Here’s the deal on getting rid of Spider Mites!
Every gardener needs to understand that spider mites may be small, but they can be very damaging to your plants as they suck the life out of them.
Infected plants harboring large spider mite populations have a somewhat lackluster look with almost a “dust like” appearance from their webs.
Spider mites can cause extensive plant injuries especially if you do not get rid of them before they had the opportunity to lay their first eggs.
Simply put, spider mites are plants’ worst enemy. They are a common nuisance affecting both indoor plants and outdoor plants.
Learning to control and get rid of spider mites is essential in plant care. An infestation of these tiny critters can be very destructive, even deadly to plants especially in greenhouses.
Spider Mites Not True “Insects”
As their name suggests, spider mites are small, usually red or green/yellow spiders that feed on your plants.
Fully matured red spider mites are reddish brown or pale, oval-shaped and very small, about the size of a sharpened pencil tip.
Immature spider mites look like the adults, just a bit smaller.
Spider mites live in colonies, and you’ll find them mainly on the underside of the leaves.
A single colony may contain hundreds to thousands of individual mites.
Light dots appear on the leaf as feeding marks. The continuous feeding leads to leaves turning yellow, with plants having a “dull” appearance.
They feed by piercing the leaf tissues, slowly sucking out the chlorophyll and other plant fluids.
Spider mite species thrive in hot and dry conditions (psst… where houseplants live), especially where their natural predators have been killed off due to the use of insecticides.
These windsurfers disperse over broad areas using their webs.
If not controlled, during their life-cycle they may stay on the plant or move on to other plants in the garden. Without their chlorophyll, plants will not thrive, and will slowly start to die.
When populations become large, you can see their fine webbing with the naked eye. Some of their common host plants include:
- Ornamental flowers
- Various Fruit Trees and Ornamental Trees
- Cannabis – Yes, Marijuana plants!
- Spider mites on Houseplants is common in dry environments
Signs Of Spider Mites – Damage Includes:
On Annual Vegetable Crops – such as melons and squashes – it can lead to loss of leaves, resulting in a significant impact on the yield and lead to sun burning.
On crops such as sugar peas and beans, the spider mites attack the pods and cause direct damage to the plant.
On Ornamental Flowers – spider mites are an aesthetic concern. But if they are in a large population, they can kill the plants.
Indoor houseplants during winter where the indoor environment is hot and dry are especially prone to spider mite infestation.
How Can You Tell If Your Plants Have Spider Mites?
Look for light dots appearing on the leaf as feeding marks. The continuous feeding leads to leaves turning yellow, with plants having a “dull” appearance.
One easy way to check your plants for spider mites is by gently shaking the leaves of the plant over a white piece of paper.
Spider mites are so tiny seeing these houseplant pests without the use of a magnifying glass is difficult.
However, if you look closely at the white paper, you’ll observe “specks” moving slowly even with eight legs.
How To Get Rid Of Spider Mites Organically
Prevention is the best solution to prevent the spider mites.
Regular inspection of your plants helps prevent an infestation before it gets out of hand. Having a magnifying glass to get a close inspection is helpful.
Control Spider Mites With Water Sprays
A quick and easy way for spider control outdoors is making use of strong water pressure from spray nozzles.
Use a garden hose with a spray nozzle attached. Spray directly onto the plant with forceful water spray that should get the underside of the leaves as well.
For indoor plants, wipe each leaf with a wet sponge.
Remove Heavily Infested Leaves
Get rid of spider mites by merely removing heavily infested leaves, putting them in a plastic bag, sealing the bag properly and disposing of it.
If the whole plant (especially houseplants) is infested, getting rid of the entire plant may be the best thing to prevent other plants from becoming infected.
Spray A Soap Solution On Leaves
In a gallon of water mix three tablespoons of dish soap. Add the solution to a spray bottle and apply it on the plant, especially on the underside of the leaves.
If the infestation is not reduced, reapply in six days.
CAUTION: Some plants are sensitive to soap solutions. If the leaves of the plant are hairy, they will hold the solution longer.
This increases the chances of leaf burn. Always Test the solution on a small part of the plant before spraying the whole plant.
Use Beneficial Insects For Biological Control
Some insects feed on the spider mite. These predatory insects or natural enemies of spider mites include:
- Six-spotted thrips
- Lady beetles
- Minute pirate bug species
There are also predatory mites that snack on the spider mites making them an effective way to kill spider mites.
Apply Diatomaceous Earth An Organic Pesticide
Apply Diatomaceous earth (DE), an all-natural mineral and a multi-purpose organic pesticide. DE removes the outer layer of the spider mites cuticles killing them through dehydration.
Boost Overall Plant Health
Stressed plants or plants uncared for often have a higher chance of spider mite infestation.
During dry and hot conditions, the spider mites are thirsty and cause more plant damage.
Make sure plants are well watered and have all the nutrients they require. Plants should receive optimal light and soils should drain well.
The Red Spider Mite And Spider Mites
Both red spider mites and spider mites live on the undersides of leaves where they feed.
Most Common Species
The red spider mite, also known as the two-spotted spider mite or the tetranychus urticae, is the most widely known species and the most troublesome in the Acari Family.
The red spider mite is commonly found in greenhouses and temperate zones.
Two Kinds Of Red Spider Mites
The red spider mites are classified into two groups, the southern red mite, and the European red spider mite. The southern red mite is the most common.
The European red mite is common on apple trees while the Southern red spider mite is found on a much wider variety of plants.
The red spider mite attacks most food crops and vegetables. They feed on the leaves, sucking all the contents out cell by cell leaving little scars or pale spots on the plants that host them:
- Ornamental plants such as colocasia (elephant ears plant) and roses
Red Spider Mite Infestation Much Harder To Control
The quick life cycle of the red spider mite makes them more difficult to control compared to the more common spider mite.
One female red spider can lay more than twenty eggs in a day. These eggs hatch in less than three days and the young ones become sexually active in less than five days.
Adult females can live for two to four weeks laying thousands of eggs in their lifespan.
This accelerated reproductive rate helps red spider mites adapt quickly and resist chemical pesticides.
Chemical control methods often become ineffective if used for long periods.
European Red Mite Loves Fruits
The European red mite loves feeding on fruits trees.
They attack apple trees, strawberries, tomatoes, and melons. They are most active in cool weather so you’ll find them more in fall or spring.
You can control the red spider mites using natural predators such as:
- Lacewing larvae
- Predator mites
You can also use insecticidal horticultural soap or oils.
Reduce the chances of re-infestation by making sure plants have enough water and keep plants free of dust and debris
NOTE: Do not apply natural oils or insecticidal soaps to plants during warm temperatures or when the plant is dehydrated. The solutions can cause burning of the leaves in these conditions.
In conclusion, the natural ways of controlling spider mites are recommended instead of chemical applications that can kill helpful organism found in soil and in the garden.
7 Essential Oils For Getting Rid Of Spider Mites
Fortunately, there are many different ways in which you can get rid of this eight-legged nuisance. You can opt for commercial repellents or choose a healthier, natural spider mite control alternative that is a lot safer for your plants: essential oils.
In a nutshell, essential oils smell nice, with a stingy and robust scent that works great as natural repellents. The oils affect their nervous system and keep them away.
Below are several efficient (and pleasant!) essential oils, also called horticultural oil, to help you in case of a spider mite infestation.
#1 – Neem Oil
This essential oil is referred to as a miticide extracted from the seeds of the neem tree.
Neem oil sprays are used to control a wide variety of pests or insects that attack plants such as aphids, scale insects, mealybugs, thrips, and others. Neem is an organic pesticide considered a universal natural repellent. Order Neem concentrate from Amazon.
Although the smell is not as pleasant or as intense as that of lemon or eucalyptus oil, neem oil is excellent for targeting infestations in pest control, and the results show after the first few days of treatment.
#2 – Eucalyptus Oil
If spider mites hate one thing more than the smell of lemon, it is the strong smell of menthol. Many organic gardeners claim eucalyptus oil works like magic, due to its antibacterial and bactericidal properties.
In addition to being highly efficient, eucalyptus oil also has a water-like composition when slightly diluted before using it. This allows for a smooth, even, and effortless distribution across the plant leaves.
#3 – Lemon Oil
Lemon oil is by far one of the most popular choices for preventing spider mites from destroying your plants.
Lemons are known for being natural antibiotics, as they possess strong antimicrobial properties and are also non-toxic. They pose no threat to your plants or you and your family. Plus, lemon oil also has a fresh and sharp smell that will delight you!
#4 – Cinnamon Oil
Widely used in international cuisine, cinnamon is a delicious and intensely flavored ingredient that delights us with its scent and taste.
However, cinnamon oil is a delightful smelling essential oil used as a non-toxic and non-hazardous pesticide. Its efficacy to kill spider mite has been proven numerous times. [source]
Cinnamon oil will target both adult spider mites and the spider mite eggs, providing effective long-term protection against pests. Applied two times a week, cinnamon oil will slowly kill the spider mites, allowing plants to recover.
#5 – Peppermint Oil
Another very strongly scented essential oil is peppermint oil. It also contains an intense menthol smell like the eucalyptus.
In addition to this, the peppermint oil also has antiseptic properties.
#6 – Rosemary Oil
Rosemary oil can be sprayed easily onto the leaves of infested plants and will kill the spider mites.
Make a solution of 1 teaspoon of rosemary oil with 8 ounces of water.
Place the solution in a spray bottle and apply evenly.
It will target both the spider mites and red spider mites, European red mites, eriophyid mites, persea mites, dust mites and others that affect plants.
Rosemary essential oil effectively gets rid of pest and does not harm the Phytoseiulus persimilis the beneficial predatory mite.
#7 – Canola Oil
The canola oil is also very efficient in controlling spider mite damage if sprayed diligently twice a week.
Make sure to mix the canola oil with water and dilute the oil according to the severity of the infection. For plants with severe spider mite infestation, you can use a 2% solution.
Mixing, Combining and Spraying Essential Oils
The concentrations vary slightly from one essential oil to another.
It is highly recommended to use stronger concentrations for oils with a gentle smell, and lower concentrations for those with a very sharp smell (such as eucalyptus, lemon oil, cinnamon oil or the rosemary oil).
You can also try combining two or three essential oils in one spray. For instance, rosemary and peppermint work perfectly together.
Another Mix Option
Another way to prepare the solution is by mixing two drops of the essential oil of your choice with 6-8 ounces of warm water and one teaspoon of castile soap.
Shake all the ingredients very well, put the solution in a spray bottle as instructed above and start spraying it all over the plant.
Both of these “recipes” are equally efficient, but it is highly recommended never to apply pure essential oil directly onto the plants, not even on the affected areas, as they can kill the leaves and do more harm than good. Make sure to always to dilute the oil before spraying it.
In conclusion, the natural ways of controlling spider mites are recommended instead of chemical applications that can kill helpful organism found in soil and the garden. Always test any spray solution in a small area before spraying entire plants with any chemical or organic insecticide.