Spider mites can be pesky little pests that damage or destroy houseplants. Farmers can use potent poisons to destroy mite infestations in their fields.
Unfortunately, that alternative is unavailable to homeowners who simply want to protect their indoor plants. However, there are several choices you can use to remove spider mites from your plants.
What Are Spider Mites?
Spider mites are any of many different species of the Tetranychidae family, which has about 1200 species.
Spider mites are found nearly everywhere and are willing to feed on hundreds of different varieties of plants, including the following:
- Soybeans and other kinds of beans
Some species thrive indoors and attack houseplants. Spider mites often hide on the underside of leaves and spin sticky webs to protect their eggs.
The eggs can hatch after three days, and the spider mites can become adults in five days. Females can reproduce whether a male has fertilized them or not.
How Can I Tell If I Have Spider Mites?
Most spider mites are tiny, under 1 mm in size, meaning they can be difficult or impossible to spot with the naked eye. However, they can be more easily seen with a 10x magnifying glass. Look at the underside of the plant leaves.
Not all spider mites make webs, but the ones that do can make quite large webs between leaves. The strands of spider mite webs are much thicker than spiders’ webs.
Also, spiders tend to make webs that follow a pattern or a geometric design. Spider mite webs are not geometric but run in random directions with no pattern. Sometimes they can look almost like a cocoon surrounding a stem or leaf.
A large number of black spots could be indicative of the mites themselves. Spider mites feed by puncturing the stem or leaves of a plant with their mouth parts.
The plant will ooze sap from the hole, which the mites feed on. This sap will leave a white spot on the plant where it has been punctured.
If the plant undergoes too much stress, its leaves will turn yellow or brown and look wilted. A severely infested plant will eventually stop growing and drop its leaves altogether.
Prevention is better than removal. If you frequently check your plants to catch infestations early, spider mites can be controlled early. However, serious infestations can sometimes be difficult to remove.
How To Remove Spider Mites From Your Plants
Wash The Plant To Knock The Mites Off
One easy solution is to wash the plant under water to knock the mites away and down the drain.
If you can take the houseplant in its container to the sink, you can simply run the faucet and wash off the leaves and stem. Be sure to run the water over the undersides of the leaves, as this is where the mites hide and lay eggs.
If you wish to be especially thorough, you could also take the opportunity to repot the plant to remove any mites that have fallen onto the soil.
If you decide to do so, discard the old potting mix or soil, as you don’t want to spread the infestation to other plants or back into your garden.
A larger plant can wash well in the shower to remove mite infestations. Be sure to get the underside of the leaves with the shower hose or shower head.
If you decide to take your plants outside and spray them with the garden hose, be sure not to wash the mites onto other plants or the lawn.
Insecticidal Soap And Water
In addition to just washing the plant, you can include insecticidal soap in the mix as you remove the mites.
You can also spray the soap and water onto the plant without running it under the faucet. If you don’t want to use insecticidal soap, dishwashing soap or any mild shampoo like baby shampoo can be substituted.
Mix a spoon or two of the soap and water in a spray bottle and spray the mix onto the plants.
Neem oil can kill spider mites. Unlike other application methods, neem oil damages the spider mite’s body, which is a soft-bodied creature.
The mites do not develop tolerance to neem oil, and it can be used repeatedly. The procedure can be repeated every other week until the infestation is removed.
Rubbing alcohol can be sprayed on plants without harming or burning them. The spider mites are poisoned and die off.
If you are worried that the plant might not tolerate the rubbing alcohol, spray a tiny spot on the plant and observe the result.
Mixing 1 part rubbing alcohol to 2 parts water is a good ratio to mix in the spray bottle. If
the infestation is severe, a mix of 1 to 1 can also work to remove the mites without harming the plant.
Pyrethrins are natural pesticides that you can purchase in most stores. These are very effective in removing spider mite infestations. Follow the package directions to wash, spray or dab the plant with the chemical.
Vinegar is lethal to spider mites. Either white distilled vinegar or cider vinegar can be used. Mix 1/4 cup of vinegar with 1 quart of water and a spoon or two of dish soap into a spray bottle, and spray the infested plants.
Hot Pepper Spray
Hot pepper spray is also lethal to spider mites. The amount of hot red pepper or chili flakes required is quite large, with a ratio of about 3/4 of an ounce of pepper flakes to a quart of water. The resulting formula can then go in a spray bottle for the plants.