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Spider Mites: 3 Things You Can Do to Stop Them

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Spider Mites

The list of houseplant pests can be tremendous.  Spider mites, thrips, mealybugs, fungus gnats, aphids, scale.  It is a long and disgusting list!  This post will focus on the tiny, yet highly annoying and destructive spider mite.

There are many different methods that you can use to deal with spider mites.  I will give you some home remedies that you can try, as well as recommend some products out in the market that you can try if you don’t want to make your own concoction.

Spider mite damage can be pretty extreme and if you don’t detect it early, it can cause a giant headache.

Where do Spider Mites Come From

I have gotten this question so many times about pests in general.  Where do they come from?  The fact of the matter is that there are bugs everywhere and you simply can not stop them.

You can create conditions that will make it favorable for certain types of pests to attack your plants, but where do they come from?

Let me put it in perspective.  There are an estimated 10 quintillion (that’s 10 with 18 zeros after it) insects in the world.  That’s a LOT of damn bugs.  Spider mites technically actually aren’t even insects, but they are closely related to spiders.

We can not stop them.

They are everywhere.

What we CAN do though is 3 things:

  1. Create an environment that is unfavorable for spider mites
  2. Be observant
  3. Treat spider mites early on before the damage is too great

How Can You Tell You Have Spider Mites

There are a few telltale signs that you have spider mites.

Seeing a fine webbing in the leaves and stems will probably be the first thing that you notice.  If you look closely, you can actually see the spider mites, although they are very, very small.

They will appear as little specs and they come in different colors (lucky us).

One trick that you can use to see if you have spider mites is to hold a white piece of paper under the leaves of your plant that you are inspecting. If you gently shake the plant, you may notice little, dark specs falling on the paper.  These are spider mites.

Once spider mite infestation gets worse, you will notice a speckled or mottled appearance of the leaves.  There will be whiteish or yellow discoloration on the leaves.

This is because they suck the chlorophyll out of the leaves.  Chlorophyll is the pigment that gives plants their green color.

As a result, once the spider mites suck out the chlorophyll, you are left with unsightly white and yellow discoloration, and eventually very damaged brown leaves.  Bastards!

spider mites

Preventing Spider Mites

Spider mites thrive in an environment that is warm, dry and low in humidity.  So naturally, you can help discourage spider mites by having an environment that is the exact opposite.

You may not be able to control the temperature, but spider mites HATE moisture.  So keeping your plant well hydrated and increasing the humidity if your space will go a long way in preventing spider mites from damaging your plants.

When I do have spider mites, I tend to notice them much more in the winter time.   Forced air heat in our home produces an environment that is very low in humidity.  This conditions make it more favorable for spider mites.

Spider Mites Home Remedy

There are a few different home remedies that you can try before resorting to some other products.  You can try these first to keep the spider mites under control, while you wait to get a commercial product if you choose to go down that path.

The simplest thing you can do is give your houseplant a shower!  Take it to the sink, the shower, wherever you can give your plant a good rinse.  Wet the entire plant, including the undersides of the leaves.

After you do this, what I like to do is to take a damp paper towel and wipe every surface of the leaves.  This works particularly well if you have larger leaves that you can handle.

It may not work if you have finer or smaller leaves.  Be sure to wipe the undersides of the leaves as well!  You will notice that you will see a yellowish/brownish color on the paper towel.

I have a cast iron plant that gets spider mites in the winter, but I am able to keep it under control and will regularly wipe the leaves down.

Spider mites hate moisture, so giving your houseplant a regular shower will help keep the population down dramatically and will help you eradicate this pest.  The key is CONSISTENCY, so if you notice spider mites on your houseplant, give it a regular shower at least once a week.

Spider Mites – Other Remedies

Whether I have plants indoors or outdoors, I like to use the safest, most natural remedies before resorting to anything more harsh for pest control.  We have a responsibility for ourselves, our family, our pets and our environment to use the least harsh methods for pest management!

Insecticidal Soap is my product of choice for general pest control and it is also on Amazon or most nurseries, garden centers and hardware stores.

It uses naturally derived ingredients for pest control.  You need to make sure that you spray all surfaces of the plant, including the undersides of the leaves.  The insecticidal soap must contact the spider mites otherwise it won’t work.

Not only does it help with spider mites, but it will also help you eliminate aphids, mealy bugs, and a host of other pests.

Another remedy for treating spider mites and other pests is Neem Oil and it is also available on Amazon. I personally don’t use it because it has an odor which I don’t like indoors, but many people report success.

Neem oil is naturally derived and is a good control for aphids, white flies, and spider mites.  It is also reportedly a good treatment for fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and can be used indoors and outdoors.

Closing Comments on Pests

I will be writing more articles in the future about other pests and how you can successfully treat your houseplants.  The key is to try and provide an environment that is not conducive to pests.

In addition, the methods described in this post are the safest methods to use indoors for spider mites.  Once you have spider mites, it will important be to keep a vigilant eye on your plants and use a methodical, consistent treatment plan as described above.

Although spider mites are very annoying, you can successfully and safely treat them if you spot them before they cause a large amount of damage to your houseplants.

Want to know how to deal with other pests? Check out my blog post on how to deal with:

Scale on Houseplants: 5 Effective Steps to Eliminate Them

Eliminating Fungus Gnats: 3 Easy Steps for Your Houseplants

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media because it will help me spread the Ohio Tropics houseplant care tips to the masses! Also, check out my shop on Amazon for all your houseplant care needs:

OHIO TROPICS PLANT CARE STOREFRONT

Andrea

Tuesday 24th of August 2021

Hi, I just wanted to share my experience. I recently found spider mites on my Ficus Audreys (I have a small plant shop so I have about a dozen smallish plants). Because my shop is small, I generally throw out any infested plants, but they weren't too bad and I didn't even have webs yet. Anyway what I did: I took all of the plants to the sink, soaped up my hands and washed every leaf with soapy water top and bottom, the next day, I sprayed them all down with insecticidal soap and repeated the whole process about a week later... so far so good. Obviously this isn't really doable for finer foliage plants like parlor palms or ivies but might be helpful for calathea or other larger leaf mite magnets.

Raffaele

Wednesday 25th of August 2021

Thanks for sharing! That sounds like a great approach! :-)

Rachel

Saturday 7th of August 2021

Wondering what can/ should be done after the infestation is over. I inherited a plant that shows the spotted appearance of spider mites on many leaves ... it’s a large philo Xanadu. I see no evidence of current occupation! Do I, as some suggest, prune all affected leaves? I’m guessing the visual damage is permanent...? Soooo frustrating, it was a gift of a wishlist plant!

Raffaele

Saturday 7th of August 2021

Hi Rachel, yes you are correct in that those affected leaves will not look like they used to prior to the infestation. If it really bothers you, you can trim those affected leaves off. There is no harm in doing that, especially if your plant still has some healthy, unaffected leaves! The plant will grow back.

Alexis Crook

Friday 11th of June 2021

Do you have a recommendation for string of turtles and S.O.heart plants? I know they do not like to stay wet and I can't quite tell if the mites are under SOT because the leaves are so close together. Thank you for your time and advice.

Raffaele

Sunday 13th of June 2021

Hi Alexis! You'd have to inspect closely and look on the undersides of the leaves to see if you see any spider mites. They hide in all sorts of areas. You can still rinse off these plants as long as they can dry out quickly. Don't be afraid to do so. You can also use a good insecticidal soap to treat the spider mites. That should take care of them, but be sure to use as directed and get complete coverage when you spray. Hope this helps!

Sarah

Sunday 18th of April 2021

Thoughts on mosquito bits to control reoccurrence of spider mite infestation?

Raffaele

Sunday 18th of April 2021

Mosquito bits won't do anything for spider mites (though they're great to treat fungus gnats).

Megan

Monday 10th of August 2020

Thanks for the information. I tried a new way to water my plants this week. I put them in 2 inches of room tempature of distilled water for 20 minutes. I could not believe the results. Some of the plants drank it all up and looked a lot better. Has anyone tried this? Could I do it with my orchids?

Raffaele

Monday 10th of August 2020

You're welcome Megan! For my orchids, I have most of them in a plastic pot with holes, but have them slipped into a decorative pot with no holes. I fill it with water to the top and let them soak for at least 30 minutes. Then I take the plant out, drain the water, and place back by the window. It works very well to thoroughly moisten the bark mix.