Nothing can persistently damage your plants other than spider mites. These small arachnids live on the underside of leaves. Moreover, exterminating them may seem like a daunting task but not impossible to do.
About Spider Mites and How to Spot Them
Spider mites belong to the arachnids category, wherein spiders also fall. They appear very small making them incredibly hard to eliminate. As a matter of fact, spotting them makes a squinting task.
Most of the time, when a plant owner noticed the infestation, it appears too late as the plant perished already, or became fully infested by this pest. They simply do not know the pests thrive there and this makes one difficult challenge.
An adult spider mite measures up to 0.04 inches or less than one millimeter. Also, their eggs come smaller and a bit transparent. In fact, they look so small which makes them hard to spot with the naked eye. Sometimes, they seem totally invisible.
They walk using their four pairs of legs and spin silken webs, which earned them the name spider mites. The family of spider mites bears 1200 species, and despite their differences, they respond to the environment similarly. Because of this, you can employ similar tactics to get rid of them.
So, how do you spot spider mites, when they appear so small? Well, look under leaves of plants as most of them love to colonize this part of the plant.
When inspecting a leaf for spider mites, use a magnifying glass. This tool may help a lot as these arachnids appear so tiny making them impossible to see with the naked eye. On the other hand, you can quickly detect some species such as the red spider mites.
Fortunately, a better way to spot spider mites exists. Instead of looking for the spiders, search for signs of an infestation. If the leaves of your plants exhibit abnormal growth, decelerated growth, twisting and, most tellingly, yellow spots between the veins, or even pinholes, you got pests on your hands.
These tiny animals feed on the leaf by puncturing individual cells of a plant and sucking out the contents. This causes the leaves to die, and a heavy infestation can cause leaves to go completely yellow in color. Eventually, the plant will wither and die.
Webs make another evidence to look for. Spider mites spin silken webs to protect the colony from predators and to move around more easily. You will surely stumble upon a colony if a very fine webbing covers the plant or the leaves of it. However, if this happens, the infestation already became quite thick, and you need to eliminate the pests quickly to save your plant.
Spider mites, also known as tetranychidaere, move very quickly. Shockingly, they can kill a plant in a single night.
Why Are Spider Mites Difficult to Deal With?
Several reasons exist as to why getting rid of these mites makes a difficult task, owing to their nature and habits. Do not downplay their infestation under any circumstances. Besides, swift and decisive action must pursue immediately to save your plants and trees.
Apart from their small bodies, spider mites produce fast. In a matter of days, a huge colony may reign in your garden, and by that time, all of your trees are in grave danger.
Their lifespan lasts for about 2-4 weeks, but before they die, an adult female mite lays hundreds of eggs. This averages up to 20 eggs per day. The eggs hatch within three days and a mite reaches sexual maturity within five days.
Apart from sheer numbers, a high reproductive rate makes them incredibly adaptable. As evolution dictates, every new generation of any species becomes more and more resistant to the danger the environment brings. Due to this, spider mites can become resistant to pesticides and miticides extremely quickly.
Due to the adaptability, dealing with spider mites through natural means seems more prudent.
Also, it only takes an adult female mite to start a colony, and you must annihilate all mites in one swoon if possible. Spider mites do not require fertilized eggs to create offspring. In fact, unfertilized eggs produce male mites.
Because they reach maturity in only five days, mites can repopulate the area very quickly.
Finally, spider mites can spread at an alarming rate. They don’t carry wings, and they can’t fly, but they can easily ride wind currents because of their size. They can mount their webs, glide over to other plants or trees, and start separate colonies in their newfound home.
You can’t actually deal one big decisive blow against them as they come scattered. For this reason, you need to fight on each front individually.
Some mites show more persistence than others. The two-spotted spider mite appears as one of the most widespread and most notorious species. On top of that, species attacking cannabis plants pose an extreme threat, and you should get rid of them as soon as you can.
After you exterminated the spider mite colonies, stay on guard and apply necessary coping measures to avoid another spider mite infestation.
What Plants Do Mites Infest Most Often?
Due to a large diversity of species, a lot of plants will fall victim to spider mites. These pests find shelter and food on several hundred of plant species. They exist almost everywhere, and not a single domestic plant can come exempted from a vicious attack.
Plants in high danger of spider mites infestation include:
- Miniature roses
- Potted begonias
- Fruit trees of any kind
- Indoor houseplants
- Cannabis plants
If you want to get more detailed information about spider mites and the damage they do, check on this Wikipedia link. This site also contains data which will help you understand more about their background.
Infestation Control Methods – Natural Measures Or Biological Control
When it comes to eliminating spider mites, you need to think of two ways – employ natural measures or apply artificial measures.
Natural measures show more effectiveness against spider mites because they go against their very biology. These measures include removing the infected leaves, introducing predatory insects, washing and wiping the plants, etc.
Read on to learn more about these methods and how to execute them.
Remove the Leaves
Removing the infected leaves serves as the most basic step of dealing with spider mites. However, only do this if the leaf holds no chance of surviving. If the leaf appears heavily damaged or already dead, remove it completely from the plant and any nearby plants and trees.
Make sure not to add the leaf to the compost heap, as the mites may survive. If they do, they will attack the plants you try to fertilize. Burning the leaf gives you the assurance of the spider mites demise.
You can also cut off healthy leaves if you want to make sure. However, we urge you to check the other leaves as well. It would become pointless to remove just one leaf if the others got attacked too.
Wash and Wipe the Leaves
This way will nip the infestation in the bud. The mites weigh light, but their size and weight can count against them. This makes it easy to blow or wash them away.
Because of that fact, we suggest you hose down the leaves by using a bug blaster hose attachment and plenty of pressure. This should dislodge both the mites and their eggs. However, be sure to hit the underside of the leaves where the mites live.
Repeatedly wash the plants even if you think the mites got destroyed. Secondly, wipe the plants. This may seem simple, but practices proved this as an effective way of removing the spider mites.
Use the wiping method especially when you have fewer plants, including indoor plants. Use a simple wet sponge or spice it up with insecticidal soaps. Such soaps work efficiently and at the same time very gentle toward plants.
These insecticidal soaps won’t poison humans if you ingest any part of the plant. Reapply the soap treatment six days later if the infestation persists. Also, know which plants react sensitively to chemicals or soaps.
Use Natural Miticides
You can also use natural miticides to deal with spider mites. Some plants produce ingredients giving off very adverse effects on spider mites which can kill them outright.
Some of them include the neem oil and cinnamite (cinnamon oil). Cinnamite is effective at destroying adult mites, but it won’t destroy the eggs. On the other hand, neem oil which also serves as an insect repellant can eliminate both the eggs and adult spider mites.
Rosemary oil will also kill the mites, but it will keep the predatory insects alive and well. These two make a great combo in battling spider mites.
Use Homemade Herbal Tea
Homemade herbal tea makes a natural, easy, and effective way to deal with spider mites. You can formulate the tea out of two tablespoons of Italian Seasoning, a tablespoon of cinnamon, two tablespoons of crushed garlic, and a tablespoon of ground cloves, all mixed in a quart of boiling water.
Spray the tea on the underside of the leaves, and repeat every three days for two weeks. This should destroy all spider mites.
You can also add a little bit of insecticidal soap to the mixture. This provides an additional boost to the tea and can kill the mites faster. Even so, you should continue spraying the plants with the mixture to ensure their deaths.
Use Organic Salts
Organic salts torture mites as it corrodes their tiny bodies. For best effect, use potassium salts, or salts containing fatty acids. Apply the salt late in the afternoon, as they stay longer in the evening and if they got wet.
Control the Environment
Mites can’t thrive in cold and moist conditions and prefer dry, hot weather. Use this method against the notorious two-spotted spider mites. Also, you can ensure these pests won’t go back if you used it in conjunction with some other methods
Biological control, including maneuvering of the climate functions as a harder way of dealing with mites, but it can deal a decisive blow against them. Spider mites thrive when the temperature hits around 27 degrees Celsius. However, they can’t survive for long if the temperature drops at around 20 degrees or peaks at around 40 degrees.
In addition, you may introduce higher concentrations of carbon dioxide, as can also kill the pests very quickly. Certain studies say at 20% carbon dioxide and 20 degrees, the spider mites experience a 99% mortality rate. At 60% CO2 and 30 degrees, the mites experience a 100% mortality rate.
However, these measures sound tough to implement, and not only because of technical limitations. Increasing the CO2 amount may also harm you if you frequently visit the area. On the other hand, increasing the temperature won’t sit too well with certain plants.
When implementing environmental measures, do your research thoroughly beforehand. Moreover, make yourself aware of the repercussions to get ready for it.
Control the Vegetation
Spider mites, being sneaky little creatures, and incredibly crafty can easily find places to hide. You can find them in weeds and dead foliage. This only means you should keep the growing area clean of both.
In particular, any broad-leafed plants and weeds serve as a perfect hiding place and breeding ground for the pests. Dead foliage pose as another danger so remove any fallen leaves. Apart from being a shelter for spider mites, they also provide food for the pests for quite some time.
For outside plants, avoid leftovers after a harvest. Any plant matter makes a good breeding ground to spider mites.
Introduce Predatory Insects and Animals
The introduction of predators that feed on spider mites makes one of the best natural ways to deal with their infestation. By entering these predators, you will terminate mites and also their eggs. However, you should not use any pesticides that will harm the predators.
This way of dealing with the pests works much slower than insecticides, but the plants will enjoy a healthier, toxin-free growth.
Ladybug serves as one of the best spider mites predators. Introducing a colony of ladybugs into your growth area appears a very good idea because they voraciously eat the mites and their eggs.
Another great spider mite killer is another mite, particularly the Phytoseiulus Persimilis. These mites can eat up to 5 spider mite adults a day, or up to 20 eggs a day. They work even better, as some ladybugs seem to leave these predators alone, and only go for spider mites.
All things considered, you can use these two predators in conjunction for a greater effect. You can summon these predators naturally or artificially into your growth area. If you plant amaranth or borage in your garden, you can attract the ladybugs naturally. Buy them from certified suppliers if you want to introduce them artificially,
Ask the supplier for tips and trick on how to introduce the colony. Additionally, you may also ask for best practices when it comes to using the predators to annihilate the spider mites.
Infestation Control Artificial Or Chemical Means
Killing spider mites with chemical pesticides appears as the fastest way to destroy them. However, spider mites adapt incredibly quickly. Due to this, if you keep using a single product over and over again, the mites will start to develop resistance, and your efforts will all become worthless.
With this, you may select between two options – wallop them with a very aggressive pesticide risking the health of your plants, or go for alternating insecticides costing you more money.
In addition to this, you may also hurt the predators of spider mites with spraying insecticides. Often, spider mite infestation comes after the death of their natural predators because of chemical use. Not only that, but insecticides also causes chemicals and toxins to build up, which produce harmful effects to humans upon ingestion of its fruits or crops.
One of the most aggressive ways to approach the problem is the use of liquid sulphur. Liquid Sulphur shows efficiency at killing spider mites. However, it also appears extremely dangerous for humans.
If you plan on liquid sulphur, wear a mask, so that you won’t inhale it. Use this once to avoid toxic build up. Do not use liquid sulphur in temperatures exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Doktor Doom Spider Mite Knockout Spray functions as another highly effective product. This spray comes from Pyrethrum and acts very fast. However, because of its composition, the insecticide spells danger to both plants and humans.
The Pyrethrum-based product may burn your plant if used together with growing lights. On top of that, the chemical doesn’t destroy spider mite eggs, making it a quick, but not an effective solution.
Rubbing alcohol such as isopropyl delivers good results in dealing with mites, as well as a means of prevention. Put the alcohol on a cloth, clean the leaves, and that will do. Rubbing plants with alcohol makes a better choice than Doktor Doom.
Lastly, use the most effective countermeasure for spider mites – the floramite. This product destroys both the eggs and mites ensuring a 100% mortality rate. However, the chemical contains high toxins so you should also keep yourself from using it again for a month.
And with this, we finish our talk about spider mites and the means to eliminate them. Like we said, spider mites play the role of incredibly persistent pests and should perish as soon as possible. Otherwise, the infestation can grow and spiral out of control quickly, leading to wilting of your plants and destruction of the garden.
Learn how to protect your plants from spider mites, and how to prevent their reappearance.