Apparently the fuchsia mite is here to stay. Imported from Brazil, this nasty pest first appeared in Northern California in 1981. Although the tiny insect can't be seen, the mite's damage is painfully conspicuous: curled leaves, distorted growth, swollen galls. Infestations are now reported as far north as Oregon and south to San Diego.
But don't give up on fuchsias. Mites can be controlled with regular spraying. Most fuchsia growers have been successful with liquid Sevin (1 tablespoon per gallon) applied every two weeks. Because many insecticides lose their effectiveness after repeated use, fuchsia growers have been experimenting with alternatives, some of which are also less toxic.
Last year, more than 85% of the plants in the fuchsia exhibit in the Wild Animal Park, Escondido, were mite-infested. The fuchsia caretaker completely eliminated the infestation by spraying with alternate applications of Volck oil (1 teaspoon per gallon) and Cooke's Garden Insect Spray with Thiodan (2 tablespoons per gallon).
Here's his plan for knocking down a major infestation: Day 1, Volck oil; Day 2, Thiodan; Day 3, rest. Repeat this cycle for nine days. After this knockout punch, control can be achieved by spraying with oil once a month and with Thiodan once the next week. The oil is harmless and smothers the insects. It's also helpful in controlling the other two major fuchsia pests, whitefly and spider mites.