When I find spiders running around in the house, I ignore them because they eat all of the nasty insects that have snuck into the house. I do not ignore spider mites in the garden, though.
Besides being a nuisance, spider mites can seriously harm your garden and houseplants. They can also transmit disease. This pest can become a problem if you don’t take steps to prevent it. Are you wondering how to handle them? Here’s how.
What are Spider Mites?
Despite being related to spiders, spider mites are not actually spiders, but are named like that because they resemble the crawly crawlers with more than two legs.
It is detrimental to your gardening plants when these tiny mites emerge from the ground in the warm weather and start feeding on your plants.
The small mites do not harm you or your pets, but they are able to cause a lot of damage to plants, despite their small size. They use their mouths, which have needle-like appendages, to extract and consume the fluid in your plants.
Spider mites are known to attack a wide variety of plants, so chances are you’ve dealt with one or more at some point. Haven’t found spider mites on any of your babies? It’s bound to happen at some point.
It is especially common for indoor hydroponic systems to suffer from spider mite infestations.
The Spider Mite Lifecycle
During colder weather, spider mites rest, but once temperatures rise, they become active. In a climate where it’s hot all the time, the mites happily munch away at your plants 365 days of the year.
It’s unusual for other pests to prefer warm, dry climates, which makes spider mites a common houseplant problem. Indoor conditions tend to be a lot more arid than outdoors.
They lay their eggs as the weather warms up in spring. This unpleasant little creature reproduces rapidly, and a small population can quickly grow into a horde within a short amount of time.
Signs of Spider Mite Activity
You’ll have to look carefully to spot these bugs. They’re hard to see with the naked eye. Nevertheless, you can usually see them moving through the foliage.
In addition to looking for their distinctive webbing, you can also look for plant damage. Since spider mites are hard to spot, the best way to detect them is by looking at plant damage.
Webbing typically indicates a late-stage infestation, such as when you discover plant foliage with tiny holes and notice spider mites nearby. Plant foliage with small holes means a spider mite infestation on your hands.
A plant that appears to be infected needs to be treated quickly to avoid further damage.
Whenever your plants look sickly, it’s important to take a closer look. Don’t assume it’s the weather or nutrient issue.
It is important to inspect your plants near-daily for signs of insect activity. The sooner you spot a problem, the easier it will be to deal with it.
It is not uncommon for yellow spots to appear on leaves as the first sign of spider mite activity – although many people are sure they are caused by diseases or nutritional deficiencies.
Spider mites are not the only kind of plant mite that attacks plants. There are several others.
In addition to mites that attack specific plants, there are mites that attack specific trees and shrubs, such as spruce mite, fruit tree mite, and honey locust mite.
Why Are Spider Mites Bad For My Plants?
In addition to spreading disease, spider mites also cause both cosmetic and structural damage to previously healthy plants, resulting, over time, in the death of your plant.
If you have severe damage, it will greatly reduce the harvest in fruiting plants. Mites will continue to feed your plant, causing it to become stressed.
Leaf loss is common in plants with a severe spider mite infestation, which can result in sunburn.
How to Deal with a Spider Mite Infestation
Now that you have discovered a spider mite affliction, how should you handle it? Here are a few directions:
- It is possible to find sprays or insecticidal oils, such as neem oil, designed to control spider mites and other pests. They can be extremely effective in cases of heavy infestations. Ensure that you saturate all leaves in order to not miss any insects hiding underneath, and make sure you spray multiple times.
- To avoid undue stress on your plant, it’s important to feed and water your individual plant during this infestation period in addition to using commercial and homemade sprays. Make sure to feed and water as needed for your individual plant.
- While it’s impossible to physically pick mites off plants like you would a larger pest, such as cabbage worms, you can nonetheless spray your garden with a powerful nozzle in order to dislodge them. Using this strategy sparingly can lead to the introduction of diseases, however, since spraying and splashing leaves can leave an opening for fungi.
It’s possible to successfully get rid of spider mites from your house or garden plants. While spider mites can be a pain in the behind, they’re not impossible to eliminate.
How to Prevent Spider Mites
The best way to avoid disaster when dealing with pests or diseases is to take preventive measures. It’s always tougher to deal with an already established pest than it is to try and prevent it from setting up shop in the first place.
Here are a few steps you can take to prevent spider mites from establishing themselves in your garden:
Encourage the Presence of Predatory Insects
In order to attract predatory insects to your garden, release predatory insect eggs in your surroundings, or plant flowers and other plants that will attract these hungry alpha bugs. Predatory insects can also be bought or enticed to visit your garden.
You may need to reduce the mite population through insecticidal sprays to see a significant decrease in mites. Consider predatory insects as a helpful aid rather than as a solution.
The small mites will be eaten by insects like lace wings. Ladybugs and spider mite destroyers are also useful predators.
Scrutinize Store-Bought Plants
Unless you take extra precautions, you may bring home a houseplant with spider mites and only discover them later. Look carefully beneath the leaves and carefully inspect the rest of the plant for spider mites.
Water Plants Adequately
It’s obvious that overwatering is not a good idea. It can cause root rot and encourage other pests and diseases. However, since spider mites prefer dry conditions, keep plants adequately watered in order to prevent them from settling in.
It is always possible to bring a new plant into your house (or order one from an online retailer) and have to deal with a hidden pest. Keep the new plants far away from the existing ones so you’re sure the old ones won’t pose a threat.
Buy High-Quality Soil From Reputable Sources
It is possible for insects and diseases to hide out in the soil, and buying poor soil is a recipe for disaster. I learned this the hard way when I bought poor soil because it was less expensive. I’ll never do that again!
Nourish Your Plants
The healthy soil you use to grow your plants will enable them to bloom and prevent mite infestations. If your plants are suffering from nutritional deficiency, they will be susceptible to pests, including mites.
Spider Mites Don’t Have to Be a Death Sentence
Even though it’s not fun to deal with a pest infestation, there are worse things to deal with than spider mites. With some elbow grease, know-how, and some good old fashioned prevention, these tiny bugs don’t have to kill your plants.