Spider mites are one of the most common and destructive pests for houseplants. They often appear in warm, dry conditions and may damage or kill a plant in a short amount of time.
While spider mites remain a nuisance pest for many popular houseplants, they’re especially common with an indoor hibiscus plant. Hibiscus [hi-BIS-kus] is a genus of flowering plants belonging to the Malvaceae (mallow) family.
Many of these species come from warm temperate or subtropical regions and are known for producing bright, showy flowers.
Most plant pests attacking the Hibiscus plant are not difficult to control, such as Hibiscus aphids, ants (they farm plant scale), and thrips. For Hibiscus plants that move indoors for winter, spider mites pose a common threat.
In this article, we’ll look at how to identify spider mites, the damage they cause, and how to get rid of them.
What Are Spider Mites?
The spider mite belongs to the Acari family of insects, which includes about 1200 species.
Acari is the “mite” family, which also includes ticks. It’s part of the Arachnida (arachnid) class.
Like other arachnids, a spider mite spins protective silk webs.
In fact, this is often the most noticeable telltale sign of spider mite populations.
Spider mites are incredibly small, measuring less than 0.04″ inches in size.
The tiny mites produce small, transparent eggs and then spin the webbing to shield the colony and offspring from spider mite predators.
The eggs hatch within several days, and the young mites become mature within five days.
A single female can lay about 20 eggs per day and live for about two to four weeks, producing hundreds of new mites.
Due to the short life cycle and rapid reproductive rate, spider mite infestations often spread quickly.
Early detection helps minimize damage to hibiscus plants and increases the chances of successfully removing insect pests.
What Damage Do Spider Mites Cause To Hibiscus Plants?
Spider mites are almost microscopic bugs but can severely damage hibiscus and other plants by puncturing the plant cells to obtain food.
As the mites reproduce and spread across the plant, their feeding may permanently damage the leaves, foliage, buds, and flowers.
Unfortunately, spider mites are almost impossible to detect with the naked eye.
The mites first appear as yellowish growth on the plants.
The initial infestation tends to start on younger leaves spider mites find easier to puncture. You will notice them on the undersides of the leaves.
As the mites spread, the leaves start to turn yellow, and one or two leaves may drop.
Related: More Reasons WHY Hibiscus Leaves Turn Yellow
However, additional leaves begin dropping over the next two to three weeks.
Without treatment, the spider mites deprive the plant of nutrients by sucking juices from the plant and causing the leaves to wither and fall.
Eventually, the entire plant may succumb to the pests for severe infestation.
How to Control Spider Mite Infestations
The key to controlling spider mite infestations is to detect the pests early. Pay attention to the color of the leaves.
One or two yellow leaves may indicate weather changes.
When the yellowing doesn’t go away as the weather stabilizes, the color may signal the presence of spider mites.
The next sign is the appearance of spider webs on the leaves that resemble regular spider webs.
After detecting the webs, use a magnifying glass to search for spider mites.
The early signs of spider mite infestation are stippled leaves.
As the spider mites feed on the leaves, they draw chlorophyll, leaving colorless spots and giving the leaves a “stippled” appearance.
After detecting any of these signs, try to wash away the pests using warm water for pest control.
There are two methods for controlling spider mites with water – soaking and spraying.
For smaller hibiscus plants, try soaking. This method is our least recommended method.
- Wrap aluminum foil around the pot or container and the base of the plant, sealing off the soil.
- Use tape to secure the foil.
- Lay the plant on its side in a bathtub.
- Fill the tub with warm water until the plant is completely covered.
- Add a little Dawn liquid dish soap to the water (this makes a mild insecticidal soap bath)
- Leave the plant in the tub for up to 60 minutes, and then drain the tub.
- Stand the plants in the tub and remove the foil to allow excess water to drain.
- The warm water should kill the spider mites and all of their eggs.
- Expect some leaf drops using the “soak method.”
If the plant is too large for the tub or grown outdoors, use warm water from a spray bottle or blasts of water from a hose.
When drowning or washing off the spider mites doesn’t work, try using a:
The oil suffocates the pests but also poses a risk to humans and pets.
It is always a good practice to wear a respirator mask when spraying any pesticide product, such as horticultural oil, on hibiscus plants.
Spray every portion of the plant from the top to the bottom, coating every stem, leaf, and branch. This includes the undersides of leaves.
When treating indoor plants, spray the insecticidal soap or horticultural oil outdoors. Leave the plant in a protected area and bring the plant indoors the following day.
Treating plants multiple times may be required. If these steps don’t work, the final solution is to use a commercial miticide.
Follow the instructions on the label to kill the infestation.
To help prevent future infestations, avoid growing your hibiscus bush in warm, dry conditions.
Mist your healthy plant occasionally, or wash it with warm water once per month.
The moisture should help keep spider mites away.
NOTE: Outdoors, consider using predatory mites or insecticides for control. You may also introduce beneficial insects or natural predators like lacewings and ladybugs to control the population.