Spider Mites: How to Rid Your Plants of Them

Spider mites are pests that cause a lot of damage to plants by sucking the undersides of leaves.

The pest is described as a tiny greenish-yellow  creature with a dark spot on each side.  It has eight legs and is wingless.

They like it hot and dry indoors where they attack foliage.

In autumn, this pest turns a deep red color and becomes what is known as the "red spider mite."

They multiply very rapidly during the hot summer months and can lay as many as 100 to 200 eggs on the undersides of leaves.

These pests can come into your home as early as December on Christmas trees and other greenery. The adult females survive the winter and lay their eggs on the leaves and stems in the spring.

After the eggs hatch, the babies and the adults both feed on the plant tissue by sucking sap from individuals cell of the leaves.

They cause damage by piercing the leaves with their needle-like mouth parts. The leaves become mottled and yellow and gradually dry out; causing leaf drop and plant death if left untreated.

If you have discolored leaves, or your leaves keeps falling, place a sheet of white paper under leaves and tap them to see if you have any tiny moving critters.

How to Control These Pests

spider mites

1. They thrive in a warm dry environment, so the first line of defense is to raise the humidity levels. Increased humidity discourages mite reproduction. Spray plants with a forceful stream of water to remove and kill the mites. Destroying their webs will delay their egg-laying activity.

2. Insecticidal soaps and oils are great for controlling mites and their eggs, but they must come in contact with the mites. You must spray the undersides of the leaves where they gather. Always make sure your plant is well watered the day before you apply treatment--never apply to wilted plants.

3. Spray plant with a solution of neem oil. The oil has systemic benefits and doesn't need direct contact with the bugs. It works as a pest repellent and a fungicide to control powdery mildew. It also affects their life cycle by stopping reproduction. It is non toxic and can be used on vegetables as well as ornamentals.

4. Spider mites from infested plants can get on your hand, clothes, watering can, and tools and be accidentally spread to other plants.
Remember to wash hands and tools when you finish.

Caution: When treating any houseplant pests with insecticides, read the label carefully and use outdoors when possible. Keep all pesticides out of reach of small children and pets.