What are Spider Mites and Easy Ways to Control Them

by Luke Marion

If your plants look blotchy, slightly white, but mottled green and pail, check the undersides of the leaf. If you notice slight webbing, you have spider mites. But...

What are spider mites?

Spider mites are tiny arachnids belonging to the family Tetranychidae. Despite their name, they are not insects but are more closely related to spiders and ticks. These minuscule pests measure only about 0.2 to 0.5 millimeters in size, making them nearly invisible to the naked eye. They are often red, yellow, green, or brown in color, depending on the species and their diet

Spider mites will consume the plant juices much like aphids and other pests, they do not trap bugs in their webs like regular spiders do. This causes considerable damage to plants. 

How to control spider mites

  1. Isolate infected plants / quarantine new ones:

    If you notice a plant with spider mite infestation, isolate it from other plants to prevent the mites from spreading. Also, when new plants are purchased, or brought inside from outside you should always wait up to 2 weeks before integrating those plants with the rest. 

  2. Removal methods
    Spraying with Water:

    Use a strong stream of water to wash the mites off the plant's leaves. Be sure to target the undersides of the leaves where spider mites often reside. 
    Repeat this process regularly to disrupt their life cycle.
    Neem Oil
    : Neem oil is a natural insecticide that can help control spider mites. Mix a few drops of neem oil with water and spray it on your plants. Neem oil can also act as a repellent.
    Insecticidal Soap:
    Insecticidal soaps are effective against spider mites. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and apply the soap solution to your plants, focusing on the affected areas.

    Horticultural Oils:
    Horticultural oils, such as dormant oil or summer oil, can suffocate spider mites and their eggs. Ensure you use these oils as directed, as some plants may be sensitive to oil sprays. 
  3. Predatory Insects:
    Introduce natural predators of spider mites, such as ladybugs, predatory mites, or lacewings, to your garden. These insects can help keep spider mite populations in check. Check out a video we did on a spider mite predator! 

  4. Prune and clean your plant
    Keep your garden clean and free of debris to reduce hiding spots for spider mites. Regularly remove fallen leaves and weeds.

  5. Reduce plant stress
    Plant stress can encourage pests. By fertilizing adequately, new growth will be promoted before damaged growth becomes an issue. Heat and drought can also be an issue. On indoor plants, keep plants away from heaters, vents, and outside during peak summer ensure plants are getting adequate water to help reduce stress. 

  6. Keep pets at a distance 
    This can be hard to do sometimes, but removing pets from around your plants can considerably cut down on spider mites, especially indoors. Dogs and cats often will roll around in the grass outside, pick up mites on their fur or hair, and when they brush against your plants it is the leading cause for spider mites on plants. 

  7. Monitor Regularly:
    Check your plants regularly for signs of spider mites, such as stippled or discolored leaves, webbing, and tiny moving specks on the leaves. Early detection can help you address the problem before it becomes severe.



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