Spider mites are frequent pests in any garden, especially when the weather is hot and dry. Though they usually aren’t as big of an issue for indoor gardens, they can still infest your favorite plants, especially during the winter. These pests are tiny and like to hide, so they aren’t often noticed until they’ve already begun to damage the plant they’re feeding on. Luckily, getting rid of spider mites isn’t impossible, thanks to the many methods to eliminate them.
How To Identify Spider Mites And Damage
Spider mites are minuscule, eight-legged creatures that are part of the arachnid family. They are 1/60 to 1/25 inch in size, which is about the same as a single grain of pepper. There are over 1200 species that come in several colors, including brown, green, yellow, or red. A few are translucent, while others change color throughout the year.
Their tiny size makes spider mites tough to spot with the naked eye, and they like to congregate out of sight beneath the leaves. That’s why an infestation isn’t apparent until the plant itself suffers. Spider mites suck the juice out of the leaves, leaving yellow spots on the surface. The more they feed, the larger the spots become. This is usually the first sign that you have an infestation.
To be sure you have a spider mite infestation, you can take a magnifying glass and peek beneath the plant leaves. Holding a piece of white paper beneath a leaf and tapping it may also knock them loose. You’ll then see them moving on the paper, alerting you to their presence.
How To Get Rid Of Them
There are several methods for getting rid of spider mites to save your favorite indoor plants. These can also be used for outdoor gardens if these pests have made these areas their homes.
Water is one of the safest and easiest methods for removing spider mites from your plant. Outdoor plants can be sprayed with a garden hose to wash them away, but this is too messy for indoor plants. Instead, place the pot in a sink or bathtub. Then use your faucet sprayer to blast the leaves and wash away the pests.
This is usually effective for small infestations that are caught early. That’s why it’s a good idea to spot-check your plants, including the underside of leaves, a few times a week. The sooner you catch the issue the easier it is to deal with.
Rubbing alcohol is another effective method, dehydrating and killing spider mites. For the best results, combine a cup of rubbing alcohol with four cups of water. Put the mixture in a spray bottle and then apply it to a single leaf to check the plant’s sensitivity to your homemade solution. If the plant can handle it, spray the rest of it to get rid of the pests.
Insecticidal Soaps or Oils
Insecticidal soaps and oils are designed to kill the pests that could make their home on your plants. These products are quite effective, though they may need frequent applications to eliminate all the spider mites. The soaps and oils also leave a light residue behind, preventing new spider mites from infesting the plant that the products have been applied on.
Don’t overuse the soaps and oils, though, since too much of them could burn the leaves. After applying the insecticidal product, let it sit for about 15 minutes, then rinse it away. Additional water sprays may also be necessary to remove any heavy residue that could damage your plant.
Neem oil is a substance found in neem tree seeds and is a naturally-occurring pesticide. For hundreds of years, neem oil has been used to eliminate pests and diseases from crops and other plants. The active component that gives the oil its pest-killing properties is Azadirachtin, which repels and kills insects, including spider mites.
To apply neem oil to your indoor plants, spray it onto the entire infested plant, including the undersides of the leaves. Reapply the oil each week until you’re sure all of the spider mites are gone
Horticultural oils can safely be used on most areas of the plant. Buds and blooms aren’t so resilient, though, so if you use these oils to eliminate spider mites, avoid these areas to prevent severely damaging them.
Horticultural oils are sold in a concentrated state, so they need to be diluted before using them on indoor plants. Check the instructions carefully when mixing them since not all oils require the same ratio. When the solution is ready, spray it over the top and bottom of each leaf and all branches and stems.
Getting Rid Of Spider Mites
Spider mites are nasty little critters that can do a great deal of damage to a plant before you even know an infestation has occurred. Though these pests are hard to spot, they aren’t difficult to get rid of as long as you use the proper method. Any of the products we’ve discussed are excellent for getting rid of spider mites. You can use one or try them all to see which works best for you.
How Does a Spider Mite Infestation Begin?
Spider mites can come from a few sources, depending on where you get your plants and how you care for them. Sometimes purchased plants can already have an infestation when you bring them home. Unsterile soil can also contain spider mites.
Placing your plants outside during the summer or transferring outdoor plants to an indoor pot can bring these pests into your home. Their minuscule size makes it possible for these pests to squeeze through open windows or doors, even with screens in place.
How Can You Prevent Spider Mites?
Spider mites prefer dry conditions, so raising the humidity levels of your home can prevent an infestation from occurring. You can do this using a humidifier, a pebble tray, or misting the plant. When bringing plants home or moving them inside, debug them immediately to eliminate any existing pests.
How Long do Spider Mites Live?
The life cycle of a spider mite is only 2 to 4 weeks. During that time, a female can lay up to 20 eggs, each of which can hatch and grow into a breeding adult within 5 days. This quick cycle combined with their tiny size makes it easy for them to infest a plant before you’re aware they are even an issue.