The first step to getting rid of a spider mite infestation is identifying the problem. There are several telltale signs that your plants are afflicted with these pests, and becoming more familiar with these signs will help eradicate the mites permanently. The mites themselves inhabit the underside of the leaves, but they’re very tiny. This is why you should employ the following methods to spot a spider mite problem.
WHAT DO SPIDER MITES LOOK LIKE?
Spider mites belong to the Tetranychidae family and include over 1,200 species. The most common type is the two spotted spider mite, which generally features 2 dark spots on each side of it’s body.
With the naked eye, a spider mite looks like a spec of sand. They are incredibly tiny, making it impossible for the naked eye to recognize any discernible characteristics. At their biggest sizes, you can notice their movement, although that’s about it.
However, upon magnification, you can discover their physical characteristics a bit easier. With a simple smart phone app, you can see their leg movement and the patterns they trace around the plant as they find new places to eat. It’d actually be fascinating if they weren’t destroying your plant.
A spider mite looks like most other critters in the mite family: tiny, soft-bodied, and a little creepy (depending on your outlook). They often have their 2 front legs directly extending farther out than their others. You can often see dark spots on them as their body is translucent.
This is a close-up of 2 two-spotted spider mites after being sprayed with LavaMite.
While the two-spotted mite is the most commonly found, there are many other species, including red mites. They can be more easily seen with a small magnifying glass, which lets you distinguish species, as well as males, females, and eggs.
WHAT DOES SPIDER MITE DAMAGE LOOK LIKE?
You can easily notice spider mite damage if you know what to look for. A very noticeable symptom of their presence is brown/yellow flecks on the leaves. Depending on the severity of the infestation, the leaves will be more or less spotted, and may be completely mottled. Severe infestations will lead to leaves being totally scorched.
If you use a magnifying glass, or zoom in with a magnifying app on your phone (our favorite method), you can take a look at the damage they’re causing up close. You can actually see them crawling around to spots on the plant, the little jerks.
WHAT DOES A SPIDER MITE INFESTATION LOOK LIKE?
A full-blown, large spider mite infestations will include webs on the leaves. The web-weaving behavior of large spider mite communities is what gives them their namesake. This webbing is different from regular spiders – it occurs in thick films which are draped across the stems and leaves.
These webs keep conditions dry, and they keep the mite population mobile and secure. It is important to distinguish between these webs and those of harmless spiders, but their unique, gauze-like appearance should make this easy enough.
WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS TO LOCATE SPIDER MITES?
The simplest method is to look at the underside of leaves, where you might see the mites as tiny dots. A magnifying glass or pocket microscope will make it easier to see and identify what you’re looking at, especially if it’s not a large infestation yet. Generally the webbing will have very thin strands, and will look very different from spider webs.
INSPECT PLANT LEAVES FOR SPIDER MITES
When inspecting your plants for spider mites, there are a few different techniques you can use. Naturally, if there is an extensive population with scorched leaves and web films, it will be easy to notice, especially if you check under the leaves. However, it is ideal to catch an infestation early on before it grows to do significant damage. After all, spider mites feed off of plant sap by making small punctures in the leaves, causing physical damage and draining nutrients. This will cause stress and may eventually be fatal to the plant. By catching them early on, you can minimize the harmful impact.
USE A BLANK SHEET OF PAPER FOR DETECTION
You can also hold a sheet of paper underneath while you shake the leaves. As they fall onto the paper, the color contrast will make them easier to see. Spider mites come in various colors, such as red, brown, yellow, or green. Depending on your plant, the coloring can make them difficult to see. Knocking them onto a white sheet of paper will cause them to stand out and be more easily noticeable.
SETUP TRAP CROPS TO CATCH THEM
You can also use traps of sticky sheets or strings, and inspect these for ensnared mites. You can make your own sticky traps by glazing small pieces of yellow cardboard paper with something sticky, such as molasses. The bright yellow will help attract the mites, and the stickiness of the molasses will trap them on the cardboard ‘til they die.
This is only a viable solution for confirming the existence of mites and won’t remove the eggs. For larger infestations, you must eradicate the problem with something stronger, such as LAVAMITE™.
ADDITIONAL TIPS AND INFORMATION:
It is also important to check for eggs – even if you remove all the mites, the presence of eggs means that you will have more trouble later on. The eggs are small, perfectly round, and vary in color. Sometimes the eggs are clear, which makes them even more difficult to spot. Using magnification is highly useful in this case.