How To Get Rid of Spider Mites on Plants
If you have houseplants, you are likely somewhat familiar with spider mites. If you are new to houseplant parenthood and have not yet familiarized yourself with this common houseplant pest, the sooner you can become aware of them, the better! These tiny little critters love gorging themselves on your tender plants and they are extremely easy to miss if you are not sure what to look for. So, let's learn all about spider mites on plants, what they are, what they look like, how to get rid of them, and how to prevent them in the first place!
What Are Spider Mites?
So, what are spider mites? As can be assumed by the name, spider mites are a member of the arachnid family. They are tiny creatures that prefer to live on the undersides of leaves, spinning equally tiny webs in the dips and creases of a plant's leaves and stems. Collecting on the bottom sides of leaves provides spider mites with protection, and they oftentimes go unnoticed while they feed on the plant, not usually being noticed until the plant has already sustained a significant amount of damage. This makes spider mites one of the most difficult houseplant pests to deal with. Spider mites cannot fly, though they are able to use their webs as a sort of parachute, using the wind to blow them into your home or from plant to plant. They are attracted to certain plants more than others, palms and alocasia in particular, and usually will not move on from one plant until they have consumed it. However, if one plant that is infested is grouped so closely with other plants that it is touching the other plants, the spider mites can easily crawl from one plant to the next, infesting every plant within reach. Spider mites prefer bright and warm conditions and are more likely to infest plants that are in bright or direct sunlight.
What Do Spider Mites Look Like?
It is nearly impossible to identify something if you don't even know what to look for, so if you are wondering, "what do spider mites look like?", here are some things that might help you spot them. They are nearly microscopic in size, making spider mites on plants very difficult to spot. Spider mites are usually a brownish-red color, though they are so small it is often difficult to tell their color. They are usually able to be spotted by the webs and excrement they leave behind, appearing like a really small, tight-knit network of webs speckled with small white particles that could almost be mistaken for dust. Sometimes these white particles can also appear on the tops of leaves and make your leaves look dusty, but this is actually the waste of the spider mite population. The leaves of an infested plant may begin to look stippled, and leaves that have been severely affected by spider mites may begin to curl and dry up, eventually falling off your plant altogether.
How To Treat Spider Mites on Plants
Treating spider mites can be difficult due to their size. Since spider mites are so small, it is impossible to see every single one of them on a plant, and they can easily hide in the crevices of your plant. Once you have noticed a spider mite infestation, these are the steps we recommend following for how to treat spider mites on plants:
Step 1: Remove Your Plant From the Area
Carefully remove your plant from the area, trying not to brush any of its leaves up against any other plants, as this could potentially cause the spread of spider mites to other healthy plants. We recommend moving your plant outside if the weather is conducive or moving it temporarily to your shower or bath tub, as this will make it easier to treat your plant. Even after you treat your plant, you should keep your plant quarantined and away from other plants to prevent the possible spread of spider mites.
Step 2: Spray Down the Infested Plant
Spraying down your plant, either in a tub, sink, or outdoors, will help to remove the spider mites and the residue they leave behind. This will also help to remove their blanket-like webbing. Thoroughly spray down the tops and bottoms of all the leaves as well as the stems of the plant. To avoid saturating your plant and keep spider mites from falling into the soil of your houseplant, you can secure a plastic bag around the base of the plant. This may not keep all the water out, but it will help. Most plants, however, will not be bothered by the extra water, so long as they have a drainage hole and are able to adequately dry out.
Step 3: Thoroughly Wipe Down Your Plant
The next step for how to get rid of spider mites involves wiping down the leaves of your plant. Even though we just sprayed down all the leaves, giving them an additional wipe is highly recommended. This will make sure that any webbing or spider mites that resisted the thorough rinse are removed from your plant. The key to step 2 and 3 is to do a thorough job. Leftover webbing can actually repel any pest control products that are used, resulting in a prompt re-infestation of your plant.
Step 4: Treat Your Plant with a Pest Control Product
Now that your plant has been thoroughly cleaned, it is time to select your preferred pest control product. Our top recommendation is Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew, though there are plenty of products that work effectively on spider mites and other houseplant pests. Horticultural oils such as Neem Oil and insecticidal soaps also work well. Whatever product you choose to use, spray down the entire plant thoroughly, being sure not to miss the undersides of every leaf on your plant and any nook or cranny the spider mites may be able to hide in. Failing to thoroughly spray down your plant can easily result in its re-infestation, so go crazy!
Step 5: Quarantine Your Plant
After treating your plant, keep it somewhere away from your other plants. While the treatment process has hopefully killed the spider mite population infesting your plant, there is always a chance that some survived, and the last thing you want is for the spider mites to reappear and begin to infest your other plants too.
Step 6: Reapply Pest Control
After your initial application of the pest control product of your choice, you will want to reapply three more times with each application being three days apart. After this, you should re-treat your plant once every two weeks for 2-3 more treatments. This will help to ensure that all of the spider mites regardless of where they are at in their lifecycle are exterminated.
Step 7: Monthly Preventative Maintenance
After you have completed the above treatment regimen, thoroughly inspect your plant. Look for webbing, spider mite excrement, stippled leaves, and any other signs that spider mites may still be present. Given that you find no evidence of spider mites, your plant can be returned to its place among your other houseplants, though you will still want to keep an eye on it. If, by some miracle, the spider mites survived the nearly two-month treatment process, they will begin to reproduce and become noticeable again within the next couple of months, in which case you will have to restart the treatment process. With plants that have experienced past issues with spider mites, we do recommend inspecting them and spraying them down with your choice of pest control spray monthly to help curb any resurgences.
How To Prevent Spider Mites
If spider mites seem to be a repeat offender in your household and amongst your plants, taking some preventative measures could help stop future infestations before they even have a chance. So, if you are wondering how to prevent spider mites, here are some of our recommendations.
Inspect Your Plants Regularly
Keeping a close eye on all of your plants and maintaining a close awareness of their condition is the best way to ensure they stay healthy. Regularly inspecting your plants will help with more than just spider mites, too! The two most common ways to get spider mites is either them coming in contact with your plant outdoors, or bringing spider mites into your home on a plant that is infested. So, if you put any plants outdoors during the warm months of the year, inspecting them thoroughly before bringing them back inside will be very important. Thoroughly inspecting any new plants you bring home will also help to avoid unknowingly bringing houseplant pests into your home. It is also never a bad idea to treat plants as soon as you bring them home from the store or as soon as you bring them back inside from an extended stay on your porch. This is a highly recommended precautionary measure since early signs of infestation may not be apparent.
Use Leaf Shine on Susceptible Plants
While Leaf Shine is most often thought to be a primarily cosmetic product, it can help your plants fend off potential pest infestations! Periodically applying leaf shine to the leaves of your plants, especially plants that are more susceptible to spider mites, creates a barrier between the pests and your plant, making it difficult for the pest to feed on the leaves of your plant.
Apply A Systemic Pest Control
Systemic pest control products are another great way to prevent pest infestations. Systemic Houseplant Insect Control can either be sprinkled over the soil and watered in, or a tea can be made and used when watering your plants. The solution is then soaked up by the roots of your plants where it becomes present in the living tissue of your plants. This makes it so that, in the event that pests do come in contact with your plant, they will die immediately after feeding on your plant due to the toxins now present in your plant.
Regularly treating your plants, especially ones that are more susceptible to spider mites, is a good habit to form. This will rid your plant of any pests that may be present before they have a chance to really do damage or develop into a full-blown infestation. And while it may seem like an unnecessary use of time and resources, it is much simpler and easier to take this preventative measure than it is to handle an entire army of houseplant pests. Not to mention, it will also prevent damage done to your plant which could take weeks or months for it to recover from.
How to Get Rid of Spider Mites
If you still have questions about how to treat spider mites on plants or how to prevent spider mites in the first place, or if you are having trouble identifying a pest on your houseplant, let us know! Houseplant pests are frustrating and can be difficult to get rid of for good, but you don't have to figure it out on your own. Our staff of experience houseplant professionals have seen it all and will be able to provide you with the best advice for how to treat certain houseplants with a variety of different pest infestations. If you feel confident in how to proceed with treating spider mites on plants, head over to our online store to shop houseplant pesticides and pest control products or stop by the Garden Center to shop with us in person! You can also check out the tutorial video below for more instruction on how to get rid of spider mites.