, and strawberries, and ornamental plants such as roses.[2] It is the most prevalent pest of Withania somnifera in India.[3] It lays its eggs on the leaves, and it poses a threat to host plants by sucking cell contents from the leaves cell by cell, leaving tiny pale spots or scars where the green epidermal cells have been destroyed.[2] Although the individual lesions are very small, attack by hundreds or thousands of spider mites can cause thousands of lesions, thus can significantly reduce the photosynthetic capability of plants.[2] They feed on single cells which are pierced with a stylet-like mouthpart and the cell contents are removed, they do damage to the spongy mesophyll, palisade parenchyma, and chloroplasts.[4]

T. urticae populations may increase rapidly in hot, dry conditions, expanding to 70 times the original population in as few as six days.[5]

The mite's natural predator, Phytoseiulus persimilis, commonly used as a biological control method, is one of many predatory mites which prey mainly or exclusively on spider mites.[2]

T. urticae is among the few animals known to synthesise carotenoids. As in aphids and gall midges, the genes for carotene synthesis appear to have been acquired through horizontal gene transfer from a fungus.[6][7][8]


T. urticae reproduces through arrhenotoky, a form of parthenogenesis in which unfertilized eggs develop into males.[9]

The egg of T. urticae is translucent and pearl-like.[1] It hatches into a larva, and two nymph stages follow: a protonymph, and then a deutonymph, which may display quiescent stages. The adults are typically pale green for most of the year, but later generations are red; mated females survive the winter in diapause.[1]

Inbreeding avoidance[edit]

Inbreeding is detrimental for fitness in T. urticae.[10] Inbred progeny mature more slowly than outbred progeny, and inbred female progeny have lower reproductive output. T. urticae females apparently are capable of kin recognition and have the ability to avoid inbreeding through mate choice.[10]


Genomic information
NCBI genome ID2710
Ploidyhaploid (males) / diploid (females)
Genome size90.82 Mb
Year of completion2011

The genome of T. urticae was fully sequenced in 2011, and was the first genome sequence from any chelicerate.[11]


  1. ^ a b c Raworth DA, Gillespie DR, Roy R, Thistlewood HM (2002). "Tetranychus urticae Koch, twospotted spider mite (Acari: Tetranychidae)". In Mason PG, Huber JT (eds.). Biological Control Programmes in Canada, 1981–2000. CAB International. pp. 259–265. ISBN 978-0-85199-527-4.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Fasulo TR, Denmark HA (December 2009). "Twospotted spider mite". Featured Creatures. University of Florida / Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  3. ^ Sharma A, Kumar Pati P (2012). "First record of the carmine spider mite, Tetranychus urticae, infesting Withania somnifera in India" (PDF). Journal of Insect Science. 12 (50): 1–4. doi:10.1673/031.012.5001. PMC 3476950. PMID 22970740.
  4. ^ Cloyd, Raymond (May 10, 2022). "Insect and Mite Pests Feeding Behaviors and Plant Damage". Greenhouse Product News. 32 (5): 10.
  5. ^ Hodgson, Erin; Dean, Ashley (2022). "Twospotted Spider Mites". Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Retrieved 2023-04-25.
  6. ^ Altincicek B, Kovacs JL, Gerardo NM (April 2012). "Horizontally transferred fungal carotenoid genes in the two-spotted spider mite Tetranychus urticae". Biology Letters. 8 (2): 253–7. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.0704. PMC 3297373. PMID 21920958.
  7. ^ Cobbs, Cassidy; Heath, Jeremy; Stireman, John O.; Abbot, Patrick (2013-08-01). "Carotenoids in unexpected places: Gall midges, lateral gene transfer, and carotenoid biosynthesis in animals". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 68 (2): 221–228. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2013.03.012. ISSN 1055-7903.
  8. ^ Bryon A, Kurlovs AH, Dermauw W, Greenhalgh R, Riga M, Grbić M, et al. (July 2017). "Tetranychus urticae". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114 (29): E5871–E5880. doi:10.1073/pnas.1706865114. PMC 5530703. PMID 28674017.
  9. ^ Feiertag-Koppen CC (December 1976). "Cytological studies of the two-spotted spider mite Tetranychus urticae Koch (Tetranychidae, trombidiformes). I: Meiosis in eggs". Genetica. 46 (4): 445–56. doi:10.1007/BF00128090. S2CID 34991579.
  10. ^ a b Tien NS, Massourakis G, Sabelis MW, Egas M (June 2011). "Mate choice promotes inbreeding avoidance in the two-spotted spider mite". Experimental & Applied Acarology. 54 (2): 119–24. doi:10.1007/s10493-011-9431-y. PMC 3084432. PMID 21400191.
  11. ^ Grbić M, Van Leeuwen T, Clark RM, Rombauts S, Rouzé P, Grbić V, et al. (November 2011). "The genome of Tetranychus urticae reveals herbivorous pest adaptations". Nature. 479 (7374): 487–92. Bibcode:2011Natur.479..487G. doi:10.1038/nature10640. PMC 4856440. PMID 22113690.

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