Spider mites are among the most damaging garden pests that are not insects. They are closely related to spiders and are the size of a pinhead. Even their infestations go undetected and continue to damage houseplants. That’s why beginner and expert gardeners find it challenging to manage spider mite infestations.
Here we’ll provide a complete guide on how to get rid of mites in natural and chemical ways without polluting the indoor and outdoor environment.
All About Spider Mites
Native to North America, Tetranychus urticae (spider mites) are the common pests of indoor and outdoor plants. They belong to the Tetranychidae family and have four pairs of legs, an oval body, and no antennae.
They are 1/50 in size and hard to spot with the naked eye until their feeding damage appears on plants as delicate webs and silver stippling on leaves.
Spider mites infest the host plants in large colonies and appear as tiny dots. They complete their life cycle within 7 to 10 days when temperatures are above 90 degrees Fahrenheit and abundant new growths on plants.
How to spot spider mite infestations on indoor houseplants?
These tick-like bugs are hard to spot on plants due to their smaller size. However, there are signs of spider mite infestations that make it easier for plant parents to diagnose and kill the bugs. The signs are the presence of fine webbing present on the underside of leaves. Also, the development of tiny pale yellow spots on top leaves confers the invasion of spider mites.
How to Get Rid of Spider Mites
Spider mites infest the plants during their active growing season (spring and summer), leading to severe plant wilting and growth stunting. Therefore, it is essential to identify spider mites early on and eradicate them before these bugs take over your entire houseplant collection.
So here is the list of the best methods to get rid of mites without polluting the interior spaces.
Introduce Beneficial Insects to Control Mites
Many insects like ladybugs, green lacewing, and predatory mites actively prey on many garden pests. So the introduction of these natural enemies to indoor gardens can effectively control the spider mites and their nymphal stages. Using beneficial insects such as spider mite control will also be harmless to humans, pets, and other animals.
Use Horticultural Oil and Insecticidal Soap
Another best and organic approach to control spider mites involves using horticultural oil and insecticidal soap.
- Horticultural oils are made of petroleum oils or vegetable oils that suffocate the insects, killing and deteriorating them. To prepare the spray, mix one teaspoon of cottonseed oil per litter of water and one tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and apply foliar spray once a week. Regular applications throughout the spring and summer will keep the mites away and your plants healthy.
- Insecticidal soaps are made of potassium salts of fatty acids that dissolve the spider mites instantly, thus killing them. They are also environment-friendly because of no residual activity.
Spray Neem Oil
Neem oil applications are also effective in killing all phases of the spider mite life cycle. It interrupts these tick-like bugs’ reproductive growth and prevents damage to plants. To prepare the neem oil solution, mix one teaspoon of neem oil per litter of water and liquid dish soap. Homogenize the solution and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray the infested plant with neem oil dilution every 3-5 days to prevent spider mites.
Use Chemical Control or Miticides to Kill Spider Mites
Apply long-lasting chemicals or miticides to kill spider mites and other bugs in gardens and landscapes. You can use pyrethroids and bifenthrin to control garden pests. Make sure to apply these dilutions in the morning when there is no sunlight and wind; otherwise, spider mites will disperse over large areas, infesting more plants. Also, do not spray your garden plants with these miticides when temperatures are around 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Prevent Spider Mites
Follow these guidelines to prevent spider mites infestations on your indoor houseplants and gardens.
Inspect Plants Regularly
- Examine your indoor and outdoor plants regularly for lousy garden bugs. Prune off the plant parts or leaves covered with delicate webs and sticky excretions of mites.
- Inspect the underside of leaves that are discolored and deformed closely with a hand lens for the presence of mites. It is advised to follow this practice for newly purchased houseplants.
- Shake the infested plant leaves gently to fall down the mites to the ground and prevent further damage.
- Quarantine the newly purchased plants outdoors for at least two weeks to check the infestation of mites. Also, check the plant every two days for any signs and symptoms of Tetranychus urticae.
Keep Plants Healthy to Avoid Infestations
Spider mites thrive in dry and water-stressed plants. Therefore, maintain a wise watering schedule during the summer to avoid mite populations.
- Water plants regularly for good root hydration. Check the soil’s moisture content before watering. Water only when the top 1 inch of the layer feels dry.
- Mulch the top layer of potting soil with gravel or a horticultural sheet to conserve moisture during warm summer days.
- Do not fertilize the plant during summer when there is a high drought risk because it will weaken the plants.
- Avoid overwatering plants because it will increase the chances of root rot diseases, contributing to more stress and mite infestations.
Maintain Good Sanitary Practices
- Keep the immediate places of your indoor and outdoor plants neat and clean. Remove the garden debris and discard them. Make sure not to add them to the compost bin, which would worsen the spider mite infestations due to contaminations.
- When watering your houseplant and vegetables, use a high-pressure water stream to dislodge spider mites from plants. After thorough rinsing, inspect the underside of leaves and make sure the webbing has washed away.
Use High-Quality Potting Soil Mix
Always use a well-draining and sterile potting soil mix for indoor and outdoor plants to avoid the potential infestations of mites.
Increase the Watering Applications
Spider mites complete their life cycle exponentially during warm and dry summer days. So by keeping the soil moisture and humidity levels around plants, their infestations can be avoided.
Spider Mite Feeding Damage
Spider mites have piercing-sucking mouthparts like aphids and whiteflies by which they suck out the host plant’s nutrients. They primarily feed off the plant sap and extract it from leaf tissue—their continuous feeding results in tiny white and yellow spots on the upperside of leaves.
The badly infested leaves begin curling downward with brown tips and a brittle appearance. As their number grows, spider mites stunt the growth of the entire host plant by interfering with photosynthetic activity (because of fine webbing).
For garden shrubs and flowering perennials, spider mite damage weakened them, and plants became unsightly with deformed leaves and no flowers.
Plants Susceptible to Spider Mite Damage
Spider mites have a broader host range, from flowering perennials to vegetables and trees. The popular host plants of these tick-like bugs are roses, impatiens, salvia, camellias, tomatoes, eggplants, azaleas, blueberries, strawberries, and arborvitaes.
FAQs on Spider Mites
What are three ways to get rid of mites?
The best and most effective way to get rid of mites is to maintain good sanitary conditions around indoor and garden plants. Second, spray the plants with insecticidal soap every four days during summer to discourage the egg laying and growth of mites. Third, introduce beneficial insects such as lady beetles to destroy spider mites’ adult and nymphal stages.
What are spider mites attracted to?
These tiny pests are attracted to water-stressed plants because warm and dry weather conditions favor their rapid growth. They lay eggs in the dry potting soil of your potted plants while their nymphs reside on the underside of leaves. If your plants remain dry or in a poor humid environment for a longer time, they will reproduce uncontrollably. Thus making it difficult for plant owners to get rid of mites.
What temperature kills the mite populations?
Warm and dry weather conditions favor the rapid growth of mites indoors and outdoors. The best and most effective way to kill mites is by increasing the humidity levels around your houseplants. Also, hot air treatment for around 6 to 7 hours at 56°C eradicates the mites. While treatment at 51°C for 3 hours every three-day interval is ideal for killing the eggs and nymphs of spider mites.
What oil gets rid of the spider mite?
Neem oil and horticultural oils applications are the best options for getting rid of spider mites. These oils dissolve the outer covering of mites within three hours of application.
Will rain get rid of spider mites?
Rain and high-pressure streams with a garden hose can easily wash off these tiny creatures and prevent plant damage.