Jul 2

If heat and drought weren’t enough to make you worry about your plants, never forget about those ruthlessly resilient, tiny and terrible, spider mites.

I hate spider mites. For the brief few weeks I’ve experienced their presence they’ve completely sucked the life out of my house plants, many of which I was already trying to nurse back to health. I’ve tried spraying them with water, soap, alcohol, until I finally settled on neem oil, which has seemed to do the trick, for now…

So, in the effort to save you from some of the headaches I’ve endured dealing with these aggravating arachnids here is a list of everything you need to know about spider mites, and hopefully how to get rid of them.

WHAT ARE SPIDER MITES?

First, I guess I’ll start by telling you what a spider mite is. Spider mites are members of the Acari or mite and tick subclass found within the larger Arachnida, or arachnid classification. They are tiny, less then 1 mm in size, and can commonly be found living on the underside of leaves. Some plants that are susceptible to mites are fruit trees, tomatoes, strawberries, roses, juniper, rosemary, and house plants. So, basically anything tasty, pretty, or fragrant…great.

The optimal temperature for a spider mite is 85-95 degrees fahrenheit, and they love dry heat, so they love our Texas summers. Under these conditions it can take as little as 5 days for a mite to reach maturity and live 2-4 weeks as an adult laying hundreds of eggs. This leads into the difficulty of getting rid of them, since not long after you’ve killed the adults more eggs begin to hatch.

Closeup of Spider Mite

 HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE SPIDER MITES?

Due to their size, it can be difficult to tell if you have a spider mite infestation until it’s too late. I was able to notice them because my plants are rather small, and I check on my plants every day. However, if you want to check your plants for mites you can take a piece of paper place it under the leaves and shake. If small reddish-brown speckles fall onto the paper you likely have mites. More dramatic evidence of mites include yellowing of leaves in a spotted pattern and webbing encasing leaves like that of a spider.

WHY ARE THEY SO DAMAGING?

Spider mites feed on plants by piercing the leaves and drinking the fluids inside, creating thousands of tiny holes. This vastly diminishes the plants’ ability to retain water and the attacked leaves slowly start to wither and die. Combined with the stress of summer, spider mites can kill a plant in the blink of an eye.

Spider Mite Damage

HOW DO YOU GET RID OF THEM?

There are several points of attack you can take towards getting rid of spider mites. One unfortunate solution is to immediately dispose of the infected plant to prevent them spreading. It may seem a little hasty, but if you have seen these pests before you know you can never be too safe.

If you catch them early enough and want to give it a go there are several pesticides recommend by the “austingov” website that will have minimal environmental impact if used. Rather than list them all I’ve attached the list here: spider mite pesticides

Like I mentioned earlier, I tried the  “spraying with a stream of water” solution to no avail, and my homemade insecticidal soap didn’t fair much better. Finally, I tried borrowing my mom’s neem oil and it seemed to do the trick. Neem oil is a vegetable oil collected from the neem tree, which is endemic to India. It’s an organic form of pesticide that can help control many different kinds of pests, as well as fungi and mildew. You should be able to find it in your typical home and garden store, but if you can’t I’m sure amazon would be your next best bet.

Whatever you land on, I wish you the best of luck, and don’t let those mites grind you down!

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