Mite infestations are unprecedented; it’s just not possible to see one coming. Sometimes you identify the mites and other times, you can’t. Likewise, spider mites are tiny pests, almost invisible to the naked eye.
Spider mites often attack houseplants and in the initial stages, it doesn’t seem like something is wrong. You might notice light dots on the leaves, and as the infestation grows, the leaves turn to bronze or gray color. Not long after that, the leaves turn yellow and fall off. Once the spider mites get a hold of your plant, the damage cannot be undone.
Still, you can stop the mites in their tracks and save your plant. That, however, requires patience and hard work. To help you in the mite control process, this article will list certain symptoms of infestation and mention foolproof ways to get rid of them.
Read on to find out more!
What are Spider Mites?
Spider mites, also known as web-spinning mites, belong to the arachnid class. Usually, spider mites reproduce rapidly in hot and dry weather. However, these mites have developed the ability to reproduce throughout the whole year in some parts of California. When provided with favorable conditions, a new generation matures in less than a week.
Spider mites prefer hot, dusty, and dry weather conditions. Plants adjacent to roadways, highways, or simply ones under water stress are highly susceptible to infestations.
Spider mites feed and suck on the juices and fluids from the underside of the leaves. These mites aren’t harmful when they are present in small numbers. But when they reproduce enough to show visible signs of damage, prompt action should be taken.
What Do Spider Mites Look Like?
Spider mites usually are brown, bronze, or reddish. Because they have diameters of about 1/20th of an inch, they usually appear as dust particles on the leaves. However, on looking with a 10X magnifying lens, the dust appears to be moving.
On close observation, adult mites have eight limbs and an elliptical body. Their eggs are translucent and spherical. Keep in mind, the eggs become cream in color when they are about to hatch.
Have you noticed pests along with spider mites in your garden? Look at our guide on how to get rid of aphids just to be sure.
How to Identify a Spider Mite Infestation?
A spider mite infestation is hard to identify at first because there aren’t as many mites and they are almost invisible. You might observe leaf stippling or a few brown dots. Further, the leaves may change their color to yellow or reddish and drop off.
When the invasion advances, colonies of spider mites accumulate on the undersides of leaves. The leaves will be stunted and sickly. The foliage will also appear pale and wilted. For plants under water stress, these mites will be even more dangerous.
A striking characteristic is the presence of webbing. When the infestation grows vigorously, the webbing covers leaves, stems, twigs, flowers, and even fruits.
Pro Tip: If you need more evidence, hold a sheet of white paper under an infected plant and shake a leaf. The mites will tumble down like specks of dust, but they will be moving. You could also lightly mist the plants and the webbing will become visible.
How to Get Rid of Spider Mites?
Now that you can identify and be sure of the spider mite infestation, let’s take a look at some possible ways to eliminate spider mites:
1. Hose Them Off
Spider mites are particularly difficult to get rid of if they get a good grip on the plants. Therefore, as soon as you notice early signs of infestation or even a few spider mites, get a garden hose to spray those tykes down.
Make sure to adjust the valve to a pressure that isn’t too intense for your plants. Additionally, try to rinse the plant thoroughly, from the stalk to the underside of the leaves.
Pro Tip: Get the job done preferably in the early morning. The mites would be easier to remove because the weather conditions at this time would also be detrimental for them. Also, for small plants, you can use a hand-held sprayer filled with ice-cold water.
It is also recommended to water the surrounding garden to keep the spider mites’ population down.
2. Invite the Mite Predators
There are many birds and good bugs that feed on mites. Such predators will not harm the plant in any possible way but will rid it of spider mites. Some of these include ladybugs, damsel bugs, big-eyed bugs, glowworms, and firefly larvae.
To summon these good bugs, you will need to provide them some sort of food and shelter. Do this by growing annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs. An easy way to do this would be to buy some of these insects directly and introduce them to the plants.
3. Companion Planting
This is another organic mite control method, where you grow certain plants in a combination that repels mites.
For instance, if you are planning to grow tomatoes, consider planting several radish plants among them. This would not only steer the spider mites away but would also prompt them to spin their webs elsewhere.
Looking for the best companion plants for your vegetables? Follow our companion planting chart for more information.
4. Avoid Chemical Miticides
When spider mites are subjected to chemical insecticides repeatedly, they evolve to become naturally resistant to any such pesticides. In many cases, these mites have also been observed to reproduce at an even higher rate when they are exposed to chemicals like carbaryl and parathion.
Hence, avoid using any such chemicals that might end up as an aphrodisiac for the spider mites. Stick to homemade mite repellents like the ones discussed below.
5. Use an Ammonia Solution
Another great method is using an ammonia solution as an insecticide. This technique would serve two purposes instead of one – it will kill the spider mites and also supply a mild amount of nitrogen to your plants. This way, you’ll have a mild fertilizer and a strong miticide, both bundled into one.
This effective two-in-one formula requires 1 tsp. of dishwashing liquid, 2 tsp. of ammonia, and 2 gallons of water. Just mix all these ingredients and with a hand-held sprayer, spray off the spider mites. Repeat this process every five days for three weeks.
Unsure of the suitable amount of nitrogen for your plants? This nitrogen fertilizer & nutrient guide is for you!
6. Glue Trap
Spider mites are one of the scale insects. This term is used for insects that suck sap from plants and at the same time, build a scale or a web around the leaves or the central stalk. Usually, smaller infestations can be hosed down.
However, if the mite invasion has already increased to a level where it is not possible, try the glue trap idea. This includes using a solution of white glue in water that is sprayed onto the plants. When the glue dries, it will get a hold of the scale or the web, which can be easily peeled off.
To do this, mix an 8-ounce bottle of white glue (such as regular Elmer’s glue) with 2 gallons of warm water. Pour this solution into a handheld sprayer, and spray it over all the infected leaves and stalks. The scale will get trapped and will easily come off with the glue.
7. Mite-Free Formula
When the spider mites are sucking the life from your plants, you cannot just sit back and watch. They may be hard to deal with, but this formula will help you eliminate them just like that.
The recipe requires 5 lbs. of white flour, 1 pt. of buttermilk, and 25 gallons of water. Blend these ingredients and make sure to keep the solution in an airtight container. Stir the mixture before each use, and drizzle over the plants weekly until the invasion has ceased.
Remember: Even though the mixture is organic, it might harm some mite predators. For this reason, ensure that only the spider mites are sprayed.
8. Insecticidal Soap
Simple homemade insecticidal soaps can be used to remove spider mite invasions as well. Depending on the choice of ingredients, insecticidal soaps can be made in many different ways.
A common recipe includes combining one cup of any organic oil with one tbsp. of dishwashing liquid. Then, this soap mixture is mixed with warm water in appropriate proportions for every use. It is recommended to mix only enough soap for a one-time application.
Remember: Avoid any dishwashing liquids which contain degreaser, bleach, etc. These chemicals may potentially harm your plants.
9. Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol is a chemical that can be found in most households. All you need to do is mix it with water and spray it directly onto the plants. If only some parts of a plant are affected, it can also be used manually to wipe off the leaves.
Pro Tip: Create a solution with 1 part alcohol to 3 parts water ratio for sensitive plants. For harder plants, a 1:1 ratio of rubbing alcohol and water can be used to get rid of spider mites.
10. Herbal Insecticide Tea
This is a DIY miticide idea that can be carried out with convenience using ingredients available at home. Follow the simple steps given below.
- Gather the required materials: 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon, 1 tbsp. ground cloves, and 2 tbsps. of Italian seasoning.
- Mix these in a quart of water and bring the mixture to boil.
- Once it has cooled down, add 2 tbsps. of crushed garlic.
- Strain the mixture once it has cooled down.
- Add a small amount of dishwashing liquid.
- Shake well and spray onto the plants every 3 days for 2 weeks.
11. Horticultural Oils
Certain oils like that of neem, rosemary can act as a permanent and effective solution in controlling spider mites. Being organic, these oils can remove spider mites far more quickly as compared to other insecticides.
To prepare an appropriate oil mix at home, you will need one and a half tsps. of oil concentrate, 1 tsp. of liquid soap, and a liter of tepid water. Mix all these ingredients and spray over the infested plant.
Apart from these, hot pepper wax sprays can also be used.
How to Prevent Spider Mites from Coming Back?
Do spider mites keep coming back in your garden? Well, it might be the case if the plants still provide them suitable conditions to thrive. It may also be that you never completely got rid of them.
Howsoever, there are quite a few reasons why this happens. They may travel back to the plants through clothes, pets, or even a dry environment.
Here’s what you can do to keep spider mites at bay:
- Water the plants: Dry plants are the most susceptible to spider mites because such mites grow in hot and dry conditions. Hence, properly watered plants will remain safe.
- Abstain from over-fertilization: When plants are supplied with too much nitrogen, the plants are not benefitted in any way. However, the leaf sap becomes sweeter, attracting even more mites.
- Get rid of an infested plant: If you have an infected plant in your garden that is largely damaged, do not compost it. It is better to throw it away to ensure the complete removal of mites and their eggs from the garden. In case, it’s just some leaves, you should remove them as well.
Hence, make sure to observe and take care of the plants regularly to prevent reinfestation.
Have you noticed wasps in your garden too? Check out 10 ways to get rid of wasps.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will vinegar be effective against spider mites?
Spider mites cannot tolerate acidic mediums. Hence, spraying vinegar mixed with baking soda, a few drops of liquid dish soap, and water over the plant will help in eradicating these pests.
Can spider mites affect humans?
Generally, they don’t. However, sometimes they bite humans who handle the plants directly. Their bites look like tiny pimples. Many bites in the same area look like a rash.
How long can spider mites live?
Spider mites can live for around 2 to 4 weeks. Female spider mites lay up to 20 eggs per day, which can hatch in a minimum of 3 days under optimum conditions. This newer progeny becomes sexually mature in about 5 days, repeating the same cycle.
Do spider mites die upon harvesting?
Yes. The cellular fluids and juices in leaves dry out when they are harvested. Because spider mites feed on these juices, they will look for other sources of food. Some mites who cling on even after harvesting will die.
To conclude, completely getting rid of spider mites is a time-consuming and difficult process. Regardless, for the well-being of your cherished plants, you will have to put in the effort.
Learn which method or approach from the list above works best for your plants. Get into action right now and protect your plants!
Bonus Read: 10 best compost tumblers to make your own compost.