Nature is a beautiful phenomenon. As a phenomenon, there is no better way to foster nature’s presence in our artificial surroundings than through the propagation of plants.
Both indoors and outdoors, plants help to increase the beauty of the environment they are found growing in.
But, the healthy growth and life cycle of plants are often threatened by pests and diseases. These pests and diseases can attack plants at any stage of their growth, leading to symptoms that slow down growth in the plants and eventually brings about wilting.
Popular among these pests and diseases are spider mites. Spider mites belong to a family of over 1200 other species. The spider mite family is known as Ascaris.
Spider mites are destructive to plants in a parasitic way. They gain nutritional values from plants by attaching themselves to the plant roots from where they can bore holes into the plant tissue and suck up nutrients from the plant.
Spider mites are characterized by a rapid rate of reproduction, with a single spider mite being able to reproduce as much as a new colony within a few days of infestation.
Spider mites like to live on the underparts of plants where they make webbed cocoons for making new colonies. These colonies feed extensively on the leaves, making for themselves new colonies on other parts of the leaves who also feed on the leaves until every leaf on the plant dries up, droops or withers away.
Pests and diseases of houseplants like the spider mite, attack plants that are grown indoors as well as those grown outdoors.
In this article, we will be showing the various techniques to rid your indoor and outdoor plants of pests and diseases, our focus being spider mites.
How Do I Keep Spider Mites Off My Houseplants
You already know that spider mites are a threat to the successful thriving of your ornamental plants grown indoors and outdoors.
This, therefore, means that as much as possible, you need to keep this pest off your plants.
The following are ways to keep spider mites off your houseplants. These methods can be broadly divided into two categories namely:
- Natural Control Methods
- Chemical Control Methods
These categorizations are each made up of methods that are effective in ridding plants of spider mites. They are explained extensively in the proceeding paragraphs.
- Natural Control Methods
The natural control method is a compendium of different methods that do not involve the use of commercial pesticides to rid plants of spider mites.
The following are natural ways to keep spider mites off your houseplants:
- Application of Neem oil
- Application of insecticidal soaps
- Introduction of natural predators
- Adopting the deadheading technique
- Application of Alcoholic bases
- Application of mild acetic acid
- Application of Pepper wax solution
- Application of Cayenne pepper solution
- High-pressure water splash
1. Application of Neem oil.
Neem oil is a popular treatment for plants having various pests and diseases. This is because of its ability to serve the dual purpose of being both a pesticide and a fungicide.
Neem oil is also a useful element in the making of products such as cosmetics, toothpaste, and soaps.
Neem oil contains fatty acids and potassium that do harm only to unwanted pests. Neem oil does not kill plants or useful microorganisms in the soil. It also does not make the soil toxic for planting.
It is a completely natural remedy for spider mites with proof of effectiveness. To apply neem oil to plants, mix the neem oil concentrate in a gallon of water to form a solution, then sprinkle using a sprinkler on the undersides of the leaves where the spider mites have made cocoons.
2. Application of Herbicidal Soaps
Insecticidal soaps are not difficult to get. They are the normal home-based dishwashing soap. They can be very effective for getting rid of spider mites and other pests and diseases without hurting your plant or the soil.
The insecticidal soap contains fatty acids that clog up the respiratory and reproductive tracts of the spider mites, making it impossible to respire or reproduce new mites.
This, therefore, insinuates that insecticidal soaps do not just kill spider mites. It also greatly cuts down their population. To apply insecticidal soap on the leaf with spider mites, mix the soap in water to create a solution.
The essence of the solution is that by sprinkling, the soap can go through the water droplets onto the skin of every spider mite on the leaf stalk.
3. Introduction of Natural Predators
Spider mites are a species of herbivorous parasitic pests that are predated upon by some other insects with a stronger physical makeup and body structural adaptation.
Predators of spider mites include predatory mites, lacewings, ladybug, and pirate bugs. These insects feed on spider mites by picking them off plants where they attach themselves to.
To get rid of spider mites using this technique requires that predatory insects be bought and brought into the plant or made to come into the plants by themselves through the spraying of scents that attract them to the plants.
An advantage of using predatory insects to eliminate spider mites is that they are essentially carnivorous and do not feed on plants, so your plant stays safe.
A disadvantage is a fact that these insects can become a source of concern to households if they are introduced into plants growing indoors.
4. Adopting the Deadheading Technique
Deadheading is a pruning technique that involves cutting off a leaf stalk from the crown- the point where the leaf grows out of the stem.
Deadheading is a method of ridding houseplants of spider mites listed in this section because it happens to be a method that does not involve the usage of chemicals on the plants.
Deadheading should be a last resort. It should only be adopted when other means of ridding the plants of spider mites, prove abortive.
The cut-off leaves grow as new leaves from the stem after some time, looking healthy and free from spider mites.
Care should be taken while deadheading, so as not to kill the plant. Do not deadhead the plant If all the leaves are infected by spider mites.
After deadheading, ensure that measures are taken to keep the plant safe from future infestations. Also give the plant good thriving conditions like constant watering, good sunlight, a humid temperature, and fertilizer addition to the soil.
The leaves should sprout up, looking healthier and stronger with these measures in place.
5. Application of Alcoholic Bases
Alcohol bases like isopropanol are good for getting spider mites off the leaves of houseplants. Its alkaline composition on the bodies of mites burns their cells open and releases the cell contents which leads to their death.
Alcoholic bases do not harm the leaves of plants and can be sprayed either on plant foliage or on the soil housing the roots.
Alcoholic bases are an effective means for controlling pests and diseases on houseplants. The only disadvantage of alcoholic bases is their cost of purchase which is usually too expensive for simple home plant owners.
6. Application of Mild Acetic Acid
Acetic acid serves as both a herbicide and a pest control agent.
A mild quantity of acetic acid is all that is needed to rid the plant of spider mites. This is because greater percentages of acetic acid can cause burning of the plant foliage as well as cause harm to the gardener who applies it to the plant.
Vinegar is a good home-based product that contains acetic acid in a percentage safe for application on plants.
To apply acetic acid in vinegar to a spider mite-infested plant, mix the vinegar in water and sprinkle it on the leaves of the infested plant. Ensure to focus spraying on the underparts of the leaves.
7. Application of Pepper Wax Solution
Pepper wax is a natural spider mite control ingredient prepared from the hottest pepper solution. This is effective against certain pests and diseases,
spider mites inclusive.
Pepper wax is made by blending peppers, mixing them in water, and allowing them to sit for a day or two. After properly incorporating it in the water, the solution formed is poured into a sprayer and sprinkled on plants.
Plants that were sprinkled with pepper wax solution are entirely safe to be eaten as pepper wax does not raise the toxicity of plant fruits.
8. Application of Cayenne Pepper Solution
This is not listed as part of the pepper solution above because the cayenne pepper is a different pepper and has a different function from the normal pepper solution.
Cayenne pepper is hotter than the regular pepper and can help to redden dishes they are added in. It contains capsicum, which is an irritant to pests and diseases. The cayenne pepper solution is made from dried and grounded cayenne peppers and Is easier to prepare than the normal pepper wax solution.
It just involves mixing a spoonful of dried and grounded cayenne pepper in a bowl or gallon of warm water and sprinkling on the plants. Cayenne pepper, like the normal pepper, inhibits the ability of spider mites to feed, which leads to their death.
9. High-Pressure Water Splash
You can also use a pressure hose to water spray the spider mites off the plants. In spraying the water to the leaves, ensure that the pressure isn’t so much that it can break the stem or leaf from its stalk.
The pressure should just be enough to shake the grips of the spider mites from the plants. Use this method when you intend to also water the plant, so you do not end up overwatering the plant.
Getting Rid of Spider Mites Using Chemicals
The following chemicals are essential for eliminating spider mites from a plant:
- Doktor doom spider mite knockout
- Floramite SC
- Bio-advanced insect disease killer
- Mite Massacre Oz
- Mighty by NPK
- Xtermina8prob diatomaceous Earth
These chemicals/pesticides are useful for eliminating pests and diseases of plants but have disadvantages.
It has the disadvantage of killing both spider mites and important soil microorganisms.
Insecticides can also make the plant leaves toxic for human consumption especially plants whose leaves were previously edible. We, therefore, advise caution in the application of these chemicals to plants. We recommend the use of only commercially safe ones.
Can Plants Recover From Spider Mites?
Yes, plants can recover from spider mites.
When the spider mites are successfully removed from the plant, the next phase should feature constant watering and good gardening practices to help the plant regain nutrients that have been lost to mites.
Recovering from pests and diseases can be a slow process but with adequate care to the plants, they can recover and bloom again.
Can Spider Mites Infest a House?
Spider mites cannot infest a house.
Spider mites belong to a class of pests and diseases that feeds only on the foliage of leaves. They cannot survive out of the leaves of plants.
They cannot survive on hard surfaces in the house like doorknobs or kitchen sinks. Their jurisdiction is only on houseplants.
What are the First Signs of Spider Mites?
On initial infestation, your indoor and outdoor plants develop these four symptoms;
- Brown spots on leaves
- Thick insect filled webs on the underside of leaves
- Browning or yellowing of the undersides of the leaves
- Drooping of leaves.
When you notice these signs on your houseplants, the above-listed ways to get rid of pests and diseases on houseplants should be adopted.
Early control has the probability of saving the plant, much more than late control.
How Do Spider Mites Spread Indoors?
Spider mites get into the leaves of indoor plants through the transportation of a spider mite-infested material to the plant. It could be the new soil filling, the new plant pot, or the fertilizer.
Spider mites can also get indoors by clinging to fabrics kept outside to be sundried.
Pests and diseases are a major threat to the healthy growth of plants both indoors and outdoors.
Spider mites, a stubborn species of pests, cannot be gotten rid of by letting the plant just grow. Careful and intentional steps have to be taken to rid indoor and outdoor plants of spider mites.
This article has carefully listed all the options available to a gardener and how to apply them correctly.