The following article tackles a gardener’s enemy – spider mites. Keep reading to learn more about these pests and how to get rid of them in an environmentally-friendly way.
Whether you are a novice gardener or an experienced one, it is a given thing that predatory insects and pests are your primary enemy. More often than not, these plant attackers are extremely difficult to detect, usually being of minuscule sizes that the naked eye can barely perceive. For this reason, getting rid of them and making sure they do not reappear is a great challenge.
These pests are not easy to identify, and getting rid of them is a somewhat complex process. However, don’t worry! It isn’t an impossible task, and with the right tools and accurate information at your disposal, you will be able to eliminate them from your plants!
So, if you find yourself in this situation and you suspect any plant from your collection has spider mites, keep reading to discover what to do in this case.
What Are Spider Mites?
As mentioned earlier, these garden pests are among the ones that can be incredibly difficult to detect, given their small size. As a reference point, spider mites are tinier than the head of a pin or the exact size of a grain of sugar. So, it isn’t surprising that you can barely see them. Because of this, there is a possibility these miniature predatory pests had been living on your plants for a while before you notice them.
Given the fact that they have eight legs, spider mites are considered bugs similar to ticks but are classified as arachnids, so they are related to spiders rather than insects. There isn’t just one type of spider mite, and they come in many different colours, from red and yellow to green and brown. However, if you think about the most common species, these must be the red-coloured spider mites and the two-spotted ones.
They emerge during spring when the temperatures start rising, and the weather warms up. This is the proper time for them to feast on plants, weakening them. If spider mites manage to attack a plant for a while, they can, over time, weaken it so much that it makes it more prone to diseases and other issues – this is similar to how the immune system is affected in humans when they get sick.
As they are arachnids, spider mites can also reproduce in a rapid manner. More specifically, the female spider mite can lay as much as hundreds of eggs. Given that so many of them are able to take control of a plant and can attack large portions of it at the same time, there is no denying that they have the power of infesting it quite rapidly. With such a significant increase in population, a plant will easily get severely harmed in a matter of weeks or even days.
Eco-Friendly Ways to Get Rid of Spider Mites
Nowadays, sustainability is no longer an optional matter but rather a necessary one, and quite urgent, to diminish the negative impact humans can have on the environment. For this reason, even when it comes to gardening and techniques to get rid of pests and predatory insects, you should look at eco-friendly alternatives. Usually, pesticides and insecticides contain toxic chemicals that can harm the environment. While the use of pesticides effectively kills unwanted insects that can harm a plant and make it susceptible to diseases, these products can also be toxic to other organisms that aren’t causing any damage to plants.
For example, beneficial insects and other plants that haven’t been infested can also fall victim to pesticides. This applies to birds or fish as well. Therefore, if possible, you should try to avoid using a pesticide to get rid of spider mites. Instead, you can apply other alternatives highly unlikely to damage the environment or be dangerous to the person who applies them.
This being said, here are five eco-friendly methods to get rid of spider mites effectively with little to no negative impact on the environment:
1. With Natural Predators (Biological Control)
Luckily, spider mites have their own enemies. This is good news for gardeners who have infested plants within their gardens or houseplant collection, as this method of getting rid of spider mites is effective for plants grown both indoors and outdoors.
Known as biological control, the method of using natural predators like ladybugs, lacewings, or Chrysopa spp., or predatory mites called Phytoseiulus persimilis, can be used if your plant is developing spider mite infestations. Because these pests have the ability to reproduce fast and lay a large number of eggs, natural predators can help you control the populations of spider mites. And don’t worry about them affecting your plants or even yourself. They are harmless to the organisms that won’t do any damage to plants. In the case of the insects mentioned above, spider mites are their only target.
2. With Essential Oils or Neem Oil
According to a study from 2017, essential oils have proven to be efficient in killing spider mites. More specifically, oils such as chamomile, spearmint, or rosemary can eliminate the two-spotted spider mite species. And this applies to both adult mites and their eggs.
Not only is this method eco-friendly, but you can also easily prepare it yourself at home. The only thing you need is a spray bottle, water, and to purchase any type of essential oil that has been found to be effective at killing these pests. Fill the bottle with water and add a few drops of essential oil to it. Once you do this, simply spray the combination on the infested plant’s leaves.
When it comes to oil that can eliminate spider mites, it is of the utmost importance to mention Neem oil as well. This is an all-natural product made from the neem tree, so there are no toxic chemicals involved or dangerous ingredients that may harm the environment when used on affected plants.
The active compound found in neem oil, azadirachtin, interacts with hazardous insects or mites, destroying them and eliminating the danger of harming the plant. The only warning regarding neem oil is that it can be lethal to fish and water creatures in general. Taking this into account, you should always make sure to use neem oil far away from water and sea life. This means making sure that its content will not reach lakes, streams, or other types of water.
3. With A Pepper Repellent
It may sound unusual, but it has been found that peppers’ components can be toxic when used against spider mites. So, when it comes to the type of varieties that have repellent attributes, bell peppers, jalapenos, cayenne peppers, lemon drop, or Bishop’s crown peppers can be effectively used in killing these minuscule yet damaging pests. Extracts from these peppers can eliminate around 45% of mature spider mites. While this doesn’t kill an entire population, it is still an eco-friendly and effective method.
You can choose to prepare pepper repellent at home by looking at recipes or researching high-quality pepper repellent products online. But if you are already growing any of the peppers mentioned above, you may want to make your own. By doing this, you manage to save money you would otherwise spend on products.
4. Using Natural Home Remedies
The environmentally-friendly methods of getting rid of spider mites do not stop here. Plus, you will be happy to hear these can also be made at home. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about purchasing expensive alternatives to eliminate these frustrating pests from your plants.
One natural homemade remedy that has been used and recommended against spider mites has to do with an essential product in your home: dish soap. Indeed, you have read that right. If you wish to use this option, you need to mix about three tablespoons of your chosen dish soap with one gallon (approximately 5 litres) of water. Then, you can spray the mixture on the plant’s leaves that have been infested as often as necessary, depending on the severity of the infestation. Usually, this should be done every week.
There is another effective method that can also be quickly done with basic and essential products, such as rubbing alcohol and cotton balls. A noteworthy mention would be to take into consideration the level of infestation, the size of the plant, and whether you are able to do this yourself. This mention is necessary because you will need to soak the cotton pads or balls in rubbing alcohol and then use these to wipe across the infested plant’s leaves. Afterwards, it is necessary you rinse the plant with water. Because this is a time-consuming method, it is better to use it for houseplants that aren’t too large and if the infestation isn’t too severe.
5. Spraying The Infested Plants with Water
Last but not least, there is another method of getting rid of spider mites, although this is more of a temporary one. You can spray the plants with water. For your houseplants, you can do this with a spraying bottle or by moving the potted plants in a bathtub or sink, but you must use a garden hose when it comes to your outdoor plant collection.
The water is able to get rid of spider mites, washing them away. Since there is no repellent involved, there is a high possibility that these pests might emerge again and reattach to the plant. This method is recommended after you have used a homemade eco-friendly repellent to ensure that any spider mites remains are eliminated from the plant.
Types of Plants That Are Often Affected by Spider Mites
Even if you haven’t experienced a spider mite infestation when it comes to your houseplants or outdoor garden, it is best to be prepared in case this ever happens. Apart from knowing how to get rid of these tiny and resistant pests, it is of the utmost importance to get an idea of the types of plants that are likely to be attacked and affected by spider mites.
Usually, various kinds of vegetables are the most probable target for these pests. So, if you are growing your own produce, such as beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, or carrots, you should be careful with these spider mites and always check the plant’s leaves for any unhealthy signs. Some of these signs include leaf discolouration and thin webbings that appear as dust on the plant.
Apart from these, tree fruits or ornamental flowering plants like the Tropical or Chinese hibiscus, Hardy Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, Strelitzia, Jasmine plants, Primulas, the English ivy, or gardenias are predisposed to a spider mite invasion. These plants can be seen in a number of outdoor gardens or houseplant collections. So, if you found any of these plants to be in your own carefully grown garden, have a check for any unusual signs. Even if they appear healthy, it is best to always keep the danger of spider mites in mind so that you can act fast and eliminate these pests from your beautiful plants and flowers.
How To Prevent a Future Spider Mite Infestation?
Prevention is better than cure. While it is incredibly vital to know all the ways in which you can get rid of spider mites, it is just as important to know what to do to prevent this from happening. Plus, there is no need for additional or complex actions. All you need to do is learn a few preventive tips and apply them to the regular maintenance process.
Spider mites thrive in high temperatures, so if you are growing plants in a hot and dusty environment, it is of the utmost importance to water your plants for cooling and cleaning purposes too. What’s more, you should hose underneath the leaves, as that is where spider mites usually nest.
Another preventive measure is not to use any nitrogen fertilization. And if you do, you should be careful not to use it in excess, as this action can benefit spider mite growth. Lastly, you should always encourage using predatory mites, as these can maintain the plant’s health given their target is to eliminate harmful mites. In addition, there is also the advantage of not having to use any toxic products which contain various harmful chemicals to both the environment and even to humans.
Whether you are dealing with an infestation problem with spider mites, or you simply wish to know more about these pests in order to make sure you are prepared in case your plants fall victim to them, learning about dangerous pests and how to get rid of them is crucial.
Not only is it helpful to learn the signs and know what type of plants are more likely to be attacked by spider mites, but it is also recommended you learn all the eco-friendly ways of getting rid of them. By doing this, the negative impact on the environment is significantly reduced, as you decide to replace toxic pesticides with natural and greener homemade alternatives.
Have your plants ever been attacked by spider mites? Let us know how you got rid of them in the comment section!