How to Identify, Manage and Prevent Spider Mite Damage

BY Tiffany Selvey
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Spider mites are plant-eating mites that look like tiny spiders and attack more than 180 types of plants. In cool climates they spend the winter resting in soil; in warmer regions they live and feed year-round.1 Most active in dry, hot conditions, spider mites use their needle-like mouthparts to feed on fluid extracted from individual plant cells. While they don't bite humans or pets, their presence in your landscape sounds an alarm. These spider mite control basics can help you protect your plants from these pests and their harm:

Identifying Spider Mites

Spider mites are so small that you need a magnifying glass to see them clearly. At less than 1/20 inch long, female mites are larger than the males.1 To the naked eye they look like tiny moving dots, but the webs that spider mites spin are much easier to see. These webs distinguish spider mites from other type of mites and other microscopic pests, such as thrips and aphids, that can infest plants. When webs are noticed and plant foliage has tiny visible holes, spider mites are present and feeding.

Always check outdoor new and existing plants for spider mites regularly. Carefully check stems and leaves for webs and look at the undersides of leaves for mites. Recognizing the early signs of spider mites can prevent widespread infestations and help prevent extreme damage.

Controlling Spider Mites

Some beneficial insects can sometimes help control spider mites in the landscape. When present in the garden, lacewing larvae, adult lady beetles and other types of predatory insects can help control smaller mite populations.2 But even with good bugs on your side, mite populations large enough to create visible plant damage require action.

Sevin Insect Killer Ready to Use2 kills spider mites and more than 130 listed pests on contact. Just shake the container well, then adjust your nozzle to control the width of your spray. Use this convenient product to treat spider mites on ornamental trees, shrubs, flowers and listed vegetables, including broccoli, sweet corn and lettuce. For best results, treat at the first sign of spider mites and spray all plant surfaces, including both sides of leaves.

Recovering from Mite Damage

Plants with mite damage limited to a few leaves will usually recover without special care. But plants stressed by more significant spider mite damage will require extra attention.

Make sure your plant gets the appropriate amount of sunlight. Keep soil moisture consistent so the soil is never soggy or too dried out. And feed your plant with a gentle, naturally based fertilizer such as Alaska Fish Fertilizer 5-1-1. Avoid transplanting or making any major changes to your plant's environment until it starts producing new, healthy leaves.

The earlier you discover spider mites on your plants, the more quickly the problem can be resolved. With a hand from GardenTech and Sevin brand, even large spider mite infestations can be controlled.

Always read product labels thoroughly and follow instructions, including guidelines for listed plants and pests, application frequency and pre-harvest intervals (PHI) for edible crops.

Alaska is a registered trademark of Central Garden & Pet Company.

Sevin is a registered trademark of Tessenderlo Kerley, Inc.

GardenTech is a registered trademark of Gulfstream Home and Garden, Inc.

Sources:

  1. David W. Boyd, "Spider Mites," Clemson University, December 2003
  2. Bruce A. Barrett, "Aphids, Scales and Mites on Home Garden and Landscape Plants," University of Missouri Extension
  3. Dr. Merle Jensen, "What is Hydroponics?," University of Arizona
  4. L.D. Godfrey, "Spider Mites," University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources, December 2011

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