Red Spider Mites are tiny pests that may be small but can cause big problems for your household plants. If you’ve noticed yellowing or stippling on your leaves, or fine webbing on your plant’s stems and foliage, you may have a red spider mite infestation.
Red spider mites are incredibly common and can infest many indoor and outdoor plants. These are especially fond of warm, dry conditions, which makes them a common problem in homes and greenhouses.
In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at red spider mites, including what they are, and how to identify and deal with them. Every gardener needs this basic information to properly take care of these plants.
Identification and Behavior of Red Spider Mites
To effectively deal with red spider mites, you need to know what you’re dealing with.
Red spider mites, Tetranychus urticae, (also called the two-spotted spider mite), are incredibly small arachnids, typically measuring only about 0.4mm in length. They are red or reddish-brown in color and have four pairs of legs. They are so tiny that they can be difficult to spot with the naked eye, and you need a magnifying glass to see this garden pest. But, if gathered in large numbers, you can often see them moving around on the undersides of leaves or on the stems of your plants, feeding on indoor plants with their mouthparts.
- Fine, dusty webbing on the stems and leaves of infested plants. This webbing can be a dead giveaway that you have a red spider mite infestation.
- Yellow or brown discoloration on the leaves of plants is caused by the mites feeding on the plant’s sap.
- Reduced growth and vigor in infested plants.
- Presence of small red or brown spider-like mites on the undersides of leaves.
- A stippling or speckling of the leaves, as a result of the mites feeding, can give the leaves a bronzed or silver appearance.
Causes and Conditions for Red Spider Mite Infestation
So, what causes red spider mites to infest your household plants? And what conditions make your plants more susceptible to an infestation?
- The environment is one of the biggest factors that can lead to a red spider mite infestation. These pests thrive in warm, dry conditions, which makes them a common problem in homes and greenhouses. They can also be brought into your home on infested plants or through open doors and windows.
- Another factor that can contribute to a red spider mite infestation is poor cultural practices. For example, if you’re not watering your plants properly, the leaves may dry out and become more susceptible to damage from mites. Similarly, they may become weak and more susceptible to damage if you’re not fertilizing your plants properly.
- Finally, other pests or diseases can also contribute to a red spider mite infestation. For example, an infestation of thrips or whiteflies can weaken your plants and make them more susceptible to damage from red spider mites.
Prevention of Red Spider Mites
The best way to deal with red spider mites is to prevent an infestation from happening in the first place.
- Proper watering: Keep the soil of your plants moist but not waterlogged. Dry soil can make your plants more susceptible to damage from red spider mites.
- Proper fertilization: Ensure your plants get the nutrients they need to stay healthy and strong.
- Proper sanitation: Keep your home and greenhouse clean to reduce the risk of bringing in red spider mites on infested plants.
- Check new plants: Before bringing new plants into your home, inspect them for signs of red spider mites.
When it comes to dealing with red spider mites, there are several control methods you can use. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at three types of control methods: natural control methods, physical control methods, and chemical control methods.
Natural Control Methods
Natural control methods like insecticidal soap are safe and effective and can be used in conjunction with other control methods to maximize the effectiveness of your treatment.
- One of the most popular natural control methods is horticultural oils (like neem oil). These oils are made from natural ingredients like mineral oil and work by suffocating the mites. To use horticultural oils, simply spray the oil on the infested plant, covering the leaves’ tops and bottoms.
- You can also try to introduce beneficial natural predators of spider mites. Predators like ladybugs or the predatory mite, phytoseiulus that feeds on red spider mites in soil.
Physical Control Methods
Another way to control red spider mites is through physical control methods. These methods involve physically removing the mites from your plants.
An easy fix is to spray infested plants with a strong stream of water, making sure to cover the tops and bottoms of the leaves. This will knock the mites off your plants, and they will be unable to return.
Another option is to use dish soap. Mix dish soap with water in a spray bottle. Spray the plants with the solutions. The dish soap will smother the mites and make it difficult for them to climb back onto your plants.
Chemical Control Methods
In case of severe infestations, you may need to use chemical control methods. These methods involve using pesticides or insecticides to kill the mites. Only use this as a last resort.
Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use the product safely and effectively. Also, remember that some aggressive pesticides can harm beneficial insects, such as bees and butterflies, so it is important to use them responsibly and only as necessary.