Spider mites are common houseplant pests that can wreak havoc on your plants if they’re left unchecked. Luckily, there are ways to get rid of spider mites that work and they’re easy to implement.
Because they’re so common, it’s a good idea to learn how to identify them, how to remove them from your houseplants, and how to keep them from getting back.
In what follows, I’ll go over the symptoms of a spider mite infestation and the methods to treat your houseplants against these pesky little bugs that have set themselves on destroying your lovely plants.
What are Spider Mites & How to Identify Them?
Spider mites are members of the Tetranychidae family and resemble arachnids more than any other insects. Being small and oval-shaped, they look eerily like ticks, but they have a pale, red-brown color instead.
They’re hard to detect with the naked eye, but an infestation does have some obvious signs that will help you determine if your plant is being consumed by spider mites.
Spider mites will colonize under the leaves of healthy plants and use the sap of your houseplants as sustenance.
Since they’re hard to see, you may need to rely on other signs that will indicate a spider mite infestation.
Here’s how to tell if your houseplants are being munched on by spider mites:
- Look for finely spun webs on your houseplants, these are one of the first signs of a spider mite infestation.
- Yellowing leaves or weak leaves, little white or yellow dots on leaves already suggest an infestation that has been going on for a while.
- Yellow leaves that fall off suggest that the infestation is in more advanced stages and you should act immediately to save the plant.
It’s important to remove spider mites as soon as possible and prevent further destruction. The methods below will help you do just that.
3 Ways to Get Rid of Spider Mites
All three ways of dealing with a spider mite infestation can be effective, especially if applied as soon as you notice the problem.
Here’s how to remove spider mites from your houseplants:
1. Use Dishwashing Soap
This method is easy, and you already have all the ingredients you need to carry it out. Simply create a mixture of 1 teaspoon of dishwasher soap to 1 liter of lukewarm water.
You can mix it in a container and use a sponge or soaked cloth to wash down the plant or use a spray bottle to spray the leaves.
I prefer using a cloth soaked in this mixture and gently pat down the plant until all spider mites are removed.
You can use this method as prevention as well. Regularly washing down your plant will prevent spider mites from coming back.
2. Use Alcohol Rub
You may be reticent to use alcohol rub on your houseplants. But the mixture suggested for removing spider mites is a diluted one, so you shouldn’t worry about burning your plant.
Another reason why you shouldn’t worry is that few plants seem to be affected by alcohol, most will not react with it in any way.
Those that do, will show signs of burning, so best to test on a small area before using the solution on the whole plant.
You can start by creating a 1 part rubbing alcohol, 3 parts water solution and see how your plant reacts. If this turns out to be too weak, you can reduce the amount of water to 1 part for a stronger solution.
Depending on the severity of the infestation, the weak solution may not be enough to get rid of spider mites.
Make sure to clean the underside of the leaves with a sponge or cloth, because that’s where spider mites set up shop on your plants.
Spraying the solution all over the plant can also work, but I prefer the wipe-down method as it’s far more meticulous than just spraying the plant.
3. Use Botanical Pyrethrin
Another method to deal with a spider mite infestation, that’s also very effective, is to use an all-natural solution with insecticidal properties — botanical pyrethrin.
This is an organic and environmentally friendly option if you’re not crazy about using synthetic insecticides on your plants.
How to Prevent Spider Mite Infestation?
While there are a limited number of things you can do to remove spider mites, prevention strategies are abundant. Below, I’m going to discuss the best strategies to keep spider mites at bay:
Treat All New Plants Against Pests
Whenever you bring a new plant home, you’re going to have to treat them against pests to make sure you don’t bring a plant into your home that will infest all other plants.
Hose the plants down, treat them against common pests and only then place them next to your old plants. It doesn’t take a whole lot of spider mites to wreak havoc on your houseplants.
Create Unfavorable Conditions for Spider Mites
Spider mites thrive in hot, dry conditions. Keep your plants out of direct sunlight and increase humidity to create an unfavorable climate for spider mites.
Don’t allow your plants to dry out either. Water your plants as per their requirements and increase humidity if the air in your home is too dry.
Don’t go overboard with humidity either as it can lead to a different set of problems like fungal diseases.
Isolate Infested Plants
As soon as you notice the signs of a spider mites infestation on your plant, make sure to isolate it from all your other plants.
Isolate an infested plant until you treat it against the infestation. Even if your other plants seem healthy, you’ll still need to apply treatment on them too because they may have become contaminated, even though there aren’t any visible signs just yet.
Once all your plants are free of spider mites, you can place them once again close to each other.
Periodically Wash Down Your Plants Under the Shower
Washing down your plants under the shower will get rid of dust, spider mites, eggs and other pests, preventing them from taking a hold of your houseplants.
Do this periodically and you’ll see a difference in the aspect and healthiness of your plants. Because spider mites will only thrive in dry and warm conditions, a shower wash will keep them at bay.
Use Neem Oil for Spider Mites Prevention
Neem oil is an excellent pesticide that’s used in organic agriculture as well, so you’re not only going to prevent spider mites, but you’re using an all-natural solution too.
Neem oil is best used as a prevention strategy rather than a remedy for an existing infestation because it takes a while to work.
Used regularly as a prevention strategy, you’ll significantly reduce the chances of spider mites taking up residence on your plants.
Dilute neem oil as per the instruction on the packaging and apply regularly.
Use Predatory Mites That Feed on Spider Mites
Spider mites have natural predators that are interested solely in feeding on these pesky little bugs and have no ill effects on your plants.
Phytoseiulus Persimilis are predatory mites that will efficiently deal with a spider mite infestation without your having to apply various treatments.
Phytoseiulus Persimilis are mainly used in large scale plant cultivation, in greenhouses, so you may not be interested in this method unless you have a large greenhouse with lots of plants.
Effects of Spider Mites Infestation on Your Houseplants
It’s important to prevent and treat an existing spider mite infestation because otherwise they take over your entire plant and suck the life out of it.
Because the mites suck the sap out of the leaves, the plant stops delivering nutrients to the damaged leaves, which leads to systemic problems like the inability to photosynthesize effectively and dehydration.
Damaged, dried leaves will fall off and the plant will shrivel and die out. Therefore, you may not give much thought to a spider mite infestation at first, but as they overtake your plant and you’ll see the damage, you must act quickly if you want to save the plant.
If you ignore the symptoms for long, spider mites will only multiple, transfer onto your other house plants and destroy them all.
It’s best to prevent any pest infestation by practicing good plant upkeep that involves creating unfavorable conditions for pests and doing routine leaf and plant cleaning.
Spider mites are a common pest problem that will affect most houseplants. Still, you don’t have to wait for one to happen as you can do a lot to prevent one from happening.
You need to be extra careful about bringing in new houseplants or moving houseplants inside from outside. But if you clean them and treat them against pests, you can rest easy that you won’t be dealing with a full-blown infestation later.
Whether you’re going to use neem oil in your pest management protocol or you’re going to regularly shower down your houseplants, it’s important to have a pest control routine that will help avoid issues.