Do your house plants keep dying? Is your garden turning bronze with decay? It may be that spider mites are to blame for these undesirable conditions. Spider mites devour plants with wild abandon and are closely related to spiders. They are a common blight and difficult to get rid of. Spider mites can thrive inside and outside of the home, and are found all across America, Canada and other moderate climate countries with little preference to their geographical location.
If you have previously had an unrelated pest problem in your home or garden and treated them as such, you may have a secondary pest problem. Insecticides and pesticides can actually reduce spider mites’ natural prey and encourage an escalation of the current problem. Signs that you may have spider mites revolve heavily around damaged plant life, where discoloration, tiny holes in leaves and other unusual signals crop up all of a sudden; it’s usually time to investigate.
Spider Mites Identification
Spider mites are hard to see, but evidence of their existence is an unfortunate and a very strong sign of their presence. Discoloration, dying or weeping plants, and difficulty restoring plants or trees to their natural or healthy state may indicate you have this common garden pest living amongst the leaves. Overturning leaves to view the veins may indicate signs of spider mite eggs, webbing, or further damage which is indicative of their presence.
Spider mites are indeed a form of spider, and belong to the Tetranychidae family; so webbing may appear before other signs of damage. They may be one of many colors; red, yellow, black or green or brown and are sometimes a variety of colors depending on the season. Like spiders, they are able to form webs, which may be used for protection by trapping predators; so always be sure to monitor your plants for any unusual or new changes.
Spider Mites Habitat
Spider mites prefer dry, warm climates and will seek out areas of shade under leaves, in tree bark, under plants or around shrubs and bushes. Many predators of spider mites prefer warm, humid conditions, and as such, once they establish themselves, they can grow wildly out of control due to little threat from other animals.
It is also important to note, that if a plant is dehydrated (often due to heat) it can actually be more nutritious to a spider mite and will kill off the plants much more quickly. Be sure to water your plants correctly during warmer months to prevent the conditions in which spider mites thrive.
Life Cycle of Spider Mites
Eggs are typically laid by females near the veins of leaves to ensure that a food and water supply is present when they are born. Female spider mites do not look after their young, and once the eggs are born, they are fully independent. These eggs are much larger in relation to the size of their mother than other spiders or similar insects but are still very difficult to see.
Spider mites typically reproduce in the cooler months of fall or spring, and as such, new population counts may be noted around the turn of the year, once the warmer spring months help accelerate their growth and provide new and thriving plant to feed from.
Spider mites mature in the spring time in as little as one week. It is recommended to take preventative measures before this time, as once you have a contaminated area, it is very difficult to resolve the issue.
Spider Mites and Humans
Spider mites are a domestic and outdoor pest which can be very frustrating for gardeners or plant lovers. They can cause extensive damage to almost any plant life, including potted indoor plants and outside trees. Treatments can be a long and painstaking process and are not particularly effective. Also, incorrect use of pesticides and insecticides may cause the problem to increase.
When large spider mite populations find dry, hospitable conditions near crops and agricultural land, they can cause thousands of dollars of damage to crops. Spider mites can also turn arable land into wasteland due to the inability to effectively treat or control their existence, though these drastic situations may be uncommon.
Spider Mite Control
As spider mites prefer dry conditions, water management can be one way to help alleviate any existing pest problems. You should ensure your plants are watered correctly, but do not over water, especially during warmer months. This can also help destroy webbing, and prevent the mites from protecting themselves against their natural predators. Care should be sought to water underneath eaves to ensure the plant or tree is clean.
Insecticides are never recommended for use against spider mites, as these will kill off other natural predators which may be harmless and helpful in irradiating spider mites. This disruption of balance in a garden can increase the population exponentially. Pesticides can also cause similar problems, as the spider mites have shown an increased resilience to the chemicals over time.
Soaps and horticultural oils are really the only things that can help control mite populations, and even then, these methods are not a sure-fire way to get rid of them. They are a very frustrating pest, especially for proud gardeners or plant lovers. When using these treatments, you should apply the oil or soap to all of your plants at one time, and take care to use a cloth and rub the treatment into the leaves and stems. This should be repeated every week or so until the problem ends.
Spider Mite Entomology
Spider mites, or Acari, belong to the animalia kingdom. They are an athropoda phylum which is classed under the arachnida family; despite their slight genetic difference from spiders. For this, they also belong to a super-family, the tetranychoidea, which is also their second family name, better describing their unique characteristics.
They are less than one millimeter in length and are difficult to see with the naked eye. They come in an assortment of garden-friendly colors and are a common domestic pest. Much like spiders, they have the ability to weave intricate webbing in order to lay their eggs or provide protection from their assortment of natural predators.