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If you are a grower or a gardener, you are probably already aware of how destructive spider mites are. Also called two-spotted spider mites, these annoying insects are strongly linked to spiders and ticks.
The problem with these small creatures is that they are kind of hard to remove once they penetrate your farm or garden. Still, there are ways to get rid of spider mites completely and you will learn about those through this article.
What are Spider Mites?
Spider mites belong to the arachnid family. Note, though, that its name does not necessarily mean that they are spiders. As a matter of fact, they can be defined as small sap-sucking insects that destroy garden plants.
These insects are known for having a ferocious appetite, causing them to literally wipe out whole crops within a short period. They got their name spider mites because of their habit of creating webs that you can see on the underside of the leaves of affected plants.
It is also in that particular spot where spider mites lay their eggs. While they can only live for around four weeks, they tend to hatch eggs in three days, which is why each day, there will always be a new batch of them.
The rapid increase in these small plant pests makes it quite hard to handle them. They are also known for having a really high generational turnover, which is why they are less prone to chemical pesticide sprays since they can rapidly form a tolerance to them.
Despite that, with consistency and regular control of the spread of spider mites, you will be able to use the techniques here to finally get rid of them for good.
Causes of these Predatory Mites
Spider mites are well-known for their ability to thrive and survive in hot and dry weather. Most mite varieties also tend to prevail from July to September, the months when there are conditions that are favorable for their survival.
One variety is the spruce, which is known for being a serious pest infesting a wide range of pine and some fruit trees. It causes the yellowing of their needles and slow defoliation, which can help in killing the tree.
If you have indoor plants, note that there is a high chance of attracting mites when the winter season comes. This makes it necessary to check them regularly once the air indoors becomes dry.
In indoor areas where you grow your plants, spider mites are highly likely to become a problem when they are underwatered. Another possible cause of it is the overapplication of nutrients. Applying excessive amounts of nitrogen to your plant may make it even more prone to attacks from houseplant pests and spider mites.
The reason is that too much of this nutrient results in the development of small compounds called funny proteins. These proteins make the sap of your plants sweeter, further attracting the insects.
How Spider Mites Penetrate Indoor and Outdoor Plants?
Spider mites can actually easily reach your indoor plants. This is mainly because of their small size, making it possible for them to move through even the smallest openings, even screens. Similar to other spiders, these insects are capable of spinning a fine web that the wind can pick up and then bring them to a lot of distances.
It is also crucial to note that spider mites can affect outdoor plants aside from those indoors. You can expect the insect to find the plant materials they need in a similar way as indoors. This means that spider mites may balloon with the aid of wind, causing them to land even in your outdoor garden.
Where Does the Spider Mite Come from?
One challenging fact about this type of mite is that it comes from anywhere. This means that there are several instances when you will not know where they originated. In most cases, though, you can see them coming from the following:
- A newly bought plant with mites
- An unsterile potting soil, which you use when repotting plant species
- Moving plants outdoors during the summer
- Flowers and vegetables from your garden and yard that you take indoors
Spider mites also can penetrate through the screens of your windows and doors because of its small size.
Signs of Spider Mite Infestation
One fact about the annoying spider mites you should be aware of is that they are difficult to detect and spot using your naked eye. The reason is that they are so small that you can’t see them that easily.
To identify spider mites’ presence, you should look for signs of the insects’ activities. Among those that you can see are the following:
Stippling on top of the leaves
This is often characterized by small yellow and white dots on the topmost parts of the leaves. This may cause them to appear discolored and mottled. If left untreated, these leaves will become brown and then fall off eventually.
You can often see this on the leaves’ underside and at the branch intersections. The pale white webbing could also cover the twigs and fruits. The presence of this protective webbing on your outdoor or indoor plants indicates an attack of spider mites.
With the tiny size of this insect, finding them through your naked eye is kind of hard. To further help you discover spider mites in plants, hold one sheet of white paper beneath a leaf where you think the insect infested. Tap this leaf of the infested plant.
You can confirm the presence of this insect if they start falling onto the paper after tapping. They will appear like tiny specks that will begin to move on the sheet. You can further confirm that the presence of these pests if using your finger to press on a speck and then sliding it creates a smudge mark on the paper.
Possible Spider Mite Damage and Impact
The feeding habits of spider mites are substantially harmful and damaging to some plants, specifically melon and gourd, like watermelon and squash. They can make them prone to sunburns and a lower yield.
These insects can also directly attack plant pods, such as peas and beans. Ornamental flowers and plants, on the other hand, are at risk of being damaged aesthetically because of this insect.
What about humans? Does this insect affect humans? Well, the answer is yes as spider mites come with mouth parts that they use to not only pierce plant cells but also bite humans.
The microscopic size of spider mites may prevent you from feeling that you have already been bit by their piercing sucking mouthparts. Still, there are several cases wherein they may cause your skin to develop tiny and red pimply marks. They look like rashes.
Those who are allergic to bug bites are also at risk of experiencing swelling or itching, but this only happens rarely. The ultimate spider mite damage to your home is not actually the bite but its ability to stunt the growth of your healthy houseplants. The insects can even kill spider mites quickly.
How to Get Rid of Spider Mites in Plants and Garden Soil?
Now that you know the possible spider mite damage on your plants, garden, and occasionally, on humans, you should look for ways to eliminate them. The following are just a few of the many things you can do to get rid of spider mites:
Control them through beneficial insects
If you are looking for a natural way to get rid of spider mites, use biological controls. You can make this possible through natural predators that can control spider mites’ population. Among these natural predators are ladybugs, thrips, and lacewings.
You can also take advantage of predatory mites. Attract these beneficial insects and ensure that they stick around. It is also advisable to water plants and lawns regularly and mulch your garden beds and flower beds, so the insects will stay.
It is possible to order predatory and beneficial insects online to support the needs of your indoor plants for them. Once you take a hold of them, you can release them in your containers or pots. Expect predatory insects and mites to consume a significant number of mites daily without harm or danger to your plants, pets, and even people.
Neem and Other Essential Oils
Another option if you are looking for natural or organic methods to control spider mites is to use neem oil as a systemic insecticide or foliar spray. The neem seed oil is an effective and reliable spider mite treatment that you can safely use on food crops, including tomatoes, until the day before harvesting them.
The good thing about neem oil mainly extracted from the neem tree is that it is not toxic to pets and humans. If you plan to use the oil as a foliar spray indoors, it would be better for the emulsifier to be made of insecticidal soap.
Increase the potency of this solution by adding more essential oils. Some of the essential oils you can add to neem that can help kill the eggs of this insect and the adult spider mites are coriander, chamomile, rosemary, and spearmint.
Avoid the use of these additives outdoors, though, since the neem oil foliar spray, which utilizes dawn dish soap or pure castile soap, tends to dissipate without residue in just one hour after applying it. This is the reason why it is safe when used on garden beds, especially if you use it to treat spider mites at either dusk or dawn.
You can also create a DIY spider mite spray. Just get a spray bottle then fill it with water. Add a few drops of any of the recommended essential oils for this insect. Apply this solution in a spray bottle to the leaves of plants affected by the spider mites.
Hot Pepper Extracts
Pepper extracts are also highly toxic to spider mites, making them capable of killing adult ones upon getting exposed to them. These make them highly effective as spider mite destroyers. Among the types of pepper you can use for this solution are bell pepper, jalapeno, cayenne, and chili pepper.
It is also possible for you to take advantage of other pepper varieties, like lemon drop peppers, that can repel and get rid of spider mites. Choose to create your own repellent from pepper extracts or buy one in stores and online.
Insecticidal Soaps or Oils
You can also find insecticidal soaps formulated to kill pests and insects, including spider mites. Just make sure to repeat the insecticidal soap treatment until you get to control the spider mite problem. It is also possible to take advantage of horticultural oils composed of highly refined plant oils, including citrus.
These oils work effectively against mites because of their ability to smother insects. Moreover, horticultural oils are safer compared to chemical pesticides as they will not kill beneficial insects.
This pesticide is made of natural pyrethrin mixed with other chemicals to boost its performance. If you are still unfamiliar with pyrethrin, then note that it refers to a natural derivative of a specific kind of chrysanthemum flower. It is a safe pesticide, provided you use its purest form.
However, it is not as organic as the other solutions we have already discussed. The reason is that you will have to mix and add chemicals to pyrethrin. Despite that, compared to other chemical pesticides, it is still better and is highly recommended for spider mite infestations.
Rubbing or Isopropyl Alcohol
Another effective spider mite killer is rubbing or isopropyl alcohol. You just have to make sure to use either of the two properly. Make it a point to use 70% alcohol or lower, reducing the risk of drying your plant.
To use, get a cotton ball or Q-tip then dip it into the rubbing or isopropyl alcohol. Be patient when using this solution, though, as it takes quite a long time. You need to wipe the top part and the underside of the leaf surfaces completely and its joints, crevasses, and stems.
You have to cover all surfaces, which makes it time-consuming to use this solution. Despite taking time, it is still a good solution as it can kill everything instantly upon exposure and contact, including larvae and adults.
You can also do some things to prevent spider mites from infesting your plants and garden soil in the first place. Here are just a few of them:
Keep in mind that spider mites are specifically fond of dry conditions. Therefore, you can reduce their chance of infesting your plants by keeping the humidity high and dusting your plant material.
Invest in a humidifier, too, especially if your plants are in a specific part of your home. This ensures that the area will have more moisture compared to the other parts of your home. It also helps to mist your plants regularly to ensure that their surfaces remain moist.
Introduce pests and insects that feed on the mite
Some examples are lady beetles, predatory mites, wheel bugs, and praying mantises. You can also put some predatory insects, like assassin bugs, in your garden.
Isolate infested plants right away
Note that spider mites can migrate from one plant to another and windsurf across various leaf clusters. When detecting yellow and white spots on a few leaves and silk webbing on their undersides, isolate the infested plants immediately.
The remaining plants should then be clustered to retain a moist environment, preventing the insects from thriving.
Do not expose your plants to the afternoon sun
Again, spider mites are fond of the arid, dry, and warm weather, so do not let your plants get exposed to the hot afternoon sunlight. You may also want to set a humidifier near your plants to discourage the insects from coming and thriving there.
Inspect your plants regularly
This is important, so you can immediately detect the presence of diseases, common pests, and insects. Do this two times every week, especially during drought conditions as this is the time when spider mites thrive and often spread.
If there are problems, find out whether it is caused by insects, cultural practices, disease, or nutritional deficiency. You have to identify the cause before determining the best course of action.
One more thing you should do as far as inspecting plants is concerned is to carefully check potted plants you brought outdoors during the summer before bringing them indoors once the winter season comes.
This is so you can prevent yourself from bringing those infested indoors and make the spider mites thrive. Any plants you bought somewhere should also be checked for spider mites before taking them home.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can spider mites live in the soil?
Yes, they can but only for a short period. The reason is that spider mites spend a huge chunk of their life cycle on plants. You can also expect them to remain dormant while in the soil for several months.
Can you drown spider mites in the soil?
Yes. To make that happen, you need to use aluminum foil and fabric to allow water to get through the container or pot. This is crucial in ensuring that the soil remains in place while drowning the spider mites that infested your potted plants.
Avoid using plastic bags when securing the pot as it may only protect the insect that thrives inside it and the soil.
What kills spider mites instantly?
One of the best solutions to kill mites instantly is rubbing alcohol. Just soak cotton balls in it then wipe it across the plant foliage and underside of the houseplants infested by the mites. Rubbing alcohol can also kill the spider mite on contact.
Can a plant recover from spider mites?
Your plants can recover easily from infestations that are not that serious. You also need to remove some badly infested leaves from the plant so it can recover. In other cases, you will have to remove the entire plant or tree if it is completely infested to keep the other plants safe.
How to get rid of spider mite webs?
The simplest solution for eliminating spider mite webs is to spray them with water. With a nozzle connected to your garden hose, spray them gently with water. This should help in dislodging the webbing and the insects themselves.
Can spider mites infest a house?
Yes, spider mites can infest a house. Their small size is the main reason they can easily penetrate the cracks and crevices surrounding your windows and doors. It is even likely for them to get into your furniture and clothes.
Dealing with spider mite infestations and other pests can be extremely inconvenient. Fortunately, there are still ways to control spider mite populations.
Hopefully, you have learned a lot about the two spotted spider mite from this article, including how to prevent, control, and kill them, so you can prevent them from causing severe mite damage not only to your plants but also to your household.