Spider Mites are a tiny type of arachnid, members of the spider family, only about a millimeter long. These common garden pests are well-known for feeding on many types of plants.
There are several different body colors for them. And you may see them in shades of yellow, brown, red, or green with dark spots on their backs.
One of the most widespread species of spider mite is the two-spotted spider mite.
Because spider mites are so tiny, you may not realize they are present, and there’s spider mite infestation until they have begun to do damage.
These insect pests thrive in warm weather or dry conditions and dusty conditions, which helps them breed quickly. Adult spider mites are often found on the underside of leaves. This is also where female mites lay their spider mite eggs.
To catch Spider Mites before they have a chance to wreak too much havoc, look for these early warning signs of spider mite damage on both the tops, bottoms, and undersides of leaves:
- Damage to top leaves
- White or yellow spots on affected leaves
- Entire areas of a plant turn yellow or bronze
- A fine layer of webbing over your plants’ leaves and stems
Ensure not to confuse these signs for drought stress. You can use a magnifying glass to check for the presence of Spider Mites. You may also wish to place a piece of paper under the damaged foliage. Shake the plant lightly.
If there are Spider Mites on the foliage, they’ll fall onto the paper. They are so small they will just look like tiny brown specks. If you see this, you know you have Spider Mites.
Damage, But No Mites?
If you see the damage but not the pests, your Spider Mite may have moved on. In this case, prune away the damaged parts, and blast the plants with water, and your plants may recover on their own.
However, you must remove the entire plant if it’s seriously damaged to keep the spread at bay.
If you do find Spider Mites present, getting rid of them early on is easy. Just follow these four steps:
- Prune away damaged foliage and stems and dispose of them by burning them or placing them directly into black plastic bags. Also, always seal them shut and set them out in the hot sun to be picked up by your trash service.
- Spray your plants with a garden hose or any equipment with a strong stream of water to knock the spider mite off. Be sure to spray the tops and the undersides of the leaves.
- Spray thoroughly with insecticidal soap to eliminate heavy infestations, and follow up with neem oil spray. Again, coat your plants thoroughly to make contact with all potential pests. Other effective organic controls for spider mites include rosemary oil, clove oil, garlic extract, and cinnamon oil.
- Follow up with weekly applications of neem oil spray as a preventative.
Keep Spider Mites Under Control
You are most likely to see Spider Mites and their damage during hot, dry summer weather, but they also like the hot, dry air produced by indoor heating (e.g., forced air heaters or central heat).
Remember to keep your plants well watered during hot, dry weather indoors and outdoors. Indoors, keep humidity levels high using pebble trays and humidifiers.
It’s also important to mulch around outdoor plants to help retain moisture and keep your plants hydrated.
Moreover, encourage beneficial insects and natural enemies to take up residence in your yard and garden. Lady beetles, minute pirate bugs, predatory mites, and lacewings are among the natural predators that will partner with you to help keep spider mites at bay.
Also, avoid broad-spectrum insecticides or other chemical controls because these will kill off your beneficial bugs. Still, Spider Mites tend to adjust, adapt and come back stronger after a broad-spectrum insecticide has been used.
Finally, keeping the plants healthy is one of the most effective treatment methods to keep these spider mites at bay.
Can You Get Rid Of Spider Mites For Good?
Unfortunately, Spider Mites are all around us all of the time. Outdoors, Spider Mites may be blown into your yard by the wind. You may accidentally bring them in on a new plant or bush.
Indoors, new plants can also bring spider mite pests into your home. That’s why quarantining new outdoor and indoor plants is such a smart move.
During the new plants’ quarantine period, treat the plant for potential pests (including Spider Mite) and closely monitor it for signs of disease.
Spider Mites are not selective eaters. They will eat just about any plant that presents itself, so you could bring in Spider Mites on a completely unrelated healthy plant and have them quickly spread to your houseplants indoors, ornamental plants, or your flower garden, veggie garden, or lawn outdoors.
Watch Out For Spider Mites!
Spider Mites can be hard to detect early on because they are so very tiny. Early detection and other effective biological controls help you eliminate the problem quickly and easily and allow you to set up measures to prevent re-infestation.
That’s why it’s really important to be vigilant for any sign of spider mite damage. If you suspect infected plants, it’s best to isolate them first.
If you can address Spider Mites before they become entrenched and their numbers get out of hand, it’s a lot easier to get rid of them or at least control the spider mite populations.