Spider mites are garden pests that are a nuisance to gardeners and destructive to both indoor and outdoor plants. These small arachnids can do a lot of damage to otherwise healthy plants. They attack plants by sucking small amounts of sap from leaves and stems, depleting plants of nutrients, causing leaf drop and subsequent death.
They can quickly infest plants and gardens by hiding underneath leaves and rapidly producing eggs that hatch in quick succession.
Let’s explore more about what are spider mites, how to identify if you have an infestation, and ways to manage the problem.
What Are Spider Mites?
What are spider mites? Spider mites are part of the arachnid family. When seen by the naked eye, spider mites look like small white specks on the undersides of leaves or assembled on stems. They are incredibly tiny, comparable to the size of a typical flea. As adults, these arachnids have red eyes, a fuzzy body, and eight minuscule legs.
Early Signs of Spider Mites
Spider mites can transfer from one plant to another plant as quickly as the wind blows. They produce weblike structures that pick up and drift along with the breeze, quickly spreading and infesting other areas of your garden, so it’s crucial that you try to manage them as soon as you identify them on your plants.
- Add a magnifying glass to your gardening tool kit so that you can spot tiny critters more readily.
- Examine your plants regularly, checking the stems, tops, and undersides of leaves for small mites, webbing, and tiny eggs.
- Watch closely for signs of pest damage. This includes yellow spots on leaves, yellowing sections on foliage, and leaf drop.
How to Get Rid of Spider Mites
Spider mites can be a cumbersome nemesis for gardeners because they can be challenging to eradicate. As organic gardeners, we aim to allow different aspects of nature to care for other areas of nature. Getting rid of garden pests is no different. You might think that grabbing an insecticide will be the best way of decimating the problem of spider mites.
There are a few reasons why you should avoid using insecticides in your garden:
- Spider mites are resistant to most insecticides.
- When you use insecticides, you wipe out an entire population of insects, even the good ones!
- Insecticides leach into your plants and the food that you grow there.
Introduce & Lure Beneficial Insects
Beneficial insects are a gardener’s most treasured friends. They feed on garden pests, naturally controlling the population of destructive insects and arachnids.
Beneficial insects are the best way to control the population of spider mites and keep your plants healthy. Many beneficial insects are already in your environment; the trick is to keep them there and encourage more of them to seek out your garden space.
- Entice beneficial insects by planting flowers in and around your garden beds. Pollen and nectar keep beneficial insects happy and give them an ideal area for them to reside.
- Plant companion plants that lure predatory insects to the garden. The insects that flock to these plants will feed on pests, naturally eliminating them from your garden.
- Order beneficial insects like ladybugs, lace wigs, and phytoseiulus and add them to your plant leaves. They will readily prey on spider mites and their eggs.
Spray Plants with the Hose to Get Rid of Spider Mites
As you are inspecting your plants’ leaves and stems, use a sprayer attachment on your hose nozzle and wash the undersides of your leaves with a steady stream of water. This can wash away active spider mites from the leaves. Its eggs will likely remain, however. You can use a little bit of neem oil on the undersides of the leaves to smother the eggs. Remove lower leaves from the plant to make it harder for the spider mites to return to the plant.
Overall, the goal of the organic gardener is to utilize nature as much as possible to solve problems in the garden. Now that you’ve solved the problem of discovering what are spider mites, you can work with nature to combat them.
Encouraging beneficial insects is the best way to attack the spider mite population. Increasing the biodiversity of your garden will help your garden become more self-sufficient and reduce destructive nemeses from destroying the plants that you’ve worked so hard to grow.