Spider mites are one of the pests that can invade your home, even if you do not notice them because of their size. Discover more about them, including effective control methods.
Biology of Spider Mites
Adult spider mites will overwinter. Then, when spring arrives, they go to a new plant that is growing and lay their eggs along the leaves’ undersides. Because mites might get blown off by the wind, they will frequently try to lay the eggs in areas with disrupted airflow or the same direction as the prevailing winds. Spider mite eggs hatch within several days, at which point the mites can begin feeding. The immature mites are very similar in appearance to adults but smaller. They go through several molts that allow them to grow. An area that is heavily colonized with mites should have signs of eggs, immature adults, webbing, and shed skins.
Technically, spider mites are not insects. They are, however, close enough to insects that many pest control companies will still take care of them. The spider portion of the name spider mites comes from the silk webbing they produce. There are actually over 1,000 different species of spider mites, all of which feed on plants. Adult spider mites are smaller than 1 mm. Their species and food source will affect their color. The eggs are small and spherical. The previously-mentioned webbing can help with wind dispersal and also protect the spider mite colonies from predators. Following mating, female spider mites can produce up to 300 eggs continuously over the course of several weeks. They develop more rapidly in dry, hot weather. In those situations, maturity may occur in just five days. Because of the short reproductive cycle of spider mites, multiple generations overlap throughout a year.
Why Spider Mites Are Considered Pests
Spider mites tend to be particularly problematic outside of the home, especially when it comes to crops. Farmers are well aware of the damage that spider mites can cause. Even those with small ornamental or produce gardens can notice damage from spider mites. Spider mites will feed on plants by sucking the leaf’s cells’ contents out. This results in pale spits. A single spider mite will not cause very much damage to a plant, but they tend to appear in large numbers. This can lead to significant damage. Some of the most problematic spider mites include two-spotted, carmine, and bean red spider mites.
The spider mites will colonize plants starting on the underside of the leaves. The initial damage from the feeding starts as yellow or white speckles known as stippling. At first, this is just on the top surface of the leaves affected. When the leaves become more seriously damaged from feeding, they will lose any color and then dry up. It is also possible for people to find their infested plants covered with silken webbing from spider mites. To make their potential damage even worse, if you do not put the proper controls into place, spider mites can increase their populations very quickly. This comes from the high reproductive rate. That factor, combined with their short life cycle also means that spider mites can quickly become resistant to miticides, making control even harder. For further difficulties, spider mites can surf along with the wind, meaning that they spread incredibly easily.
Methods for Controlling Spider Mites
Those in search of a natural solution for controlling spider mites can see some results by introducing predators. Good examples include small mite feeding ladybirds, lacewings, various predatory mites, and predatory gall-midges. Ideally, this type of biological control of spider mites will be combined with other control methods. Conveniently, some of these beneficial insects, including lacewings, ladybugs, and predatory mites are all available commercially. If the mites are affecting plants in a controllable environment, you can try to increase humidity during the extremely dry or hot periods.
You can also use a range of chemical pesticides to help control spider mites, but these require careful selection. As mentioned, spider mites are unfortunately quick at developing resistance to miticides. This means that a product that used to work may no longer achieve the same results. Additionally, you need to take care when choosing pesticides since you do not want to hurt beneficial insects. This is particularly a concern for those who garden as many beneficial insects can help your plants grow and you do not want to lose them just to get rid of the spider mites. Of course, the other normal considerations and cautions associated with using chemical pesticides apply. This includes avoiding inhalation and skin contact and not using the pesticides inside unless they are labeled as appropriate for that type of use. The key when trying to control spider mites is to target the entire life cycle. At any given moment, you should expect there to be spider mites in every stage. As such, solely targeting the adults not be enough to resolve your issue. This also means that you will need to repeat treatments.
DIY Tips for How to Get Rid of Spider Mites
If the spider mite problem is still relatively new, you may able to use something as simple as water to control the infestation. At this point, you could just isolate the one or two plants that are affected and then spray the stems and leaves using pressured water. You will have to repeat the process, but it should wash away the spider mites and eggs. Another option is to target the infested plants by pruning away the infested portions. At the same time, remove the webbing spider mites have deposited. Never put these removed portions of infested plants in your compost pile. Instead, put them in the garbage. This method may also require removing entire plants to save the remaining ones.
The simple act of ensuring your plants get enough water can also help control spider mites. This comes from the fact that garden plants and trees alike are at a higher risk of mite infestations if they suffer from water stress. Other remedies with some results for controlling spider mites include spraying diluted horticultural oil, placing a humidifier by plants, or misting plants using cold water.
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