Isn’t this the weirdest lemon you have ever seen?
This fruit has been infested by the citrus bud mite. Just as the name implies, citrus bud mites (Aceria sheldoni) attack those fragrant citrus flowers and buds, causing a distorted rosette growth pattern of the surrounding leaves, flowers, and fruit.
These pests are normally found on lemons and other citrus grown in coastal regions, but Southern California has been seeing them move inland, so they will probably become more of a problem here in the Bay Area before long.
These citrus pests are really tiny. They can only be seen with a 20x hand lens or under a microscope. Citrus bud mites have a tapered yellow or pink body and four legs that look like they are growing out of its head. [For anyone who has read this blog for any time at all - these bizarre descriptions are surprisingly normal - fiction has nothing on real life!] These pests are active year round.
Each summer, females lay up to 50 eggs in the tiny scales that are supposed to protect tender new buds. When the eggs hatch, the young go through 4 instars before maturing. Commercially, citrus bud mites can be a real problem, but most home orchards only see a few affected fruit, and it is still edible. [I’ll bet horizontal slices would actually look pretty amazing… but peeling it would be a nightmare!]
The real problem with these pests is that the distorted shapes caused by their feeding create the perfect hiding spot for other citrus pests, such as citrus mealybugs and the two-spotted spider mite. Researchers have tried using horticultural and dormant oil treatments and found them ineffective, since the pests are in a protected space. If signs of citrus bud mites are seen, you may simply want to monitor fruits for signs of other pests who are taking advantage of the prime real estate.
Have you ever had citrus bud mites in your fruit? I would love to see photos!
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!