Here’s the deal on Spider Mites! They may be small but their appetite can suck the life out of a plant. Plants harboring spider mites have a rather lack luster look with almost a “dust like” appearance from their webs.
Learning to control spider mites is important in plant care. An infestation of these tiny critters can be very destructive, even deadly to plants especially in greenhouses.
Fully matured red spider mites are reddish brown or pale in color, oval shaped and very small.
They are about the size of a sharpened pencil tip. The 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. They feed by piercing the leaf tissues and sucking out the plant fluids.
Light dots appear on the leaf as feeding marks. The continuous feeding leads to leaves turning yellow, with plants having a “dull” appearance.
Spider mites thrive in hot and dry conditions (psst… houseplants), especially where their predators have been killed off due to the use of insecticides.
When populations become large you can see their webs with the naked eye. The love plants like:
- Ornamental flowers
- Cannabis – Yes, Pot plants!
- Most houseplants
Spider mites are wind surfers and they disperse over wide areas using their webs on the breezes. It is important to carefully control, contain and dispose of infested plants.
Spider Mite 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 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?
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.
They are so tiny seeing them without a magnifying is difficult. However, if you look closely at the white paper you’ll observe “specks” moving slowly even with 8 legs. One of the most troublesome is the two spotted spider mite that has a spot on the back.
How To Get Rid Of Spider Mites Organically
Prevention is the best solution to prevent the spider mites
Inspecting your plants regularly 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
Use a hose with a spray nozzle attached. Spray directly onto the plant with a forceful water. This should to get the underside of the leaves as well.
For indoor plants, wipe each leaf with a wet sponge.
Remove Heavily Infested Leaves
Remove the leaves that are heavily infested. Put them in a plastic bag, seal the bag properly and discard it.
If the whole plant is infested especially houseplants, the best thing may be to get rid of the whole plant as it may infect other plants nearby.
Use A Rosemary Oil Spray
Mix 1 teaspoon of rosemary oil with 8 ounces of water and spray directly to the plant leaves. You can also use a mild rosemary- based pesticide.
Rosemary essential oil effectively gets rid of pest and it does not harm the phytoseiulus persimilis the beneficial predatory mite.
Natural neem oil is another option to consider.
Spray A Soap Solution On Leaves
In a gallon of water mix 3 tablespoons of dishwashing soap. Add solution to a spray bottle and apply it the foliage, especially on the underside of the leaves.
If the infestation does not reduce, 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 your solution on a small part of the plant before spraying the whole plant.
Use Beneficial Insects
Some insects feed on the spider mite. Predators include:
- Six spotted thrips
- Lady beetles
- Minute pirate bug species
There are also predator mites that snack on the spider mites.
Boost Overall Plant Health
Plants that are stressed and not attended to, have a higher chance of spider mite infestation. During the dry and hot conditions, the spider mites are thirsty and cause more plant damage.
Ensure plants are well watered and has all the nutrients it requires. The plant should receive optimal light and the soils drain well.
The Red Spider Mite And Spider Mites
Both red spider mites and spider mites live on the undersides of leaves they feed on. There they spin their protective silk webs and cause damage to plants by puncturing the plant cell to feed.
They live in colonies mostly hidden on the lower side of the leaves. A single colony may contain hundreds to thousands of individual mites.
Most Common Species
The red spider mite, also known as the two-spotted spider mite or the tetranychus urticae, is the most widely know species in the Acari Family.
Red spider mite is commonly seen 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 attack most food crops and vegetables. They feed on the leaves, sucking all the contents out cell by cell leaving little scars or pale spots of partially any plant including:
- Ornamental plants such as colocasia and roses
Red Spider Mites Much Harder To Control
Another major difference between the spider mites and red spider mites is the fact that the red spider mites are harder to control.
One female red spider can lay in excess of twenty eggs in a day. These eggs will hatch in less than three days and the young ones become sexually active in less than five days.
A female red mite can live for two to four weeks laying thousands of eggs in their life span.
This accelerated reproductive rate helps the red spider mites to adapt quickly and resist 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 mostly 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:
- Predator mites
You can also reduce the chances of re-infestation by making sure that the plants have enough water and keeping the plants free of dust and debris
NOTE: Natural oils or soaps should not be applied 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.