Identifying Spider Mites on Cannabis

Spider mite — how it looks, types, signs, how to get rid of it once and for all

How do you know if you have a Spider Mite infestation? Good question! If you do a quick internet search on Spider Mites you will find all kinds of information — THAT’S WORTHLESS!

You will be told things like, «just use a magnifying glass and you can see them», or «just look for webbing on the plant leaves», this may be true in some cases, but not all! In many cases you can see the results but you cannot SEE the problem, not without a microscope.

To see if I can make this a bit clearer look at the photo of a plant that is infested with spider mites and showing signs of stress. But, there is NO webbing and you cannot «see» the spider mites with a magnifying glass. You cannot even see them with a microscope until you get to about 40x magnification! Once you get the microscope up to about 30x magnification you suddenly start seeing things move around. At 50x magnification you can clearly identify the spider mite. At about 70x magnification you can actually count the number of legs on the critters.

In the picture above the plant looks like it was «burned» by foliar feeding or it got too close to the lights. None of these are the case though, this is what spider mites do. If left untreated the plant will get to the point where you CAN actually see webbing. By the time the webbing becomes visible (to the human eye) you will have hundreds of millions of these creatures on your plant.

In the early stages of spider mite infestation the only signs of this pest are plant stress, slowed growth, and damaged leaves (see the picture on the left). There are just three or four leaves that look this way. The rest of the plant looks fine. If you don’t treat for spider mites fast they will take over the entire garden.

In the picture to the left the plant is in the 4th week of flowering. The leaves on this plant look normal for a flowering plant. The only noticeable issue is that the Calyx (where the white hairs sprout from) are unusually small for this stage, and they are void of the bounteous trichomes that we like to see. The Stigmas (the white hairs) look like they were «burned» off. These buds should look large and fuzzy with white hairs and be abundant with trichomes. Spider mites will start laying eggs within a week and produce 10 to 20 eggs a DAY from then on. With each spider mite duplicating itself 10 times a day it doesn’t take long until you’ve got millions on the plant. The spider mites will then migrate from plant to plant riding on currents of air (from your fan) and infest the entire garden.

The ideal time to treat for spider mites is when they first appear. Most novice growers have no idea what to look for and if they do see something it is not likely that they will identify they issue as a spider mite problem. Look at the image of the leaf on the left. The only signs of a problem on this plant is the one blade of one leaf. This leaf is just starting to curl downwards and it has a rough texture to it. The leaf looks and feels dry like it needs some lotion on it. This is what happens when spider mites suck the liquid out of the leaf cells. They can curl and feel rough and leathery.

You need to be realistic with pests, they are a fact of life and if they found their way into your garden once they will find their way in again. Unless you are in a completely sealed environment pests will get in, period. The best plan when dealing with these pests involves reducing the exposure to risk, and preventative treatment. Anything that goes «INTO» the garden is a potential source of spider mite infestation. Anything, like people, pets, supplies, assistants, insects, air — anything that goes IN could be harboring a spider mite. Remember, the minute you opened the door, you just compromised the environment.

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How To Identify and Get Rid of Plant Mites (part 1 of 2)

If you’re going to be growing plants then unfortunately you’re going to be dealing with pests like plant mites!

It’s just a fact of life for the dedicated grower.

The good news is that you can fight back and win against plant mites.

This is part one of a two part article series and today we’re going to discuss…

  • What are plant mites and why they’re such a big problem
  • A complete plant mites identification guide
  • How to identify a plant mite problem before it ruins your garden
  • Some simple tips to get you started on a “plant mite proof” garden

We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started…

What Are Plant Mites and Why Are They Such a Big Problem?

First off, none of us want little creatures running all over our precious plants…

But unlike beneficial fungi or microbials, which are little living organisms that are beneficial for your plants, mites are NOT a tiny organism you want in your grow room.

The reason why is because these little buggers actually feed on your plants and drain them of valuable nutrients and chlorophyll…

In fact, if you don’t get rid of them they can actually kill your plants!

These tiny creatures are basically like “vampires” that will suck your plants dry and can ruin your entire harvest.

How To Identify The Different Types of Plant Mites

The mite family of creatures are closely related to ticks and even related to arachnids (spiders).

There are many types of mites, some more common than others…

This short guide can help you identify what type of infestation you may be dealing with. Even better, hopefully, you are reading this before you have a problem and it will give you an idea of what mites symptoms to watch out for…

1. Spider Mites – these tiny little buggers (less than 1-mm long) are probably the most common (and most hated) of all indoor garden pests. They are actually little arachnids and because of their small size you may not notice them until they do serious damage to your plants.

There are two reliable ways to spot an infestation: one, look for spider-like webbing. Two, take a tissue and wipe gently on the underside of leaves–if it comes back with streaks of Spider Mite blood–you know you have mites.

2. Broad Mites – are so tiny they’re impossible to see with the naked eye, and still really difficult to see with a microscope. Broad mites reproduce prolifically between 70-80º F. They hatch in two-to-three days and each female can produce 40-50 eggs. Broad mites inject a toxic growth hormone into the plant that slows and distorts growth. Look for leaves with the edges turned up as if your plant is suffering from heat stress–and your plant can even take on a glossy appearance that looks like fake plastic leaves. Eventually, these leaves will turn yellow or bronze then die.

3. Hemp Russet Mites – unlike spider mites, these leave no webbing. Visible damage to your plant, like the Broad Mite, is usually the first signs of an infestation. Unlike most varieties of mites, they only have two pair of legs. They start low on the plant then work their way up, so check slightly above wherever a plant is showing stress with a microscope that’s at least 14x power.

4. Cyclamen Mites – are very similar to broad mites. They’re less than 0.2 mm long and can be colorless to green or brownish. They have 8 legs. Male cyclamen mites have a very strong claw mounted at the end of each fourth leg. They avoid light and prefer high humidity and cool 60º F (15º C) temperatures. Like the spider mite, they feed on the cells of your plants by sucking it out with their mouths. Their feeding causes stunted growth with leaves generally curling upward. Leaves get stiffened and brittle and flowers are deformed or reduced.

Now that you know what mites are, let’s talk about…

What Causes Plant Mite Problems?

Many things can cause plant pest problems like mites, but basically, it’s just a part of growing.

Even if you’re growing in a completely sealed grow room indoors, these pests can still get in.

That said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…

In short, keeping your grow room clean & tidy can at least help you stay in control of your grow room and will make it easier to identify pests when they invade.

It helps to think of your grow room—if growing indoors—as a medical room that needs to be kept as clean as possible to avoid unwanted contamination.

If you grow outdoors, this is all much harder because mites are usually found in soil…

How To “Catch” The Plant Mite Problem BEFORE They Ruin Your Plants…

One of the keys to saving your plants from plant mites (and other pests for that matter) is to act fast.

In other words, the sooner you identify you have an infestation by actively looking for mite symptoms, the faster you can fight them and the less damage the mites can do.

Here’s a big tip: don’t just assume your plants are suffering from a nutrient deficiency or other common plant growing problem.

For example, spider mites start to damage your plant causing little yellow specks on your leaves. You might mistake this for a nutrient deficiency and not inspect your plants for pests! By the time you see the webbing from these little creatures, it means they’ve been feeding off your plants for some time doing damage.

So rule number one is do not rule out pests when you see something wrong with your plants.

You want to grab a handheld microscope and carefully inspect your plants whenever you see a problem of any type to make sure you’re correctly identifying the problem.

In short, you don’t want to dismiss some plant stress problems as a nutrient deficiency or some other misdiagnosis only to find out you have a serious infestation on your hands when your plants start dying!

Some Basic Tips To Prevent & To Fight Plant Mites…

  1. Grow Hydroponically Without Soil If Possible – First off, if you’re growing hydroponically, then you can greatly reduce your chances of having to fight these annoying, crop-destroying pests…That’s because they prefer soil and easily multiply in this growing medium. For that reason, if you’re growing indoors, then use a sterile growing medium with no soil like coco coir or coco coir plus perlite mix. This alone dramatically reduces the chances of bug infestations.
  2. Start Fighting Pests Right Away – If you have identified a pest problem or any of the mites symptoms, then don’t wait! You want to start fighting the little buggers as quickly as possible because the earlier you catch them the less damage they can do to your precious plants.
  3. Quarantine Your Grow Room – If growing indoors, it’s helpful to have a “quarantine” area before you enter your actual grow room where you can remove shoes that might have soil on them from outdoors, clothing, etc. Or anything else that might allow you to accidentally bring pests into your grow room. The idea here is that you want to keep your actual grow room as “sterile” as possible.

So what happens if you are doing your best to prevent a problem, but you think you might have mites anyway?

In Part 2 of This Series We Will Show You How To Control and Eradicate Plant Mites From Your Grow Room!

Make sure you sign up to the Advanced Nutrients newsletter so you don’t miss it…

Because in part two of this article series, we’re going to show you all the strategies you need to successful fight and eradicate these pests from your grow room.


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Spider Mites: A Beginner Guide to Understanding and Controlling Mites

Spider mites, also referred to as web-spinning mites, infest home and agricultural areas around the world. They spin their webs on the stems and the underside of the leaves where they also lay dozens of eggs. This webbing makes it easy to identify an infestation and distinguish web-spinning mites from different mite species and other plant-damaging pests such as aphids.

How to Identify Spider Mites

Image of a Red Spider Mite on a leaf.

You might not see spider mites at first glance; however, if you look closer, you’ll notice tiny dots moving frantically over the leaf’s surface. Gazing through a magnifying glass reveals an entirely different picture and gives you a close-up look of these invasive pests at work. Numerous spider mite species live and thrive in backyard gardens and in greenhouses, and you can identify many of them by examining their body type, color and markings. Some of the most common spider mites include:

  • Two-spotted spider mites: These mites were once only native to Europe and Asia, but they have spread across the world in shipping containers. They range in color from dark red to green, which makes them even more difficult to see against the leaves. Under magnification, you can see two dark spots along their backs. Two-spotted spider mites have small, oval-shaped bodies and feast on everything from vegetables to flowers.
  • Southern red mites: Red mites have a red appearance and bulbous-shaped bodies. They mostly attack broadleaf plants and often invade shrubs and herb gardens. Red mites not only feast on the cell content within leaves but also on the fruit itself, creating even more havoc in agricultural crops. They thrive in cool weather during the spring and the fall and usually go dormant in the summer.
  • Spruce mites: These mites feed on needle-leaved conifers and cause massive damage in tree farms. As hatchlings, they appear lighter green in color and turn darker as they mature. Spruce mites also prefer cooler weather and lay their eggs at the base of the needles to survive the winter.

Other common spider mites include the European spider mite and the citrus mite. Regardless of the species, each of these mites threaten plants wherever they go. In small numbers, they cause insignificant damage to plants. However, these tiny arachnids can destroy entire crops and greenhouse plants without careful management and control.

The Spider Mite Life Cycle

Depending on the location, some spider mites can feed and reproduce throughout the entire year as long as the plants retain their leaves. In cooler areas where trees and plants drop their leaves, spider mites spend the winter under the bark or in ground litter. They return to feeding and reproducing once the weather permits and the leaves grow green and strong.

Spider mite development varies depending on the species, but each mite goes through similar life cycles. This cycle includes the egg, the larvae, two nymph stages and the final adult stage, and the entire development cycle can take anywhere from five to 20 days under ideal conditions. Female spider mites live between two and four weeks and can lay several hundred eggs during their lifetime.

The eggs, which are translucent and have a spherical shape, look like tiny water droplets against the leaves. As the spider mites develop inside the casing, the eggs transition from being translucent to having a cream color. The hatchlings then break out from the eggs and have only six legs; however, they develop all eight legs as they mature. The young feed on the underside of the leaves and continue to damage the plant as they develop into adults.

Spider Mites and the Damage They Cause

Severe spider mite damage to leaves.

Spider mites, unlike their larger arachnid cousins, don’t have fangs for biting into their prey. Instead, they have piercing mouthparts that penetrate the leaves and suck out the sap. A few spider mites have minimal impact on a plant, but larger populations can start to show visible damage to the leaves and kill the entire plant without proper control.

The first sign of spider mite damage appears as small, lightly colored dots along the leaves. After a while, vibrant leaves may fade in color and appear to have a bronze sheen. As the spider mite population grows and continues to feed on the plant, the leaves will turn yellow or red and fall to the ground. By this time, you can easily identify a spider mite infestation as the webbing covers much of the leaves and the stems.

You’ll probably notice leaf and stem damage long before you ever see any spider mites, so inspect your plants regularly to prevent a few spider mites from evolving into a devastating population. To identify a possible spider mite infestation, you should:

  • Quarantine any plant that may have spider mites.
  • Examine the underside of the leaves for webbing.
  • Inspect the entire plant with a magnifying glass.
  • Check the leaves for small dots and yellow markings.

Spider mites target everything from ornamental potted plants to agricultural crops. Vegetable crops and fruit trees suffer massive leaf loss, which causes sunburning and reduces yield for the harvest. On ornamentals, spider mites ruin the plants’ aesthetic appeal and can also kill the plants if the infestation grows out of control.

Controlling and Managing Spider Mite Infestations

A predatory mite (Anderline aa) preying on a plant-damaging mite.

Thankfully, spider mites have many natural enemies that help reduce infestations and limit population overgrowth. Some of these natural predators include:

  • Phytoline P (Phytoseiulus Persimilis)
  • Amblyline cu CRS (Predatory Mite)
  • Anderline aa (Predatory Mite)
  • Exhibitline sf ( Predatory Thrips)

In many cases, the predators take care of entire infestations without the need for human intervention. Due to chemical spraying and the loss of beneficial insects, spider mites may have less predators to worry about in the area. However, the mites may also run rampant in greenhouses and interiorscapes where workers prefer not to use chemical pesticides. These areas have less natural predators, providing a safer breeding ground for mites to grow in numbers.

Even with chemical treatment, not all pesticides work to kill spider mites. However, some pesticides have special formulas that not only eradicate spider mites but do so without harming the plant in any way. Whether you choose biological control or chemical miticides depends on the treatment area and the severity of the problem.

Monitoring the Target Area

You should always check for mites before you apply any treatment to an area. Sometimes, you may notice leaf damage after the mites have already left the plant, so treating the plant may only cause more damage depending on which treatment method you use. Because spider mites are difficult to detect, use a handheld magnifying glass to observe the leaves more closely. You can also hold a sheet of white notebook paper under the leaves as you shake the plant. The mites should fall off the leaves and onto the paper where you can see them more clearly.

After you’ve detected a spider mite infestation, the next step involves choosing a treatment option for eliminating the threat. You have three primary treatment options to choose from: biological control, chemical control and cultural control. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, and you may have to combine different methods to get a more effective result.

Choosing Biological Control for Eliminating Spider Mites

When spider mites have taken over gardens, crops and ornamentals, introducing natural predators into the area can have a profound effect. Natural enemies such as Galendromus occidentalis, a predatory mite, hunts and feeds on web-spinning mites. These predatory mites are about the same size as spider mites but have longer legs and teardrop-shaped bodies. They run very quickly and continue to feed on spider mites until they’ve vanished from the plant.

Predatory mites don’t feed on plants or become pests themselves. In fact, if they have no food source available in the area, they either starve and die or move elsewhere in search of prey. You can purchase predatory mites and other natural spider mite enemies as adults and release them directly on the target plants. It only takes one predator mite for every 10 spider mites to reduce population numbers. Once the predator mites have established on perennials, they may reproduce and provide residual control.

Using Chemical Control to Combat Spider Mite Infestations

Floramite SC, Avid 0.15EC and Forbid 4F for killing spider mites.

Applying chemical insecticides in the target area comes with risks. After all, if insecticides kill beneficial mite predators, you’re essentially making things worse. Carbaryl, a common chemical in pesticides, appears to affect spider mites in a positive way. In field studies, the carbaryl actually helped the spider mites to reproduce faster than mites that were left untreated. In addition, applying the insecticide during hot weather caused severe mite outbreaks within days.

Because mites don’t belong in the same category as insects, they require a different form of treatment. Miticides, such as Avid 0.15 and Floramite SC, target invasive mites while minimizing the impact on surrounding insects. These miticides work to control spider mites of all types, from the two-spotted spider mite to the clover mite. Miticides like Floramite SC help to eliminate spider mites in:

  • Greenhouses
  • Plant nurseries
  • Conifer plantations
  • Interiorscapes
  • Landscapes
  • Public, commercial and industrial areas
  • Golf courses, parks and other recreational sites

Relying on Cultural Control for Spider Mites

Dry, dusty conditions can lead to spider mite infestations in agricultural crops and throughout landscapes. To help minimize an outbreak, apply water to dusty areas and pathways regularly. Spraying trees and plants with water slows the mites’ progress and the damage they cause. You should also provide sufficient irrigation to wash away the mites as they build up on the plants.

Forcefully spraying water on plants in home gardens also helps to reduce spider mite numbers especially if you provide thorough coverage on and beneath the leaves. For added control, combine the water with insecticidal soap or oil to eradicate even more mites on the plants. However, test the soaps and oils on one or more plants first to see how they react to the treatment.

Preventing Spider Mite Infestations on Foliage

Performing preventative maintenance in the garden and on trees and shrubs can help eliminate spider mite infestations before they occur. Water the target area at adequate intervals, and use natural soaps and oils to limit populations without harming other insects. Avoid broad-spectrum pesticides that kill beneficial predators, and introduce natural predators like ladybugs to the area when you can. Being mindful of spider mites and taking preventative measures beforehand can help you avoid a serious mite outbreak and keep your plants safe, healthy and vibrant.

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