Spider Mites: How to Identify and Control Them Naturally

Spider Mites: How to Identify and Control Them Naturally

Many of us enjoy a family picnic in the garden on a hot summer day, but none more so than a highly fertile colony of the two-spotted spider mite. Spider mites, or in their Latin guise, Tetranychus urticae, are a broad-spectrum pest that attacks greenhouse crops, strawberries, garden vegetables, and tropical house and landscape plants.

Spider mite damage initially appears as tiny white speckles visible on the topside of leaves. A little spot here, a little spot there—the damage gets missed as the flecks appear so insignificant. Under the right conditions, however, this damage can explode into something unmanageable.

Spider mites are a member of the arachnid family and share the characteristic web-spinning abilities of traditional spiders. Unlike their cousins though, their webs are super fine and spread densely over leaves and stem without the classical geometric form. Upon close inspection of spider mite webs, you’ll discover not only adults moving back and forth, but multiple generations using the web’s protection to carry out their business. If your damage has already reached this state, you have a lot of catching up to do.

Identifying Spider Mites

Many species of mites can live on plants. Spider mites are small—so small you’ll need a 10x hand lens to identify them accurately. In fact, it’s more likely you’ll find the damage before the mite by randomly examining leaves. And this is wise—since if you detect them early, mites can be easily controlled. The mites themselves are oval in shape, slightly bristled, and pale green as juveniles with distinct dark green spots as they mature. These green dots are actually the contents of their gut and what gives the two-spotted spider mite its name.

Spider mites feed through a piercing, sucking action, which leaves a white pinprick mark. For individual plants, the first indication of infestation is a collection of these marks in an area the size of a dime. It may take some thorough hunting, but with practice, you can spot damage a good distance away. As the population increases, the feeding areas become larger, eventually yellowing the whole leaf and causing it to drop. Spider mites move from bottom to top, so it’s likely you’ll see the first of the damage on the plant’s lower growth, with leaves becoming more spotted as the population grows and the mites move up the plant. In severe situations, entire plants will become yellow and collapse.

Spider Mite Lifecycle

The lifecycle of the spider mite is dependent on their environment. Under ideal conditions of high heat (80 degrees F) and low humidity (less than 50%), the spider mite can complete development from egg to adult in just 5-7 days. These peak times generally occur between June-Sept. Under more average conditions of spring and fall, a lifecycle will take up to 19 days. If you can regulate temperature and humidity in your growing area (such as inside a greenhouse), you can minimize the mite’s population growth. As hours of sunlight shorten and food becomes scarce, female spider mites will enter into a stage known as diapause. This changes their coloration from green to orange. During diapause, the spider mite will not eat or lay eggs. They are also much less susceptible to pesticides.

Natural Predators

There are a few natural insect predators of the spider mite, but none is as effective as Feltiella acarisuga. This predatory gall midge is found worldwide except in the neotropics. It has proven itself so successful that biological control producers began rearing it in the late 90’s and have achieved great success in controlling the pest of greenhouse crops. Almost as small as their prey, an adult Feltiella measures 2mm and resembles a delicate tiny fly with folded wings and long legs. Though it’s possible to see them laying eggs in a colony, it’s likely easier to witness them in their larval or maggot stage. During this one week period, the bright orange Feltiella maggots will feed on 15 spider mites a day and up to 80 spider mite eggs. If spider mite populations are not yet at the webbing stage, an introduction of 1000 midge per hectare can rapidly reduce the infestation.

How to Identify Spider Mite Damage

The best way to control spider mites is to start with prevention. Upon receiving any new plant or vegetable starts to place in your landscape or garden, sample at least 25% by tapping the leaves over a piece of white paper. If you discover bugs dropping, use your 10x magnifying glass to determine if these are spider mites.

Because spider mite populations can increase so rapidly, and because many crops are at risk, it’s essential that you scout for possible threats if you’re growing a vulnerable crop or landscape plant during the hot weather. For large crop situations, walk back and forth every couple of rows to examine plants for any discoloration or speckling. If you know that spider mites are already present, look for the fine webbing indicating the population is growing. The web generally starts small between two easy points, like between the leaves on the tip of a branch. The webbing, when dense, has a shimmery appearance, and is very sticky. Ideally, have a cloth and a bucket with soapy water with you to wipe off the webbing as you find it.

For greenhouse situations, follow the same method as for large field crops but particularly inspect the tops of plants closest to the glass. Spider mites will congregate quickly here. Some hothouse growers will monitor their staff as they emerge from a day’s work in the crop noticing anyone who comes out itchy. Spider mites exude a skin irritant that can cause sensitive people to scratch. Many hotspots can be discovered this way.

Popular Plant Hosts

Spider mites are particularly attracted to the following plants:

  • Annuals
  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Beans/peas (pods)
  • Cherries
  • Cucumbers
  • Ficus or Benjamin fig
  • Hemp
  • Hops
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Roses
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes

Alternate weed hosts

  • Chickweed
  • Clover
  • Various grasses

Natural Prevention and Management

There are two essential keys to successful spider mite control:

  1. Habitat management: Keep the humidity level high, above 65%, and temperatures lower than the ideal 80 degrees F.
  2. Early detection: If you can catch the spider mite prior to webbing or distribution throughout the crop, you have a very good chance at eliminating it before you start to lose plants. Note which plants they prefer and monitor accordingly.

If you discover spider mites, you have a few options:

  • Washing: For individual plants like landscape trees or perennials, wash down the entire plant, focusing on the undersides of the leaves. Repeat every two days for 10 days until spider mites are absent from new growth 10 days after the last wash.
  • Beneficial insects: Purchase and apply beneficial predators. Distribute evenly throughout plants or crop. Monitor your crop for beneficial predators throughout summer season.

By informing yourself and taking these simple steps, you can control spider mite populations before they wreak havoc in your garden.

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About the Author

Jessica Dawe
Jessica Dawe owns a garden center and has been practicing integrated pest management and permaculture since graduating in 1995 with a degree in horticulture.

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Spider Mite Control

Grower’s Ally ®️ Spider Mite Control gives hydroponic growers safe and natural pest control against spider mites and other common greenhouse pests, using an effective blend of rosemary, clove and peppermint oils that leave no harmful residues and can be used up until day of harvest.

Use for Hemp and Cannabis, as well as other hydroponic plants.

Treats and Controls: Adult and nymph spider mites, whiteflies, aphids, thrips, mealy bugs, leaf rollers, and scale insects.

Available Sizes: 24oz. ready-to-use.; 1-quart concentrate (makes 100 gallons); 1-gallon concentrate (makes 400 gallons).

Active Ingredients – Rosemary Oil, Clove Oil, Peppermint Oil.

Other Ingredients – Water, Glycerol Monooleate, Ethyl Lactate, Ascorbyl Palmitate.


Spider mites

Quick facts

Each species of mite is different in its feeding pattern. If you have any doubt about the type of species found in and around your home, contact a professional pest control service or specialist to give you the best advice.

  • Clover mites feed on grass, but do NOT bite humans or animals.
  • Velvet mites are harmless to people and control other mites.
  • Spider mites feed on plants, but are NOT harmful to people.
  • Bird and rodent mites can carry diseases that are harmful to people.

Behavior and habits of spider mites

Spider mite (also called two-spotted spider mite) can be found on deciduous trees, evergreens, bedding plants and annual garden plants.

Ornamental plants: arborvitae, azalea, spruce and rose

Bedding plants: lantana, marigolds, New Guinea impatiens, salvia and viola

Garden vegetables: cucumbers, snap beans, peas, tomatoes and lettuce

Berries: blackberry, blueberry and strawberry

Spider mite infestations are particularly common during hot, dry summer weather.

How to identify spider mites

  • They are very tiny, about 1/50th inch long.
  • Yellow-orange in color, and have two dark spots, one on each side of the body.
  • When a heavy infestation occurs webbing will also be present.

Life cycle of spider mites

These mites live through the winter as eggs on vegetation.

  • Larvae hatch and complete development in 1-2 weeks depending on the temperature.
  • Under high temperatures (>90°F) colonies can reach high numbers in less than two weeks.
  • After hatching, the mites build colonies on the undersides of leaves and produce webbing over infested leave surfaces. This webbing gives them the name «spider» mites.

Damage caused by spider mites

They use piercing-sucking mouthparts to feed on the underside of leaves and needles.

If you find discolored leaves and suspect spider mites, hold a white sheet of paper or paper plate under the leaves and shake the branch or leaves. If mites are present, you will find tiny spider-like creatures drop down and move around on the paper.

How to get rid of mites

Check plants regularly for spider mites

  • Examine plants for stippling and/or webbing.
  • Look closely with a hand lens on the underside of discolored leaves for the presence of spider mites.
  • You can also hold a white piece of paper or cardboard underneath potentially infested leaves; shake the leaves and look for spider mites that have fallen.
  • Check garden plants every 3-5 days, especially under drought conditions.

Watch plants for signs of stress

Spider mites thrive on plants under stress. Keep plants well watered to reduce the chances of a spider mite attack.

  • Most plants should receive about one inch of water a week to avoid stress conditions.
  • Conserve moisture through proper mulching.
  • Select drought tolerant plants for locations that are particularly hot and dry.
  • Do not fertilize plants during drought, as this can add further stress to plants.
  • Do not overwater as this can lead to root rot.

Use a high pressure water spray to dislodge some of the spider mites. This can also wash away their protective webbing.

Natural enemies like velvet mites can control spider mites

Certain species of lady beetles (e.g. Stethorus sp.) and predatory mites (e.g., Phytoseiulus persimilis) naturally control spider mite populations.

Velvet mites feed on spider mites

Velvet mites are 1/16 — 1/8 inch long and are found on the soil surface. They are active during spring.

  • Mite eggs and larvae can grow inside insects.
  • They are harmless to people and gardens.
  • Apart from spider mites, they can control other pests like, spring cankerworm, cabbage moth, lace bug and other arthropods.

If the spider mite population is high, natural enemies are not effective at controlling spider mites.

Using pesticides like carbaryl and imidacloprid for mite control can kill these natural enemies as well.

Using pesticides

Insecticidal soap and horticultural oil

These are effective against mites and have little impact on people, animals and nontarget insects.

These products will only kill mites that the pesticide directly contacts. They do not have any residual activity.

Target the underside of leaves as well as the top.

Repeat applications may be needed.


Effective active ingredients of residual pesticides include bifenthrin, deltamethrin and lambda cyhalothrin. Use these pesticides only when necessary, as they might affect a variety of insects.

Most spider mite infestations occur when it is hot and dry.

Water plants thoroughly before spraying pesticides for spider mites.

Spray in the early morning or early evening.

These steps will reduce the risk of further stressing plants and causing injury.

CAUTION: Mention of a pesticide or use of a pesticide label is for educational purposes only. Always follow the pesticide label directions attached to the pesticide container you are using. Remember, the label is the law.

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension entomologist and Suzanne Wold-Burkness, College of Food, Agricultural & Natural Resource Sciences



Spider mites are small, light brown to bright red arachnids which exist throughout the United States. They are very small – smaller than a poppy seed – and are many times confused with clover mites or chiggers. Unlike clover mites or chiggers, most all spider mites will turn bright red in color making them both “messy” and highly visible.



Spider mites have long existed outside in the landscape living their lives amongst the plants where organic matter thrives. They would infest cotton, corn and other food crops causing enough damage to ruin the harvest. Awareness and treatments for this pest has enabled farmers to control populations, but the spider mites have remained persistent. They are now common around the home choosing to live on any plant or shrub available. Juniper, arborvitae, succulents and pine trees are common hosts, but just about any vegetation will do.

In recent years, spider mites have found their way onto and now inside the home. The increase of indoor plants and the practice of keeping some outside for the summer and inside for the winter have allowed the spider mite to become an indoor pest. They do not migrate inside out of desire but in most cases, due to over populating outside plants.


Plants with spider mite activity will likely suffer some damage. Sure signs include web like material on the bottom sides of plant leaves, bronzing of the plant stem and in extreme cases, plant death. Unlike other acari, spider mites can reproduce quickly. Several cycles may complete in one season.

If conditions are good, they may go through all cycles in under a month. Their cycle includes egg, nymph, two molts of the nymph and then adult. Since they don’t migrate quickly, most populations will grow around each other, slowly moving outward as their population increases. The main part of their nest is usually where damage is most prevalent. Expect to find dead leaves and plant parts in “bad” condition. Upon closer observation, you will see the mites feeding or slowly moving if you disturb them.



Spider mite control should be implemented around the landscape as soon as activity is diagnosed. This will prevent further damage, less chemical control and most important, prevent a local populous from getting inside the home. Just be sure to understand this process will require specific actives and almost certainly, several treatments. Retreating is generally needed because no one spray will last long enough to kill all stages. And until all local eggs hatch, they will linger if treatments are not renewed. So to insure you kill all activity, treat once a week for 3-6 treatments. This schedule is especially important during warm summer months when cycles develop quickly.


If it is the off season like winter or spring when mite development is generally slow, treat every two weeks for local activity over a two month period. The best material for the outside landscape and on the home is MAXXTHOR EC. This concentrate uses a synthetic pyrethrum which both flushes and kills mites quickly once they move through the active.

Formulated as an oil base, it does a good job of penetrating all cracks and crevices where mites might hide and it will naturally coat all plant surfaces which is important for small pests like spider mites.

Add 2.5 oz of concentrate to our 20 GALLON HOSE END SPRAYER, fill the sprayer to the 5 gallon line and use the entire mixture over no more than 5,000 sq/ft. Spider mite activity may be centralized, but don’t limit your coverage area to just the active plants or just one side of the home. Its easy to miss key nest sites so its wise to treat as much as possible to ensure you don’t miss any.

When spraying for spider mites, its important to use a lot of water. This is why a hose end sprayer is well suited. Our sprayer is actually a 20 Gallon model which means you get up to 20 gallons of mixed material sprayed with one tank. So lets say you wanted to spray 10,000 sq/ft; you would add 5 oz of Maxxthor EC, fill the sprayer half way and then distribute the entire amount over the targeted 10,000 you wanted to treat.

And potted plants readily get spider mites too. Fortunately Maxxthor EC is excellent to use on household plants which show signs of activity. Take them outside to treat and dry; once dry they can be brought back inside. Be sure to inspect all plants in the home to catch any activity before it is too late. In most cases, treating plants around the infested one is a good practice. Maxxthor EC is gentle enough to use and getting the mite before it causes damage is important.


For mites active on an edible garden plant or tree which will produce fruit or vegetables, go with MULTIPURPOSE INSECT KILLER. This concentrate is strong enough to handle mites yet approved for organic gardening and can be safely used right up to the day of harvest. Treatments will quickly work and keep plants mite free for a week or more.

Mix 6 oz per gallon of water (1.5 oz per quart) and spray all foliage of infested plants.

You’ll need a good PUMP SPRAYER to apply the solution; unlike spraying the yard, mulch and flower beds, a more focused sprayer is required.


Once in the house, you’ll need treat all routes of entry with FS MP AEROSOL. This is a quick acting aerosol ideally suited for void treating where mites like to hide. It uses an oil base that helps it penetrate all the small gaps they’ll use to hide and nest. FS MP will kill quickly and provide a week or two of residual. But if you spot activity anytime during the week – even a few days after you spray – don’t wait to treat again. When spider mites get active, they’ll be persistent requiring ongoing treatments and follow-up.

If you need to treat several rooms in the home, go with BITHOR. Similar to Maxxthor, this active is labeled for use in the home and is odorless. This form is water based so it won’t stain.

You’ll need to apply it using a PUMP SPRAYER like the one listed above but for spraying baseboards, basements, garages, etc., using a liquid will be more efficient.

For in the home, mix up 1 oz per gallon of water and expect to get about 800-1000 linear feet treated per gallon of mixed spray. Bithor will kill quickly and is safe enough to be applied on carpets for fleas and other pests so its okay to use even where children and pets play. Most homes can be properly treated with one gallon of mixed material but large homes or homes with bad problems could require more. And like the outside Bithor, plan on treating until the problem is gone. In general, you won’t need to apply it as frequently as the outside spray but twice a month is suggested.


Keep in mind once one side of the home shows evidence of spider mites, its just a matter of time before they migrate to the other sides. And since its hard to see the migration, don’t wait. And even after they’re gone, using Maxxthor EC outside every 2-3 months will keep them gone for good. Anyone who has had this problem will understand that this pest is resilient and very tough for something so small.



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Spider Mite — Effective Pest Control

Spider Mite Control

Athena Organic Spider Mite formula effectively kills spider mites and other soft body pests upon application. Our formulation has been designed to penetrate plant crevices and grow medium where biotic infestations seek to develop. Using natural compounds to combat pest pressure minimizes the stress on your plants.

  • 100% Organic cold pressed plant extracts
  • Designed to kill, prevent and eradicate spider mite infestations
  • NO artificial pesticides or fungicides
  • Derived from locally grown inputs
  • Can be used from seedling to harvest

What to expect

Athena Spider Mite Control kills instantly on contact and further prevents the infestation from developing in to a crop destroying scenario. When used as directed Athena Spider Mites will penetrate plant crevices, branches and grow medium that unwanted biotic infestations seek to colonize. Killing the adult, juvenile, larvae and eggs of the problem pest.

Effective Against

Spider Mites Two-Spotted Spider Mites Southern Red Mites
Broad Mites Red Spider Mites Thrips
Mole Crickets Mosquito Larva European Red Mites
Aphids Chiggers Whitefly


We extract from these powerful natural pest controlling plants, all grown in the USA: Geraniol, Citronella, Peppermint, Cottonseed and Rosemary.

How to Use

Mix in clean water and spray when you first spot the target pest. Spray with lights off or just before they come on. Cover leaf surface thoroughly, top and bottom.

Application Ratio Instructions
Preventative 20 ml per gallon Spray once weekly
Max Strength 38 ml per gallon Spray on first sign of pests, then every 3 days until all insects and eggs are dead.

State pesticide use status

Approved for use in these states:

These states are coming soon:


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