Guide to Controlling Spider Mites
Spider mites are actually not insects but members of the arachnids’ family of spiders and ticks. They prefer to reside under the leaves of plants where they also eat and cause destruction by puncturing and injecting the plant cells. For protection, they also weave silk webs from stem-to-stem and leaf-to-leaf. Spider mites are relatively small, only about one millimeter long and varying in color. They usually occur in large numbers on the plants and continually multiply by laying hundreds of eggs. The most common spider mites are the red spider mites and the two-spotted spider mites.
Other spider mite species attacking ornamental plants include the tumid, pacific and spruce spider mites. Most prefer hot temperatures between 85 and 90 degrees F, which promote their egg laying and development cycle of only 7 – 8 days or less. The spider mite does not literally bite into a plant because it lacks chewing mouth-parts. What they do is use their piercing stylets near the mouth to pierce the leaf and then push their way into the torn tissue to drink of the cell sap. This results in draining nutrients of that leaf, killing it.
Spider mites can be one of a gardeners worse enemies and even more difficult when dealing with your indoor foliage and greenery. The spider mite can find its way indoors and affect the beauty within. In order to determine if you have a spider mite on house plants in your home, one of the signs are the silk webbing as mentioned previously. Being that the spider mite is so microscopic in size, you may not see it specifically but notice its presence.
Aside from webs on the plants, other noticeable signs may include a stripling pattern of dots under the leaves that are brownish in color. These spots are residual effects of the mites piercing and sucking out the juices on the leaf. Severe cases can leave bronze, gray, bleached, yellow-looking or dry leaves. However, if you note white or yellow specks on or under the leaves, that is a sign of mite eggs. The leaves may also begin to curl because of drying out from the mite damage. Without treatment, the leaves may droop, die and begin to fall off. If you notice any of these signs, you can place white paper under the plant and shake the leave to detect the presence of any live mites that may show up as specks on the paper. Just be quick should they run to look for cover.
To get rid of and control a spider mite problem, it is important to tackle them early and deal with them head on. There are several ways that you can help get rid of spider mites on leaves in and out of the home. The first thing you want to do if you suspect any type of parasite problem is to isolate the affected plant or plants, especially indoors. However, keep the infested plants close together which are better to treat the spider mites.
Spider mites do not favor humid conditions so rising and retaining moisture and humidity will drive spider mites away. However, you don’t want to just chase them away but eradicate them. Misting your plants or power-hosing them outdoors with cold water will get rid of the spider mites. They cannot survive without the plants so as they are chased off and kept off by spraying several times a day until they eventually die. Also, since they love the warm temperatures, keep plants out of later afternoon sun and dry, arid conditions.
To actually kill the spider mites, you can make your own solution of dish soap with water or purchase a store-bought solution such as Safer Brand Insect killing soap and use to mist over and under the leaves several times a day. You may also wipe the saturated leaves to remove the pest. Another remedy is to mix equal parts of water and rubbing alcohol that will kill these pests on contact. The alcohol is poisonous to the spider mites but because it is known to evaporate quickly, it will not harm your plants in the process of extermination. You can ensure more success by using a stronger solution but not straight alcohol.
When treating the plants, be sure to remove the leaves that are badly infected and destroyed, discarding them where the mites and their eggs cannot multiply or damage other plants. You may have to sacrifice some plants that are heavily infested in order to protect and save your other healthy greens. If all else fails and your efforts of natural at-home solutions are not working, you may have to consider one of the many miticides available on the market guaranteed to kill spider mites and their eggs. Most of these chemical treatments contain pyrethoids and the common miticides include Kelthane and Avid. The best treatment is to apply the miticide every five days until the problem is gone.
When treating indoor plants and vegetable gardens, it is best to opt for natural and organic solutions when controlling, killing and managing spider mites. You will have to be persistent in your efforts while dealing with spider mites and their eggs. Also treat around the soil of a plant that is infested with spider mites.