Spider mites are common garden pests that thrive in hot and dry conditions, although they are active during spring time their populations become nervous from June through September. These insect pests are also known as ” cool season mites”. These mites belong to the Tertanychidae family which includes 1,200 species, these arachids are not true spiders.
I have treated these garden insect pests both on outdoor as well as indoor plants, in this guide we will be taking a closer look at this insect and how to bring control so your plants can maintain their health and their beauty.
Spider Mite Identification
Spider mites are so tiny they are barely visible to the naked eye, these insects are so tiny you will need the help of a 10x hands lens, the adult female is the largest form and is less than 1/20 inch long. Spider mites live in colonies mostly on the undersides of plant leaves. A single colony may contain hundreds of individuals,
The Biology of Spider Mites
The female lays her eggs on the undersides of the plant leaves in groups of 10 0r 20, the eggs are protected or incase in white spider webs, the female spider mite may also lay or deposit her eggs in fallen leaves, weeds, or debris to overwinter or staying dormant until early spring. But the typical life cycle of the spider mite is as follows. The egg, the larva, and the two nymphal stages.
The length of time from egg to adult varies greatly depending on the temperature, under the right conditions (80ºF) these mites complete their development in about 5 to 25 days. The adult female lives about 2 to 4 weeks and can lay several hundreds of eggs during her short life span.
Spider Mite Damage or Symptoms
To know if spider mites are the culprit of your garden plant decline look for these signs
- Leaves take on a grey-dusty appearance, the leaves may sometimes appear a pale yellow
- The leaves have tiny holes known as stipplings where the mites are feeding, this feeding removes chlorophyll
- Webbing can be seen on and in between the leaves, in extreme cases, the entire plant may be covered with webs
- The leaves of certain types of plant species that are affected by spider mites take on a bronze or brownish cast, bronzing may come after or before stipplings
- Another test to know if spider mites are present is to take a sheet of white paper and place it under the infected leaf/leaves. Now tap or shake the leaves if you see tiny dots moving about on the sheet of paper, you may even feel them crawling on your face and arms. If this is your experience then you most likely have a spider mite issue.
How to Manage Spider Mites
Cultural control or best management practices are great preventive measures to safeguard against spider mites or at least keep the population low so as not to affect garden plants. Because plant stress can encourage spider mites ensure before installing plants to get as much information, for example, the right planting location, the right soil type, and ensuring that garden plants are getting the right amount of water and nutrients. In general, striving to grow and maintain healthy plants is a great defense for the control of spider mites. Also keep your plants clean, washing plants off with a stream of water from your garden hose (the removal of dirt) is another action to discourage spider mites.
Biological control is a safe approach to controlling the population of spider mites, this method involves the use of beneficial insects that are natural predators of spider mites. Examples of spider mites are ladybugs, lacewing larvae, the spider mite destroyer, big-eyed bugs, Western flower thrips, minute pirate bugs, etc…. beneficial insects can be purchased and released in your garden or introducing them naturally by installing the right plants to attract these insects.
- How To Release Beneficial Insects In Your Fall Garden
- How To Attract Beneficial Insects To Your Fall Garden
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- Releasing And Keeping Beneficial Insects In Your Garden
- How To Control Fall Garden Insects
1. There are many homemade remedies that can bring spider mite control, one method is the use of soap water sprayed directly onto these mites. Total coverage will cause spider mites to suffocate by sticking to their bodies. Combine a quart of warm water with one teaspoon of dish liquid, shake this mixture thoroughly, and add to a spray bottle. When spraying ensure that this mixture dispenses fine and misty getting total coverage of both the top and undersides of the leaves.
2. Mix 1 part rubbing alcohol to 4 parts water in a bowl, dip a piece of clean cloth in this solution, and begin to clean the leaves in a rubbing manner.
3. Rosemary oil works great as a natural repellent for spider mites.
Chemical treatments should be the last resort and should only be introduced when the spider mite populations are in great numbers, some chemicals that can be used for spider mite control are insecticidal, soap, horticultural oil, neem oil, etc… before using insecticides read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for the best result. Once the area is treated keep kids and pets out of these areas.
The final word on how to control spider mites
Controlling spider mites or reducing their population is possible, all it takes is some knowledge and you have come to the right place, this guide will give the insight that’s needed to eliminate these garden insect pests.
About the author
Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.