How To Get Rid Of Spider Mites In Houseplants — Smart Garden Guide

How To Get Rid Of Spider Mites In Houseplants

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Discovering that your beloved house plants have a bout of Spider Mites can be quite distressing, especially if you have never had to deal with these pests before. If you are an indoor plant enthusiast and place value on the health of your plants, you need to know how to get rid of spider mites to mitigate the damage that Spider Mites can cause.

How do you get rid of Spider Mites in house plants? You can remove, kill, and deter re-infestation of Spider Mites in your house plants in the following 3 ways:

  1. Treating the plant with rubbing alcohol.
  2. Using common dish washing soap & water to clean the plant.
  3. Using a Botanical Pyrethrin to kill Spider Mites.

With the right technique and products (store bought or homemade), you can free your house plants from the scourge of Spider Mites, quite quickly and easily in fact. You just need to act fast! Read on to find out what Spider Mites are, and how you can defeat them by using the abovementioned techniques.

Spider Mites And How They Damage House Plants – A Brief Overview

Spider Mites are not really considered to be insects, even though they have 6 legs. They are actually Tetranychidae, which makes them more arachnids in terms of characteristics.

These pests quite literally suck the life (sap) out of the leaves of both indoor and outdoor plants. Stippled, yellow, weak leaves are the first tell-tale signs that your houseplants have Spider Mites attacking them. By this stage they have already been hard at work.

Identifying Spider Mites isn’t always easy. These little mites are quite difficult to see as they are minute and oval in shape. If you do see one, you might think that you are looking at a tiny tick.

Adults are either pale or a red-brown tone and just 1/50 of an inch in length. One way of knowing that they are there is by looking for finely spun webs over the affected plants.

The Spider Mite is prone to living in a colony, which means they attack in teams and usually take up residence on the underneath of a healthy plant’s leaves.

They penetrate the leaf and suck the plant sap out of the leaves. This eating strategy is seen by the little dots left behind on the leaves where mites have been eating.

By the time a plant starts yellowing and the leaves start dropping off, considerable damage has already been done. You must act as soon as you notice Spider Mites on your house plants or they might win the war!

How To Get Rid Of Spider Mites On Houseplants

If you have been surprised by a sudden Spider Mite attack, don’t dismay – you are not alone. A healthy plant today could suffer serious damage from Spider Mites in just 3 days. That is why it is best to reiterate that acting fast is your very first defense when you suspect a Spider Mite infestation.

Once you know what you are dealing with, it is time to take action. You can use any of the following 3 methods to effectively rid your house plants of Spider Mites.

1. Use Rubbing Alcohol To Get Rid Of Spider Mites On Houseplants

Use rubbing alcohol? You might wonder if this is really the safest and least harmful option for your plant. The good news is that most plants are completely unharmed by alcohol. Very few actually react to it and show signs of burning.

If you are worried about how your plant will react, test the solution on a small area and monitor the plant’s response over a few hours.

Many plant lovers swear by using rubbing alcohol to get rid of pesky Spider Mites on their house plants. For most pests, alcohol is toxic when applied in a high dose. If your plant is sensitive, you can start with a relatively weak mixture of 1 part of alcohol to 3 parts of water.

If your plant is hardier and you want to wipe out all the Spider Mites, you can opt for a stronger mixture of 1 part of alcohol to 1 part of water.

You can spray the rubbing alcohol and water solution generously over the entire plant and let it naturally evaporate. However, you might have better success if you wipe the entire plant down meticulously with a cloth or very soft sponge soaked generously in the alcohol and water solution.

Pay special attention to the underside of leaves as this is where Spider Mites tend to hide their colonies.

2. Use Common Dishwashing Soap And Water To Beat House Plant Spider Mites

Many people prefer to make their own soap insecticide at home as it is safer for the environment and easier on the plant. All you need is 1 liter of luke-warm tap water and 1 teaspoon of common dishwashing liquid soap.

Mix the solution well in a spray bottle and soak the plant from top to bottom. This instantly rids the plant of Spider Mites.

You can also mix the correct proportions into a bucket or tub and wash the plant down with a soaked cloth or sponge. If you are worried about the bugs returning, schedule regular spraying or washing down of your house plants from time to time.

Use A Botanical Pyrethrin To Get Rid Of Spider Mites On House Plants

If you aren’t too keen on toxic chemical insecticides, you can opt to use Botanical Pyrethrins. These are natural compounds with high insecticidal capabilities. One particular Botanical Pyrethrin is made from Chrysanthemum flowers.

When you buy Pyrethrins, make sure that they don’t contain piperonylbutoxide or synthetic adjuvants, especially if you are looking for an organic, environmentally friendly pesticide/insecticide.

It is best to follow the instructions on the product box for mixing and application. Most of these can simply be sprayed onto or dabbed onto the plant. Some varieties must be mixed with water and sprayed onto the Spider Mite affected areas.

See also:  How Do I Kill Ants in My Flowerpots, Home Guides, SF Gate

Preventative Care Against Spider Mite Infestation

Whether you are currently dealing with a Spider Mite problem or are simply being cautious, you need to have a plan for caring for your house plants.

If you want to protect your house plants from future Spider Mite or other bug infestations, there are some preventative measures that you can take. Some of these are listed below.

Protect Your House Plants with Ongoing Neem Oil Applications

Neem oil does kill bugs, but it takes quite a long time, so it is best to use Neem Oil as a way to deter Spider Mites, instead of as your killing strategy.

You can buy Neem Oil concentrate and mix it according to the packaging instructions. Once you have used one of the above mentioned methods of ridding your plants from Mites, simply apply the Neem Oil to your house plants. You can do this at regular intervals going forward, as Spider Mites don’t enjoy making their home where there is a lot of Neem Oil.

An alternative would be to create your own Neem Oil, dishwashing liquid soap, and water mix. Spray this solution on to the plant to help get rid of Spider Mites or at least keep them at bay.

Promote A Humid Environment For Your House Plants

Spider Mites love dry and hot conditions. One way to deter Spider Mites from infesting your houseplants is to ensure that the air in your house plant’s living environment is fairly humid.

You can start by ensuring that your plants are always well-watered. Humidifiers work wonders if left in the general vicinity of your house plants, but there are plenty of other ways to create a humid environment. See my article about how to increase humidity for indoor plants.

If the area where plants are kept is dry, but the plant is well hydrated and juicy, you are in for some Spider Mite attacks in your future. Get to work priming your indoor plant area to be unwelcoming and uncomfortable to Spider Mites.

Make Sure All New Plants Are Debugged And Treated Before Bringing Them Into The Home

When you spot a new house plant and buy it, simply introducing it to the existing selection of house plants can be risky. When you buy new plants, inspect them for potential infestations first. Then hose them down and treat them for bugs before bringing them into the home.

If you put plants outside for the summer time, you need to completely debug and treat them before bringing them back into the home for the winter months too.

All it takes is just a few Spider Mite eggs to make it inside to result in the demise of many of your house plants.

Regularly Hose Down Or Shower Your House Plants

Spider Mites don’t like to be wet and uncomfortable, so make sure that they don’t get much opportunity to settle in. Hose down your plants often. This can also help to remove any Spider Mites, other bugs and eggs from the plant.

The longer eggs and bugs get to rest on your plants, the more chance there is of them spreading their damage. You don’t have to take all of your plants outside to hose them down. You can spray them with water inside or pour a jug of water over the top and over leafy branches.

Keep The Spider Mites Guessing With Different Treatments

Your dishwashing liquid soap solution, rubbing alcohol, or Botanical Pyrethrins may seem to be working well at first, but then suddenly their effectiveness wears off and you are back at square 1.

Don’t distress, this isn’t the end of the road. Spider Mites have not won the war, they have just got used to your tactics. As is the case with many species of insects, Spider Mites can build up a tolerance to chemicals and treatments if they are exposed to it regularly.

The trick is to alternate your treatments so that the Spider Mites and other bugs cannot get used to what you are using. You can set a regular schedule of bug treatments and follow a pattern, if it helps – just don’t use the same treatment every time.

Wage War On Spider Mites With Predatory Mites Of Your Own

This is an unusual concept for many, but there are plant lovers who have gone the all-natural route and let the bugs fight it out for themselves. How does this work?

Using predatory mites is not complicated at all. The Phytoseiulus Persimilis is a popular predator mite to use and the good news is that it only likes to feed on Spider Mites.

They are also much faster and stronger than most Spider Mites and so it won’t take long before your plant is free from them. In fact, the Persimilis is often used to clear Spider Mites in large areas and green houses.

They can get to work and severely reduce Spider Mite populations in a matter of weeks. What is great about this particular treatment is that it is a once off attack!

Quarantine Spider Mite Infested Plants For A While

If a few of your house plants have Spider Mites, you need to separate them from your healthy plants and treat them immediately. You should also treat your healthy plants just in case a few mites have made their way to, or laid their eggs on your healthy plants. Plants should only be returned to the communal plant area once they are completely free of infestation.

Cluster Your House Plants To Keep Spider Mites at Bay

Spider Mites like to travel from plant to plant in dry conditions. They use air currents to get around from one plant to another. By clustering your plants, you will make it a little more difficult for Spider Mites to travel. Clustered, regularly watered plants produce humidity too, which is not the type of environment that a Spider Mite likes.

Keep Your Houseplants Out Of Direct, Hot Sunlight To Deter Spider Mite Infestation

Spider Mites absolutely love hot and dry conditions. If you leave your house plants out in the sun or even indoors, in direct sunlight, Spider Mites might take up residence. This is especially the case if the plant is allowed to get hot and dried out.

Spider Mites thrive in these conditions. Move house plants into the shade or draw the curtains or blinds during the hottest times of the day.

Spider mite webs (image source)

Negative Impact Of Spider Mites On House Plants

What exactly is a Spider Mite doing to your house plant when it attacks? Surely, drinking leaf sap can’t be that damaging to the plant?

The sad news is that it is. While Spider Mites can be relatively easily removed, once they have settled in, they work quickly to compromise the health of the plant. They like to attack plant leaves because they are after the sugar content in the sap.

A healthy plant uses leaves to regulate its transpiration and water retention. The delicate network inside the plant’s leaves allow it to send (and retain) water and nutrients to all the places that it is needed most.

When the plant is unable to do that, it can become quite “sick”. One might say that the internal workings of the leaf are a plant’s entire support system.

When Spider Mites penetrate the underside of the leaves and start sucking the sap out, the plant realizes it is losing fluid and so closes down the flow of liquids through the leaf’s network.

This isn’t an effective mitigating strategy for the plant because now all of the fluid is simply trapped in the leaf, prime for Spider Mites to suck it out. As a result, the plant suffers in the following ways:

  • The plant loses the ability to photosynthesize effectively and so the plant lacks the nutrients required to thrive/flourish.
  • Severe dehydration of the leaves and entire plant sets in and the plant begins to collapse.
  • The plant’s leaves start to dry out and many of them drop off, which further affects the ability to photosynthesize.
  • The plant stops producing flowers and seeds and generally starts to “shut down”.
  • The plant weakens and starts to shrivel up or wilt and if left untreated, it can eventually die by drying out. A dry crusty plant that cannot be revived will be the result.
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Last Word

Prevention is certainly a far more effective route than cure when it comes to Spider Mites. With Spider Mites managing to cause such extensive damage in a short space of time, it is better to keep them at bay than to deal with them once they have already attacked.

Follow the steps and pointers above to get rid of Spider Mites and to ensure that they don’t return to compromise the health of your plant, now or in the near future.

Welcome to Smart Garden Guide

Hi, I’m Andrew, and Smart Garden Guide is my website all about indoor gardening and houseplants. I’m here to share my experience and help you have more success and enjoyment growing plants. Enjoy your stay at Smart Garden Guide.

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How to Kill Spider Mites on Houseplants

21 September, 2017

The first signs of spider mites on houseplants are the symptoms they cause, such as yellow speckling on leaves — the mites themselves are tiny and difficult to see. Relatives of insects, spider mites are divided into different species, which infest different plant types. The most common cause of houseplant infestations is the twospotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae). As well as yellow speckling, spider mite infestation symptoms include a gray or bronze tint to leaves and fine webbing.

Regularly rinsing houseplants or spraying them with horticultural oil or soap sprays controls spider mites, but the best method for long-term control is growing healthy houseplants and providing humid conditions.

Rinsing Plants

Regularly rinsing houseplants infested with spider mites helps control light or moderate infestations.

Wrap plastic bags around the houseplant containers and over the potting soil surface.

Loosely tie the bags around the houseplants stems with twine or elastic bands.

Rinse the houseplant leaves and stems with lukewarm water in a shower. Closely rinse the lower leaves and the undersides of the leaves.

Rinse the houseplants in the same way at least once every week.

Spraying Infestations

Horticultural soaps or oils control heavy infestations of spider mites on houseplants, and the soaps and oils aren’t harmful to humans. Houseplants that are heavily infested with spider mites are severely discolored, and they wilt and drop their leaves. Apply a ready-to-use horticultural soap once per week or every three or four days, as necessary. Spray the horticultural soap over all the houseplant parts, including the undersides of leaves, until the entire plant is saturated.

If a houseplant is severely infested and not valuable, consider simply discarding it to reduce the risk to other plants.

Caring for Houseplants

Well-watered and fertilized houseplants placed on trays of pebbles and water are unlikely to suffer badly from spider mite infestations.

Most houseplants need water when the potting soil surface is dry. Pour water over the potting soil surface until it flows through the container drainage holes, and allow the plants to drain before replacing them on their drip trays.

Many houseplants benefit from fertilization with a 12-4-8 fertilizer every one to two weeks. Dilute the fertilizer at a rate of 1 teaspoon per 1 gallon of water, and pour it over the potting soil surface. You can apply fertilizer instead of water if the plant needs water.

Stand houseplants in their drip trays on shallow trays filled with pebbles and water, which humidifies the air around the plants. Alternatively, mist the houseplants every day with clean, cool water in a hand mister.

Preventing Infestations

Spider mite infestations on houseplants often spread through new plants and plants moved indoors from outside. Spider mites spread by walking over leaves onto new plants, or drifting on strands of webbing that float currents of air. Keep new plants in a different room, away from other houseplants for one month, and check the leaves regularly for signs of spider mites.

Houseplant Pests: Spider Mites

Spider mites are so small that they are usually hard to see with the naked eye. Adult Pacific spider mites stand out because they have a bright red first pair of legs. You’ll often see spider mite damage before you notice the little critters themselves. The affected foliage occasionally takes on a bronze cast. Severe spider mite damage weakens and often kills houseplants. In dry, dusty conditions, a spider mite can complete its entire life cycle in less than a week, which is incredibly fast. Spider mites live in colonies, usually on the undersides of leaves. Make sure that spider mites are actually living on your houseplant before treating it. Your best bet, then, is using cultural controls. Since spider mites prefer houseplants with dusty leaves that are suffering from water stress, you must make sure that you properly irrigate your plants and wipe off dirty leaves with a wet rag. Trim off any heavily infested leaves and discard them immediately.

Houseplants vary in their care needs. If you’re unsure what water and fertilizer a plant needs, ask at the store where you bought the plant.

Don’t use household dishwashing detergent to control spider mites on houseplants. Modern detergents contain substances that are harmful to plants.

www.gardenguides.com

How to Get Rid of Spider Mites on Indoor Plants

Spider mites can be a menace to both outdoor and indoor plants. They are so minute and practically invisible to the naked eye that you need a magnifying glass to spot them. This, of course, makes it difficult, even for the experienced gardener, to detect a spider mite problem early on. And unfortunately, one often notices their wilting and struggling plants far too late when the damage has been already done. So, if you suspect that your houseplants or greenhouse crops have been attacked by the little critters, read on!

This article will help you learn how to recognise the signs of spider mites on your ornamental flowers or organic veg, as well as teach you about the ways of how to get rid of them for good.

How to identify a spider mite infestation

The best way to find out if your house plants have been invaded by spider mites is to get into the habit of inspecting the stems and underside of the leaves on a regular basis. Get a magnifying glass and check for white-yellow, orange-red, black or red “specks” on the surface. These are the colours of common spider mites that can be both native or exotic to Australia.

Another way to check if two-spotted, tomato russet, bean, red-legged or broad spider mites have plagued your indoor garden is to shake the plant over a white piece of cloth or a sheet of paper. The tiny crawlies should fall and appear looking like moving specks of dust. If you get a magnifying tool, you may also notice black frass, white skin-sheddings, white larvae or light-orange eggs.

The symptoms of a spider mite infestation are also not too hard to spot if you look closely at the foliage and assess the overall state of your plants, which may look underwatered and withered.

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Symptoms of a spider mite problem

Different spider mite species are attracted to different plants but almost any type of indoor-grown veggies are susceptible to their damaging activity. On that note, there are various indicators, showing that a said plant has been affected. The specificity of the signs, again, depends on what type of spider mite species are feasting on your greens, strawberries and decorative plants.

These may include yellow or white specks and marks on the leaves; silvering on the upper side of the leaves; bronzing of the stem and leaves; mottled-looking, curled-up or shrivelled leaves; desiccation, due to retarded photosynthesis, as well as a change in the shape of the leaves.

Furthermore, badly affected plants will eventually shed their discoloured leaves. Another common denominator for a severe infestation is the typical webbing, always present on the plant, which gives the ‘spider’ name of the pesky acarid. These silken threads are visible to the naked eye, so you can’t miss them at close inspection. The mites produce and use them as a means of moving, usually upwards, from leaf to leaf.

Spider mites biology

Spider mites are members of the Acari family Tetranychidae. There are over 1000 species, which differ in their colour, size and habitat. These garden pests have eight legs and are often smaller than a millimetre in size. They love dry and hot conditions and feed on the sap of leaves and blossoms.

The minuscule critters have a relatively short life cycle (between 2 and 4 weeks) and can reach adulthood within 5 days. They can hibernate in the soil, plant debris and crevices in structures when cold weather sets in. This, however, doesn’t apply to protective environments, such as greenhouses or your heated home.

Once infested with these hard-to-spot destroyer-pests, your hydroponic vegetable crops or houseplants may suffer all year round if not treated in due time.

The pests’ rapid breeding skills and genetically passed-on resistance to pesticides are the reasons why even keen horticulturalists often feel out of depth when trying to get rid of a spider mite infestation.

How to get rid of spider mites indoors

So, let’s explore the ways of how you can fight a spider mite problem and save your delicious greenhouse edibles or indoor ornamentals and evergreens.

Biological control

There are some biological methods that are effective in exterminating or preventing a spider mite infestation on indoor-grown plants. Which one you could use will depend on the size of your indoor garden.

For instance, you can introduce a type of predatory mites (Phytoseiulus persimilis), widely available in specialised stores in Australia, to destroy a colony of spider mites and their eggs in your greenhouse.

Ladybugs and praying mantis will also keep your plants safe if you place them in your small-sized grow-space. Understandably, it doesn’t sound feasible or wise to invite any insects, even beneficial, inside your home.

So, to keep spider mites at bay and protect your houseplants, you can grow pest-repellent plant varieties, such as Chrysanthemum, dill and coriander. Companion plants, of course, are more of a preventative measure and won’t do much if your entire greenhouse strawberry crop has been infested with the nuisance pests.

Homemade miticides

Insecticidal soap. You can easily make a homemade insecticidal soap by diluting a spoonful of mild dishwashing liquid in a couple of litres of water. Spray your plants with the solution, which will suffocate any adult spider mites. The pesticide is not as effective against their eggs, however. So, you’ll need to repeat the treatment in a few days.

Tobacco. A natural pesticide that controls these garden pests can be made of tobacco and water, as well. To make a homemade spider mite spray, soak a handful of tobacco in a cup of water overnight, strain through a sieve and dilute the liquid in two litres of water.

Chamomile. Not as an effective spider mite killer on its own, but when mixed with sulphur, which has very low toxicity to humans and pets, you can make a solution with water and spray your indoor plants.

Note that you can treat a single houseplant, for instance, with just pure water. Wipe the leaves or wash the plant under the tap or shower to kill off any spider mites on it.

Environmental control

As spider mites like a dry and hot environment, raising the humidity level in your grow-room/greenhouse will affect adversely their ‘well-being’. You can resort to daily misting or water-spraying, as long as the plants you grow can tolerate humid conditions and are not susceptible to fungus infections.

Not a very popular control measure but growers can also use a hand-held vacuum cleaner to remove manually the pesky pests from their plants.

Other non-chemical miticides

If you wonder how to get rid of spider mites during flowering, there is an effective organic acaricide, which may help you in the quest. Purchase a product that contains pyrethrin from any organic garden pesticide store and read carefully the label instructions before proceeding with the application.

Derived from certain Chrysanthemum species, the substance is toxic to insects. Note, however, that beneficial insects will be also affected if you intend to use it outdoors. Furthermore, it can cause skin and respiratory reactions in people, and especially kids, so keep the product out of children’s reach and use with caution.

Neem oil is another organic substance (of low toxicity), which you can use as a repellent rather than a solution to your spider mite problem.

A mixture of 2% rosemary oil and water can also reap successful results with moderate infestations.

Chemical miticides

The most effective chemical insecticides that can be useful against spider mites, as well, are two synthetic pyrethroid substances, called permethrin and bifenthrin. Both match the properties of the above mentioned natural pyrethrin but differ in their susceptibility to UV light and changes in pH.

Again, their application may be contraindicated indoors if you have young children or allergic family members but can be used to treat plants grown in a greenhouse. Apply carefully and bear in mind that spider mites may become resistant to the product over time, due to their short life cycle, which prompts growers to repeat treatments excessively.

How to prevent a spider mite infestation

Surely, prevention is always better than cure, so here’s what you should know, in order to keep your plants spider mite free.

  • Sanitation
    Spider mites can ‘hitchhike’ on your clothing or shoes after an innocent visit to your local garden centre. So, always ensure that you change your clothes and footwear before checking on your established greenhouse crops.
  • Quarantine
    Always isolate a newly purchased plant for a few days before placing it together with the rest of your blooming houseplants. This way, you can act swiftly if you spot a problem and treat the plant before it infects other varieties in your indoor garden.
  • Environment management
    Keeping your plants well watered and healthy by using mulch and compost may help them stay less prone to pest infestations. Furthermore, large indoor grow areas should have an effective air filter system in place to prevent spider mites from entering from outdoors through the vents. Hosing your greenhouse plants with water (or spraying individual houseplants) is also a good preventative measure.
  • Vigilance
    Monitoring regularly your plants for signs of spider mite issues is a guaranteed method to keep them pest free. This way, you’ll be able to spot the signs and remove any affected leaves and branches in time. Then, treat the plant with one of the discussed methods in this post.

Hire a Professional!

Need help with erradicating spider mites? Book a professional gardener.

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