Aloe mite (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

How to Manage Aloe Mite

They seem everywhere in spring: mite-damaged aloes ranging from dwarf cultivars to tree 'Hercules'. The microscopic pests (Eriophyes aloines) are not insects but spider relatives. They cause deformed flowers, a bubbly fringe on leaf edges, and orange-and-green growths where leaves meet stems.

Aloe mite

Aloe mite causes distorted, cancerous-like growth

Google "aloe mite treatment," "aloe mite prevention," "aloe gall" or "aloe cancer," and you'll discover that distinguished experts, landscape designers, succulent societies and growers---and even federal agencies---are aware of the problem. Yet they don't agree on prevention and treatment. Environmentally-unfriendly chemicals supposedly help to some extent, but are expensive, come with cautions, and aren't allowed in certain states (like California).

What Sort of Bugs Are They?

Mites, protected within galls, are impervious to topical pesticides. To protect rare and valuable specimens, aloe growers and collectors may apply a preventive systemic---a miticide that's taken up into the tissues of the plant via the roots---but it has to be applied before there's evidence of infestation.

Aloe mite (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Aloe mite on dwarf aloe

Mites inject a chemical that causes cancerous growth. They produce as many as eight generations a year, and each female lays 80 eggs a month. Mites travel via water, wind, garden tools, and people who find bizarre formations fascinating.

Here's what I do

 At first sign, excise affected tissues and bag them for the trash (do not put them in green waste). If an infestation is severe, dispose of the entire plant. After all, it's a breeding ground. Even if you don't mind the galls, do get rid of them before they infest other aloes.

Should you use pesticides?

I don't, because I agree with aloe expert Kelly Griffin who says, "just about every plant I have grown has some Achilles heel. Learning to deal with it is just part of living. Aloe mite is one for Aloes. In Agaves you have the weevil and the grease mite. You just need to recognize it early and do something. If you don’t, it just gets more pervasive."

What if you really want to nuke them? Kelly adds: "...to excise and then treat with chemicals is a good one keeping in mind it is a mite, it needs to be a miticide to have any possibility of success. If the plant is badly infested, it might be smart to consider not spending twenty dollars on poison for a ten dollar plant." For what members of the "All That Is Kelly Griffin" Facebook group use to control mites, see the rest of the thread.

Be sure to scroll down to the Comments for what succulent expert and author Duke Benadom recommends.

It's not the end of the world

These photos, taken in my own garden, show two different aloes six weeks after gall-removal surgery. I simply used a sharp knife to slice the plants well below any signs of infestation.

Aloe nobilis (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Aloe nobilis, new growth

Aloe rupestris (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Aloe rupestris, new growth after gall removal

Related info

Aloe petricola (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

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Aloes: How To Grow & Varieties All about aloes plus a photo gallery of aloes ID’d and in bloom See All Succulent Types Aeonium Agaves Aloes Cactus Crassula Echeveria Euphorbias Ice Plants Kalanchoe Portulacaria Senecio About Aloes There are dozens of species of Aloe, from tall trees to dwarf cultivars. Aloes typically have juicy, triangular leaves…

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White fuzzy lumps on paddle cactus are cochineal (coach-en-ee-al) scale, a parasite that pierces the plant’s skin and consumes its juices. It’s used to make carmine dye.

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Agave Snout Weevil Prevention and Treatment

Agave snout-nosed weevil is a half-inch-long black beetle with a downward-curving proboscis that enables it to pierce an agave’s core, where it lays its eggs. Grubs hatch, consume the agave’s heart, then burrow into the soil to pupate.

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19 Comments

  1. debraleebaldwi on March 30, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    Via email from succulent expert and author Duke Benadom of the Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society: “I completely agree with your comments on systemics; however, the product Sevin (liquid form) works excellently as a topical spray. It’s what is used in botanical gardens in Africa, and it works wonders here too. Cutting away the gall will remove a great nimiety of mites, but as one could imagine, countless others remain elsewhere on the plants. Not only do we never cut off the gall (unless it’s just part of the inflorescence), we leave it on the rare, non offsetting varieties until it gets rather large, and then we apply Sevin two or three times over a period of two or three weeks. The gall then grows into several new stems; this is a great propagation method for the rare stuff. This, of course, cannot be done by removing the gall.

    I should mention that I have seen evidence of Sevin in powder form damaging tissue, but the liquid form works wonders. Since discovering that curing large masses of gall with Sevin produces numerous offsets, I have shared this advice with many others who have in turn tried it themselves. It’s become known as one of the best ways to induce offsets.

    Re alcohol: It really does work, but one must hit every mite to get rid of them as there is no residual effect. The alcohol is believed to smother the mites. Spraying Sevin, only on the effected areas, a week or so apart seems to kill all mite activity (as does systemic miticide) and I’ve seen no adverse effects on adjacent flora or fauna.

    Myself and a plethora of Aloe enthusiasts are in agreement that most foliar applications are fruitless, but Sevin really works. I’ll have to look again, but I doubt that Sevin, Inc. really knows how well their product works in this regard.

  2. Roz Tampone on March 31, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Hi Debra,

    I enjoyed reading your article on aloe mites. In January, I noticed an unusual growth on an aloe in a container. I confirmed with members of the Fresno Cactus and Succulent Society that it was aloe mite. The only way for me to see the mite was under a microscope.

    Attached are a few photos.

    Best regards

    Fresno Roz
    Roz Tampone
    Fresno County Master Gardener

  3. Rita on April 5, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    What exactly is a gall? How would I recognize it?

    • debraleebaldwi on April 5, 2019 at 1:00 pm

      Hi Rita — An aloe mite gall is a knobby, cancerous-like growth that often has orange streaks or edges, may look bubbly, and is most often seen where leaves meet stems but also appears on leaf margins and flower stalks (which it distorts).

  4. Glenn Mejia on April 5, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    I’ve had good success with cutting the gall off of a large unidentified single-stemmed aloe. After cutting, however, I brushed a bit of formaldehyde directly on the excised area. I repeated this for 5-6 weeks until the gall stopped appearing.

    I don’t know if using the procedure Mr. Benadom referred to would’ve worked on my aloe but even I had known about it, I think I’d still rather get rid of the gall before it got out of hand.

    • debraleebaldwi on April 6, 2019 at 12:03 pm

      Hi Glenn — I know, I thought of that too…if the gall remains, it’s unsightly. Yet Duke sent me a photo showing that healthy new growth forms at the gall site. In fact, can provide cuttings if you want to reproduce the plant.

  5. Sally Bennett on June 7, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    Can you use seven dust instead of the liquid form?

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on July 7, 2019 at 11:37 am

      Hi Sally — I checked with Duke Benadom, who replied:

      “I know of at least one person who used dust instead of liquid, and it killed some aloes. Not recommended. Unfortunately, I just learned that the primary chemical used in liquid Sevin has been replaced with something new. I do not know if the new stuff will work the same, but I doubt it. It would seem that if a company changed a primary ingredient, they should also change the trade name.”

  6. Debra Lee Baldwin on July 7, 2019 at 11:30 am

    Leslie Kelly of South Africa writes: “I have been using Spirotetramat very successfully for 2 years in conjunction with other insecticides to control aloe mite.” She emailed a link to a scientific and academic study of it: https://academic.oup.com/jee/article-pdf/107/6/2088/21940998/jee107-2088.pdf.

    Duke Benadom notes: “The chemicals used in various countries in Africa have little to no control because of little to no testing for effects on humans, and while probably effective, they are not available here, nor are they tested for carcinogens here.”

  7. Frank Samson-b on August 15, 2019 at 11:42 pm

    Hi!! I just came across your great article today (in mid-August 2019).

    FYI… To my knowledge, the Sevin trade name was purchased by GardenTech a few years back and in 2018 they started phasing out carbaryl as the active ingredient in Sevin and replacing it with zeta-cypermethrin, a newer pyrethroid. Just thought it might be beneficial to know what the active ingredient was in the Sevin that was used (as mentioned in Duke Benadom’s recommendation).

    Thank you, Miss Debra, for your countless contributions to the understanding of and the fascination with succulent plants!!

    With all due respect and appreciation,

    Frank

  8. Sharon Reeve on March 16, 2020 at 10:03 am

    Carbaryl is a cholinesterase inhibitor and is toxic to humans. It is classified as a likely human carcinogen by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) Formaldehyde is carcinogenic and has no place in my garden. Cypermethrin is classified as a possible human carcinogen, because it causes an increase in the frequency of lung tumors in female mice. Zeta Cypermethrin is expected to be at least as toxic. I wish there were non-toxic Aloe mite treatments. I read about one treatment where you cut out the gall and spray with hydrogen peroxide. That has worked reasonably well for me. Aloe spinosissima seems to be particularly badly infected and I took that out. I have a couple of irreplaceable Aloes so I am trying to treat those. I believe the Argentine ants are making the problem worse by spreading the mites to other plants.

  9. Christy Klyver on May 9, 2020 at 12:25 pm

    Aloe mites. I’m in the process of digging out huge amounts of aloes because of mites. The aloes are a common type and spread quickly. HOWEVER I’m very concerned about the other types of aloes nearby that are not common and more precious to me. They show no signs of mites. Can I pre-treat them so they are not sucsceptible?

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on May 12, 2020 at 8:10 am

      Hi Christy — You’re doing the right thing…getting rid of infested aloes. Be sure to keep your tools clean and anything else that might spread the disease to other plants. Airborne mites tend to float downhill, but anything nearby is vulnerable. So keep those valuable aloes clean. Hose them off periodically and then spray preventatively with Isopropyl alcohol diluted 50% with water. Once spring is past and growth slows in summer, you can do this less frequently, but if you see dust on your plants, clean them; among the tiny particles might be aloe mite.

  10. Jessica on June 21, 2020 at 6:56 pm

    I just found your page and realized one of my favorite aloe had plants had a raging infection of aloe mites. I ordered a miticide and cut out every bit of damaged aloe I could see.
    I am going to spray hydrogen peroxide over the wounds on my aloe.
    My question is, both myself and the 75 year old woman I care for use the aloe to treat skin conditions. If I have cut the gal tumorous growths off the aloe is the rest still useable for topical skin application? I ask because I have cut off years worth of leaf growth it feels like 😵 and treating systemically with the miteicide, am I still able to use my treated plants? Or will my large babies be only for decoration from this point on?

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on June 24, 2020 at 7:55 pm

      Hi Jessica — Aloe mite is not just in the gall (the bumpy growth) but also in the plant’s system. I don’t have an answer to your specific question, but if it were me, I’d dispose of the diseased plant and start afresh.

  11. Diane McCarthy on October 26, 2020 at 10:28 am

    Hi, Debra – I wonder if aloe mite galls can also be smooth and round? I have seen the usual lumpy ones like in your photos. My Delta Dawn currently has an interstitial lump, about 1/2″ across, that is very smooth and nearly spherical. I haven’t touched it yet but I wondered if I should just assume it’s mites, or if there is another explanation?

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on October 27, 2020 at 5:35 pm

      Hi Diane — I’ve never run across a smooth, round gall, but I’d assume it’s the mite and keep an eye on it. Isolate the plant from your other aloes. Fingers crossed it outgrows it!

  12. yujin on April 15, 2021 at 4:10 am

    Hi. Diane. My aloe is causing the same problem.
    The infected part of this aloe was removed.
    Since then, it has been raised in isolation.
    Could this aloe sprout cause the same problem?

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on April 15, 2021 at 10:15 am

      Hi Yujin, Once the mite is in an aloe’s tissues, it doesn’t go away.

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