Spider mites are damaging plant pests that can slowly damage both indoor and outdoor plants in your home.
Spider mites are tiny. And when their numbers are low, they can be hard to spot.
They’re detectable when the spider mites population increase. But by then, it’s too late.
Your plants take a big blow because of spider mites infestation, And the plant also loses their vitality.
You must know the early signs of spider mites to avert this problem.
This guide will reveal those signs and the easy steps to protect your plants from these pests.
What Are Spider Mites
Spider mites are arachnids. It means they belong to the family of spiders and ticks.
However, spider mites are not predators. They’re plant bugs or garden pests.
Spider mites are active during the summer. The ideal temperature for spider mites to spread is between 55 °F and 98 °F.
They’re tiny, to the extent of being microscopic. And it’s pretty hard to spot spider mites with a naked eye when their numbers are low.
You’ll need a magnifying glass to see a single spider mite.
An adult spider mite grows up to 1/50th of an inch (0.05 mm). They can be red, orange, brown, yellow, green, and white.
The color variation in spider mites is because of the carotenoids or phytochemicals. These are naturally occurring pigments in plants and bugs.
The white spider mites look like specks of dust on plants.
Spider mites are oval-shaped, have eight legs, two sports near the head, and have strong mouthparts.
Two common types of spider mites damage the host plants. These are the two-spotted spider mites and the bank grass spider mites.
The two-spotted spider mites are widespread in the urban environment. And they’re the ones that spread most rapidly.
How Do Spider Mites Spread?
Spider mites are tiny and light. So, the wind can easily carry them to your yard and garden.
Another way spider mites spread is when you introduce plants with spider mites in your home and garden.
They quickly spread to other plants. Spider mites have a wide appetite and can damage most types of plants.
Spider mites are active in hot and dry conditions. That’s why most of these pests are active during the summer months.
How Spider Mites Damage Plants
Spider mites’ mouths have a pair of fangs known as chelicerae. These fangs are sharp, needle-like.
Spider mites insert these fangs into the undersides of leaves. That insertion causes a puncture on the leaves’ veins.
Sap flows out of these insertions, and the spider mites suck the sap out.
Spider mite damages on plants start to appear. And these damages aren’t evident when the spider mite population.
It’s the best time to look out for the early sign of spider mites when the infestation hasn’t spread over your garden or greenhouse.
Early Signs Of Spider Mites On Plants
Signs of spider mites can be slow to appear. But the damages become apparent as you go further into the summer months.
But if you catch the following early signs of spider mites, you can save many plants in your home and garden.
Tiny Moving Dots On Plants
Tiny moving dots on plants’ leaves, which can look like specks of dust, are spider mites. That’s the earliest sign of spider mites.
Take a magnifying glass to confirm if these moving dots are spider mites. You’ll certainly notice a small spider-like bug crawling on the plants.
If there are no other signs of spider mites in plants, then you’re smart and lucky enough to spot them early.
It means that the infestation hasn’t started yet. Spider mites have just discovered the plants on your property.
But things quickly change. As the summer progress and the temperature rises, spider mites breed fast.
Their numbers shoot up. So do the other signs of spider mites infestation.
Webbings On The Stems And Leaves
Like spiders, spider mites spin webs on plants. But these webs don’t have any pattern. They look haphazard.
The most common locations where the spider mites spin webs on the plants are between the leaves’ edges, the leaves underside, and the stems.
Spider mites create these webs for traveling from one leaf to another or from one plant to another.
These webs are also a means of protecting themselves, their eggs, and their larvae.
Before any other sign of spider mites shows up, you’ll notice the leaves start to curl. It is quite common with the newly sprouted leaves with spider mites on them.
Spider mites target the fresh leaves because those leaves are tender and easy to penetrate.
As spider mites attack the leaves from underneath, the leaves curl downwards.
White And Yellow Spots On The Leaves
When the spider mites suck out the sap off the leaves, the leaves start to lose their vitality.
Yellow spots appear on the leaves undersides. And soon, the leaves grow pale.
These spots appear on the new leaves at the start because the spider mites target those leaves first.
If you miss noticing these yellow and white spots and don’t act, spider mites spread onto the rest of the plants and trees.
And the damaged leaves wither off.
Tiny Spider Mites Eggs On The Leaves’ Undersides
Spider mites hide on the leaves’ undersides. It’s their way of avoiding direct sunlight and protecting themselves from predators.
Also, the undersides of the leaves are tender and softer than the upper side of the leaves.
That makes it easier for them to feed.
But spider mites also breed on the leaves, and the females lay eggs on the undersides of the leaves.
You’ll notice tiny white spider mite eggs when you flip over the leaves. These eggs stick underneath the leaves.
The eggs hatch in 20 days. You’ll also notice white larvae crawling on the leaves’ undersides.
Signs Of Heavy Spider Mite Damage On Plants And Trees
The infestation gets severe if you don’t nip the spider mite problem at its bud. Failing to act causes the spider mites to spread to other plants.
And as they can infest most plants, spider mites can take over your entire garden.
Spider mites are also a common pest of houseplants and greenhouse plants.
So, what are the signs of a heavy spider mite infestation? There are six –
- Clusters of spider mites on plants and trees. Those clusters appear yellow, reddish, or white, depending on the color of the spider mites.
- Excessive withering off the leaves.
- Reduction of the plants’ ability to do photosynthesis
- The leaves’ surface feels rough and dusty on touching.
- The plants stop growing. As the spider mites suck out the sap, they hamper the plants’ growth.
- Death of small ornamental plants and seedlings
How To Control Spider Mites?
The best time to control spider mites is to act when you notice the early signs of spider mites.
That’s when they’re easy to eliminate without chucking out the infested plants.
You can get rid of spider mites naturally without using pesticides or insecticides. However, their need may arise if things have gotten worse.
Here’s how to eliminate spider mites from your plants in your home, yard, garden, and greenhouse.
Quarantine Infected Plants
The first step is to isolate the plants that have spider mites.
Using the removal techniques on the infected plants can make the spider mites move to the nearby healthy plants.
Ensure that you don’t bring the infected plants inside your home.
If there are spider mites on plants that are not on pots or you can’t quarantine, then it’ll be best to put a barrier around the infected plants.
That’ll stop the spider mites from jumping over to other plants.
Spray Soapy Water Using A Strong Water Hose
Soapy water is one of the best things you can use to eliminate many plant bugs.
And it works on spider mites too.
But while spraying, ensure that you’re using a strong spray that can give a strong squirt on the plants.
A strong dart of soapy water spray will kill the adult spider mites on the plants. It’ll also remove the spider mites’ larvae and their eggs.
If there are spider mites on little tender plants and seedlings, you’ll have to choose a different approach.
A strong water spray can damage those tender plants.
In that case, spray a mixture of white vinegar on the spider mites infesting those small plants.
The acidic nature of white vinegar neutralizes the adult spider mites, their eggs, and larvae.
However, don’t make a strong white vinegar and water solution. Keep the ratio as one part of white vinegar with three parts of water.
Using white vinegar spray on houseplants is enough to eliminate spider mites on house plants.
Implement Biological Control By Introducing Natural Predators
Natural and biological control measures to eliminate spider mites and other plant pests work well, especially when the infestation is early.
And you do it by inviting or introducing bugs that eat spider mites.
Some of those beneficial insects that eliminate spider mites from a natural habitat are –
- Western predatory mite
- Lady bugs
- Lacewing larvae
These insects are also helpful in removing many types of garden pests like aphids, mealybugs, and insect larvae.
You can attract these spider mites eating bugs by keeping your outdoors clean and ensuring there is no dust problem in your yard or garden.
Dusty conditions spur the spread of spider mites. And dusty condition also causes allergy-causing mites like dust mites.
Another requirement to attract spider mite-eating bugs is to avoid using insecticides.
Insecticides can kill the spider mites but also the beneficial bugs.
Also, many predatory mites that feed on spider mites will perish by themselves when there are no spider mites left for them to eat.
That’ll make you have one less thing to worry about.
Use Chemical Control
You should use chemical control measures when the spider mite population has increased. Or when the spider infestation becomes severe.
You can use miticide sprays or insecticidal soaps to kill the mites on plants.
There are also plant-based horticultural oils available that you can use to eliminate spider mites.
These miticides contain neem oil, canola, rosemary oil, cinnamon oil, and mint oils.
However, there’s a catch. Some of these chemicals can be harmful to plants.
So, it’ll be best to test these chemicals on foliage with spider mites. Also, ensure your safety by reading the safety instructions on these pesticides and following them.
The best time to use chemical control is during the early morning or the sunset.
The temperature is cooler during these periods, and the spider mites aren’t active.
Maintain Cleanliness In Your Yard And Garden
Spider mites can live and breed in organic wastes. So, you must maintain cleanliness in your yard.
Get rid of any foliage, rotting pieces of wood, and trash from your yard.
Keep the dampness levels of your soil beds under control by refraining from excessive water and fixing any water logging problems.
There are five early signs of spider mites in plants. These are –
- Tiny dots moving on plants (these dots are live spider mites)
- Cobwebs or webbings on plants
- Curled leaves
- Yellow and white spots on the leaves
- Tiny white spider mites egg on the leaves’ underside
Ignoring these starting signs of spider mites leads to heavy infestation. This guide also revealed the signs of severe spider mites infestation.
Plus, this post has methods of spider mite control that you can use to eliminate spider mites in your plants.
Dr. Thomas Orbert, the Microbial Maestro, dances with the tiniest of creatures as an entomologist extraordinaire! With a PhD in entomology, his passion lies in unraveling the secret symphonies of insect-microbe interactions. From minuscule marvels to captivating complexities, Dr. Orbert unveils the hidden world of bugs, igniting curiosity one buzz at a time!