From the naked eye, your houseplants might look all greeny with little to no specks. But take a closer look, and you’ll definitely see delicate webbing. It all starts with tiny webs that slowly and gradually consume the infested plant. That’s the case of spider mites! Although spider mites aren’t visible, they can eat up an entire plant.
But you don’t have to worry, as in today’s piece, we’ll cover it all about spider mites. We’ll first learn about their and the signs. Then, we’ll cover how to get rid of them, followed by some pest management and pest control tips. So let’s get started and learn it all about spider mite infestation.
Table of Contents
What Are Spider Mites?
They are tiny arachnids rather than true predatory insects like ladybugs, thrips, aphids, etc. Also known as Tetranychus urticae, spider mites are one of the most common garden pests. They are about the size of a single grain, and that’s why you can’t spot them without an aid like a magnifying glass or a microscope.
Southern red spider mites and two-spotted spider mites are the most common mites found on indoor plants and outdoor plants. Carmine spider mite, the strawberry spider mite and the spruce spider mite are also famous.
The worst thing about the spider mite population is that it grows so quickly that by the time one spot this infestation, it’s way too late to apply any control methods. And it’s because mites live in colonies, like humans.
Generally, they are found on the underside of leaves and they feed themselves by piercing the leaf tissue and sucking the fluids (also known as chlorophyll) of infested parts. Spider mites leave light dots on the plant leaves and as their sucking continues, the plant leaves turn yellow, and they eventually get dry and fall off.
They are typically found in hot and dry conditions. Especially when their natural enemies are killed by regular use of chemicals and insecticides. Also, they also have the ability to infect new plants really fast.
Despite having a short life cycle of only four to five weeks, their ability to reproduce themselves at a rapid rate is quite concerning for plant life. Eggs of mites take only about 72 hours to hatch, and a female mite can produce hundreds of eggs even at the age of just five days old. The tiny eggs, also known as larvae, start hatching and after a few weeks, larvae moult into the first nymphal stage. Then, the eight-legged nymph passes through two more moults before becoming an adult spider mite.
Signs That You Have A Spider Mite Infestation
It’s not easy to kill spider mites. Why? Because they are hard to spot! Here are some signs that will help you to spot fine webbing cast by spider mites easily.
- One of the common telltale signs of infestation is white, yellow or greyish spots on leaves.
- Check the presence of fine webbing on the underside of the leaves.
- Tiny dots of pattern scattered across the leaves.
- You feel like your houseplants, indoor or outdoor plants are covered with fine sand.
- Tiny moving white or red dots across the leaves.
- Leaves losing their vibrance and attraction even after enough care and attention.
And that’s about it! The six signs that will tell you that you have an infestation on your lovely plants. But don’t worry! The next section will cover a bunch of methods you can use to get rid of spider mites. So let’s get right into it.
How To Get Rid Of Spider Mites Step-By-Step
There are a handful of ways you can use to get rid of spider mites, so let’s cover them all down below.
1. Biological Controls
Natural predators like ladybugs, thrips, lacewings and predatory mites (Phytoseiulus persimilis) make sure that the population of spider mites stays in control.
Naturally, you’ll find all the beneficial insects in your garden–just avoid using repellent and pesticides to scare them away. If you give them some space in your garden and plants, then they will make sure to keep you safe from spider mites, as they’re a part of their food chain.
2. Use Essential Oils & Herbs
Fill a spray bottle with water and add a few drops of your favourite oil and start applying it to affected leaves.
3. Pepper Repellents
Bell peppers, chilli, and other extracts of peppers are known for killing spider mites. Peppers like chilli are proven to kill over 45% of adult spider mites.
They are easily available online, and they’re a really good way to keep these little pests at bay without using chemicals.
4. Dish Soap Solution
Who would have thought that a soap solution could do the trick? Well, all you have to do is mix three tablespoons of dish soap with a gallon of water and start applying to the infested plants as needed.
The soapy surface makes it too hard for spider mites to live and these conditions are all you need to take care of the issue.
5. Rubbing Alcohol
Do you have a rubbing alcohol solution lying around your house? Grab it and soak cotton balls with it! Then, start applying this solution to the plants and let the alcohol sit on the infected parts for a while.
A couple of minutes are enough, but you might need to repeat the process again for better results.
6. Spraying Water
Although this way might not be very effective, you can use the garden hose in your house to spray water on the infected ones. Washing away spider mites is a temporary solution, but it’s essential to carry it out before you apply any permanent solution.
1. Insecticidal Soap Or Horticultural Oil
We won’t recommend using pesticides or miticides because they can kill beneficial insects. But insecticidal soap or horticultural oil do the job without affecting any other creature other than spider mites.
These two products work best with indoor plants. But when you are using them, make sure to check their label as some plants can’t withstand them.
2. Diatomaceous earth
Next up is Diatomaceous earth. It’s made up of fossils of aquatic organisms. Diatomaceous earth is lethal to arachnids as it’s capable of dehydrating the spider mites’ exoskeletons.
Step-by-step basic treatment
- Firstly, remove the leaves that are heavily infected by the spider mites.
- After that, wipe clean the plant using the mixture of 70% isopropyl alcohol and water.
- Use one of the methods mentioned above. Try the natural ones first if you want to avoid chemicals and other harmful products. Especially if your infestation isn’t way out of hand. Just make sure that you start with the first two steps to give your plant the proper care that it needs.
How To Prevent Spider Mites From Damaging Your Plants
Prevention is better than cure. So let’s discover some ways to prevent spider mites from damaging your plants.
Isolate Infected Plants
Mites can easily migrate from one plant to another. And that’s why you need to isolate the plants that are infected. Once you start seeing that a specific plant is under the spider mites’ infection, don’t think about it too much. Isolation is the only way. Keep the non-infected plants close to each other so they can remain safe, but keep an eye on them as well for any warning signs.
Make Sure To Retain Moist & Humid Conditions
Spider mites love dry and hot conditions. Make sure to retain a moist and humid environment around your plants by watering them often.
Don’t rely on beneficial houseplant pests to do all the heavy lifting. We know that you can’t keep watering your plants all day. That’s why a humidifier might be a great idea for you. Place it somewhere near them to provide the necessary humidity.
Keep Your Plants As Healthy As Yourself
Just like you keep yourself healthy, make sure to do the same with your plants. Use good fertilizers, water your plants frequently, give them enough sunshine and make every effort to keep your plants healthy.
Clean The Area of Plants Frequently
The area where you have situated your plants must be kept clean. Why? It’s because dust, debris and a dirty environment in general, is ideal for the growth of spider mites.
Use High-Quality Soil
Please make use of high-quality soil so that your plants can easily safeguard themselves from threats like spider mites. A sterile soil might not be the best for some plants but it’s the best option against soil-borne pests that lay their eggs there.
Wipe Those Leaves
Wipe the leaves of your plants and make sure no dirt gets to accumulate on them. Use a moist paper towel to catch all the little particles that lay on there. Schedule a time for wiping the leaves of your plants so you won’t forget about it. How about once a week?
Getting rid of spider mites can be a devastating job, especially when you don’t know where and how to start. But after reading this guide, we can proudly say that you can not only easily get rid of spider mites but prevent them from entering the zone of your plants. So, load up with the essentials and hunt them down to save your lovely plants! Insecticidal soap, neem oil, spray bottle, chemical pesticides, and you name it, no matter what you have at your disposal, if you can’t recognize spider mite infestation, you can’t carry out any action.