Are you dealing with a spider mite infestation?
If yes, don’t worry; we’re here to help.
Pests are naturally attracted to plants for nutrients and survival. So it’s very common that you’ll need to control many plant pests during your plant’s life. The key to all pest problems is to catch them early. Don’t let them take over your home or plants. Do regular inspections every time your water your plants or welcome a new plant into your home or garden.
Spider mites are one pest that, when left unchecked, have the power to kill your plant!
Spider mites or red spider mites are TINY spiders that create delicate webs around your houseplants to make transport easier. They travel around the plant, sucking sap from the undersides of leaves and slowly killing the plant.
These bugs can be challenging to remove for good, but we’ll show you how.
What are spider mites?
Spider mites are typically from the Tetranychidae family, originating in North America. They attack indoor and outdoor plants and can be incredibly destructive in greenhouses. Spider mites are not actual insects but are a type of arachnid (between spider, tick and scorpion).
These mites live in colonies and travel from plant to plant, feeding on the underside of leaves. They use their needle-like mouthparts to pierce the leaf tissue and suck up the plant tissue. Their feeding marks appear as white or yellow speckles on the top side of leaves, and if left uncontrolled, they will continue to feed till the leaves turn yellow and drop off.
Spider mites thrive in warm, dry weather. They rest in plant soil during the cooler months feeding on decaying matter.
Their natural enemies include lacewings, tiny feeding ladybirds (Stethorus spp.), predatory gall-midges (Feltiella spp.) and a variety of predatory mites (including Phytoseiulus persimilis and Neoseiulus californicus).
Spider mites are pests to over 180 types of plants.
Fruit, vegetable, and ornamental crops are affected worldwide. Large populations are commonly found on strawberries, melons, beans, tomatoes, eggplant, soft leaf trees and most houseplants.
What do spider mites look like?
Adult spider mites are reddish-brown or a pale white colour. They’re oval-shaped and very, very small (around 0.2mm or 1/50 inch long) – about the size of a grain of sand.
Female spider mites are about 0.4mm long with an oval body that bears 12 pairs of hind hairs. The body appears with large dark spots, often visible through the transparent body wall. The spots are an accumulation of body waste; newly formed mites may lack the spots due to lack of feeding. The male spider mites are smaller than the females.
What is a spider mite’s lifecycle?
Spider mites’ development varies between the species, but the typical life cycle circles through the egg to larva, two nymphal stages (protonymph and deutonymph) into adulthood.
The eggs are attached to find silk webbing and hatch approximately three days after being laid. They are white, almost transparent, with a 0.1 to 0.15mm diameter.
Spider mites typically reproduce on the lower leaf surface. Eggs are laid singularly, with females depositing 5 to 6 eggs per day.
Once hatched, the first instar is called a larva. Larva are colourless and turn into a yellowish or pinkish colour over the following days after feeding. The larva has three pairs of legs.
After the larvae stage is two nymphal instars, the protonymph and deutonymph. These mites have four pairs on prolegs for feeding, webbing and moving. Depending on the weather, the larva and nymphal stages last from one to three days each.
Between each stage of the spider mite lifecycle, there is a non-feeding or resting stage called the nymphochrysalis or protochrysalis (between the larva and protonymph), the deutochrysalis (between the two nymph stages) and the teliochrysalis (between the deutonymph and adult stages). The egg to adult lifecycle is complete in 8 to 12 days at 30 degrees Celsius and about 17 days at 20 degrees.
Adults live about 30 days, depending on the weather.
Female spider mites can lay 60 to 100 eggs during their lifecycle.
Spider mite treatment
First, identify which plants have spider mites and immediately quarantine the infected plant to prevent spreading. You want to contain the problem immediately.
A simple spray down with a nozzle hose may be enough for small or newly formed spider mite colonies. Focus the force of the water on the underside of each leaf, ensuring your get all the leaf to stem notches, which will knock most of the spider mite off the plant.
A great spider mite remedy in intruding natural enemies into the environment. Natural enemies include lacewings, tiny feeding ladybirds (Stethorus spp.), predatory gall-midges (Feltiella spp.) and a variety of predatory mites (including Phytoseiulus persimilis and Neoseiulus californicus).
The most effective spider mite treatment is insecticidal oil, like neem oil, horticultural oil and dormant oil. These will suffice and illuminate all sprayed areas.
If the infestation is small, you may dab a cotton tip with neem oil and wipe it directly onto the mites for the same effect. Ensure you use a magnifying glass to spot any eggs and nymphs.
To prevent spider mites from coming back, check plants and spray with neem oil regularly to denture interested pests. In addition, cleaning leaves and stems with neem oil should be a part of your weekly plant care.
Spider mites on houseplants and garden plants are annoying and unsightly. They can kill most plants and can become annual problems. Acting fast with the proper treatment is the only way to control this pest effectively.
We’d love to know if you have any tips or tricks for dealing with spider mites. Please send us an email and comment below on handling your spider mite problems.