Use these tips for identifying, treating, and preventing spider mites on your houseplants.
Spider mites are an incredibly common but crummy issue for plant owners. One of the best ways to conquer them is to be aware of them, know the signs, and have an arsenal of treatment options at the ready. Here are some tips for how to eliminate spider mites from your houseplants.
What Are Spider Mites?
Spider Mites are nasty pests that can invade and destroy your precious plants. They are tinier than a period at the end of a sentence, and if you do happen to see one, it’s more than likely not alone. Spider mites always bring their crew along with them. Spider Mites have different phases of their life, with varying degrees of damage they can do.
Adult spider mites will lay eggs on the underside of leaves. A single adult spider mite can lay 100 eggs in 3 weeks, which is how infestations can get out of control so quickly. Yuck.
From the eggs, six-legged colorless larvae emerge. They’ll eat all of the plant matter and sap in sight. As they feed, they begin to change to a darker color.
Once the larvae fatten up enough, they essentially hibernate for a while and transform into an eight-legged version of themselves called a protonymph. At this stage and the next, they begin to form sticky webs.
After another trip to the all-you-can-eat buffet, the protonymphs molt (shed) a layer and become an eight-legged deutonymph. Still ugly, still destructive.
After another feeding and rest phase, they molt once more and become adult spider mites. These little beasts can reproduce without a partner, which is why they can lay so many eggs in such a short period of time. Altogether, this process usually takes about 14 days. Although in a warmer environment, the whole process is sped up to 7-10 days.
Why Do They Suck?
Spider mites do suck… literally! When they infest a plant, they pierce the back of the leaves and suck the life out of it. While perhaps not the worst of the houseplant pests, they can do a fair bit of damage to your plants if left untreated. They are quite tricky to spot, which means if you don’t check for them regularly, you may only catch them when your plant starts losing leaves, drooping, or turning yellow. Spider Mites have claimed many victims, especially when a plant enthusiast is just starting out. Don’t worry too much if you discover a spider mite infestation though, it’s a nuisance, but it’s usually treatable. You are not a failure. It happens to all of us!
How to Tell if you Have a Spider Mite InfestationThe best course of action for treating household pests is to take preventative measures. Build a pest-inspection into your plant care calendar. You can regularly look over your plant with a bright light to see if you can spot any eggs or anything else creepy crawly. Here are some signs to look for to identify a spider mite infestation:
- White dots on the underside of the leaves
- Small brown or yellow spots of damage on the leaves
- Completely yellow leaves
- The plant has slowed down or stopped growing
- Tiny nearly-invisible webbing on the plant
Ways to Treat Spider Mites
There are many potential ways to treat spider mites. You may have to buy and try a few of them to find what works best for you and your plant. In any case, if you suspect your plant has an infestation of spider mites, try to isolate it from your other plants to prevent the spread.
Natural Spider Mite Treatments:
If you prefer to go the chemical-free route, you can first try using a spray-nozzle to blast the tiny beasts off. You can also wipe down each leaf and stem with a cloth, warm water, and a plant-friendly soap. This would likely only be an effective method for early infestations, and you’ll need to be vigilant about checking your plants.
Neem oil is a great tool to have at-hand to combat various pests and improve your plant’s shine. It’s a natural pesticide used on both crops and houseplants. Mix neem oil with water and wipe down the leaves with a microfiber cloth. Repeat the process once a week until you’re feeling confident that the infestation is taken care of. Another bonus of neem oil: it’s non-toxic to pets and wildlife.
If you need to bring in the big guns, insecticidal soap is your best bet. It’s a more aggressive and effective treatment for some of the worst infestations. If you’re looking to get rid of spider mites on your houseplants, try applying insecticidal soap to your plant during the evening. Insecticidal soap and sunlight do not mix and will damage your plant!
Preventing Spider MitesThe best treatment for pests is always prevention. Here are some ways to keep spider mites off your houseplants.
- Keep your houseplants well-watered. A dry plant can be a breeding ground for spider mites.
- Keep your plant and plant area sterilized
- Set up bug tape
- Have a system for monitoring your plants for infestations.