Spider mites can take a terrible toll on house and landscape plants. But before you drag out the sprayer and fill it with a toxic soup, consider treating the problem with an organic pest control technique.
Recognizing Spider Mites
Spider mites are little creatures that are very difficult to see with the naked eye but their presence found in spider webs and white and/or yellow spots dotting the foliage. In worse case situations, the plant will become defoliated.
The reason for this destruction is due to how the animal feeds. It simply sucks out the juices of the leaves, which contain chlorophyll. Areas that have been attacked appear as white or yellow spots depending on how much chlorophyll has been removed.
To find these little creatures, one must look at the underside of leaf but as stated before, they are very difficult to see with the naked eye. To help identify the pest, one must place a sheet of white paper underneath a branch or leaf and gently shake. Once that is done, pull out the magnifying glass and study the paper. Spider mites will show up as little dots with eight legs. These dots can be green, brown or red in color. If you happen to see some dots with two spots then you have the very aggressive twospotted spider mite, which is a very big problem.
Once you have identified the pest you can begin with the treatment process. The first line of defense is to protect your plants. Spider mites hit plants that have been weakened through dehydration and/or nutrient deficiency. To prevent this, make sure that your plants are watered properly and fed as needed.
Environmental factors such as dry, dusty areas are favorite places for spider mites to hide and if plants are in these locations, they will quickly be fed upon.
Once you have spider mites, the treatment can occur in four ways. In some situations all three ways will need to be used to get the situation under control.
Removing the Plant and/or Branches
If possible remove any damaged plant material and place in a plastic bag. Tie off the bag and dispose of it in the trash. This will prevent the spider mites on these plants and/or branches from spreading throughout the garden.
If this is not possible, there are two other techniques that can be used on larger or more valuable plants.
Spraying with Rosemary Oil
Rosemary is poisonous to harmful spider mite. To use this technique, spray rosemary oil or a pesticide with a rosemary base on the plant material. Prior to spraying the entire plant, test on a small area.
Spraying with Dish Soap
A spray solution of 3 tablespoons of dish soap to 1 gallon of water can be mixed up and applied to the plant. Repeat 6 days later. This process works by suffocating the spider mite.
There are several beneficial insects that love to feed on spider mites. This includes lady beetles, predator mites, and sixspotted thrives.