Looking for spider mites home remedies to get rid of those bothersome pests once and for all?
This guide covers everything you need to know about spider mites and how to create your own DIY spider mite sprays from natural ingredients. This way you don’t need to rely on chemical pesticides that can be toxic.
What are Spider Mites?
Spider mites look like a cross between spiders and ticks. They are a type of arachnid much like their namesake the spider is. And, they get their name because they do resemble a spider.
Although, with the naked eye, all you can really see are very tiny red or white dots that look like tick. The color will depend on the species of spider mite that’s present on your plant.
All in all, there are over 1,200 species of spider mites. And, each one measure about 1 mm in size.
As such, you can only see its real shape when a photo is magnified many times over.
Like their bigger cousins, spider mites can spin silk webs. Thus, when you see these webbings especially on the undersides of the leaves of your plants, it is a sure sign that there are spider mites present.
The purpose of the webbings is to protect the small eggs they lay as well as themselves from predators.
Types of Spider Mites
As mentioned there are more than 1,200 species of spider mites. So, don’t be surprised to see different varieties and colors visiting your plants.
That said, red spider mites are the most common. These are also known as the two spotted spider mites. Or, if you prefer their scientific name Tetranychus urticae.
This specific species has two dark spots on their torso, which is where they get their name. And, although they’re also called red spider mites, they’re not limited to shades of red. In fact, you’l see some that are green, brown and yellow just to name a few colors they come in.
Red spider mites are common is temperate conditions including greenhouses, orchards, gardens, fields and yards. They’re likewise common indoors.
Life Cycle of Spider Mites
source: University of Minnesota
One of the reasons red spider mites quickly grow is that adult females cam lay over 20 eggs in a day. And, unlike chickens which take time for their eggs to hatch, spider mites will come out of their eggs within 3 days. After that, all it takes is 5 days before these newborns are able to mate and reproduce.
The reason for the speedy development is that adult female spider mites only live up to between 14 to 30 days. As such, they need to grow and mature very quickly.
Unfortunately for gardeners, the short lifespan does not prevent them from laying thousands of eggs during this period.
As a result, you can keep using pesticides but not see results because there’s always a new batch of young ones being born.
Despite only living for a short time, there’s actually a lot happening in terms of body transformation from egg to adult.
Spider mites go through 5 different stages in life (listed below in order).
- Egg – egg is the beginning of life for spider mites. Adult females will lay eggs and hide them on the undersides of leaves. As mentioned, eggs come in large numbers with many females laying more than 100 eggs within a 20 day period. A strange occurrence is that eggs that are not fertilized end up becoming male spider mites. Meanwhile, fertilized eggs hatch into females. On average 75% of spider mites hatched are males while 25% are females.
- Larva – larvae are what hatch from the eggs. At this stage, the spider mites are colorless. Although they already have 6 legs. This is also when they start feeding on the sap of plants. So, you can imagine the damage each new batch of eggs can cause on your plants due to the number of eggs laid.
- Protonymph – larvae will soon change in color and develop the two dark spots on their back which they’re known for. Once, they’ve fed enough, they also turn into protonymphs which now have 8 legs. It is at his stage they’re able to being creating webbings.
- Deutonymph – this is the next stage. It is still a nymph but gets closer to becoming an adult.
- Adult – adulthood is its last stage. For this happen they will transform again. This time giving it the ability to finally lay eggs. At this stage, the spider mites can reproduce sexually and asexually. So, it does not necessarily need a partner to lay eggs.
While the process seems complex, all these 5 stages happen within 14 days or so. It also seems to speed up in warmer climates reducing the transformation time to as little as 7 to 10 days.
Where Do Spider Mites Come From?
Hot dry environments.
Some can do well in humid conditions but their eggs are more fertile in dry conditions. as such, they’re less able to continue to keep reproducing without the females in drier environments.
They also enjoy gardens that use drip irrigation since this allows them to stay on the undersides of leaves and not get washed away when you water.
Well-fed plants whose leaves contain good amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus are among their favorites. High carb foliage are also something they like.
Among the biggest issues with spider mites is that they can easily be blown by the wind to reach different plants. And, because they look like tiny spots that can easily be mistaken for lack of nutrition, they’re not caught until they’ve been able to grow in number.
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How Do Spider Mites Damage Your Plants?
Spider mites consume the sap of plants. They also feed on the plant’s tissues. They penetrate the outer cell wall of leaves from the back and proceed to suck the plant’s juices.
After a while, you’ll notice spots appear on the leaves due to lack of nutrients as more and more are stolen by these pests.
Eventually the spots turn yellow or brown. Left untreated, entire leaves or large portion of leaves become yellow.
Plants that Spider Mites Like to Attack
Spider mites attack many different plants. This includes vegetables like eggplants, melon, tomatoes and beans. They’re also attracted to ornamental flowers as well as fruit trees.
Similarly, your houseplants are not safe especially if you take them outside the garden where there are spider mites. Dry indoor conditions are another environment that brings these nasty pests.
Signs of Spider Mite Damage
As with other pests, spider mites leave their own distinct signatures.
One of the telltale signs that spider mites are around are the small webbings they spin. You do need to look closely because these webbings are very fine.
Another sign are the white spots. Spider mites are very small. So don’t expect to see tick-like spiders with 8 legs. Instead, all you’ll see are lots of white spots over your leaves.
This is why it’s hard to spot them because unless you’re looking very intently, it’s easy to miss a few white spots. Thus, they only become more noticeable once there’s many of them.
Unfortunately, that also makes it more difficult to treat them.
Spider mite damage range from brown spots to holes in leaves. These are more obvious. There will also be some discoloration although it will be more subtle since the change in color looks more like a gradient that a sudden change. And, it usually starts as a small area only.
Over time, the areas where they feed on will become more obvious due to the damage. And, leaves will eventually turn yellow and lose their lush green color.
I know some gardeners who’ll scan the leaves with a magnifying glass which makes it much easier to spot these critters.
How To Get Rid Of Spider Mites Organically
Here’s a list of some simple ways to get rid of spider mites naturally without having to resort to chemical pesticides.
Hose Them Off with Water
The first thing I like to do when I see spider mites is to hose them off. The stream of water from the garden hose will wash them away quite easily.
Although this works best for garden plants and those in containers. With the latter, I always take the pot outside and place it in a spot that’s far away from any other plants. That way when they get washed off by the pressure of the water, they don’t end up in my garden or on any other plants.
You can also do this in the shower if your shower has a detachable handle and enough water pressure.
Keep doing this to any new pests you see until they’re completely gone.
Prune and Isolate
Unfortunately, the hose method only works for spider mites you can see. So, you can’t do anything about those that are not visible since they can hide from you.
This makes pruning and isolation another thing worth doing.
Isolation is very important since you don’t want the pests to infest the rest of your plants which multiplies your headaches.
Pruning any leaves or stems that are damaged or have visible webbing also helps.
Spray with Miticides
Miticides are commercial products. But, they don’t use toxic chemicals like pesticides do. Instead, they contain natural ingredients. You’ll see a variety of these so you do have an option of which you prefer.
Here are some products you might see.
- Neem oil – neem oil is a common pest killer that also prevents them from coming around. It is made from the nuts of the neem tree.
- Rosemary oil – made from rosemary, this also works well against spider mites. Make sure to dilute it with water since too much concentration can damage the plant’s leaves.
- Cinnamite – comes from cinnamon oil. Like the two above, they are non-toxic to people. But, they are deadly for spider mites.
- Pyrethrum – comes from the dried flower heads of chrysanthemum flowers. It is used as a natural insecticide spray.
Make sure to read the labels and instructions of miticides because they all work very different. And, none of them work instantly. That is, they can’t immediately eradicate spider mites with one application.
So, do read the instructions for how often you should apply. It will often take a few weeks for the pests to completely go away depending on how much of an infestation there is.
Dish Soap Solution
If you don’t want to create any complex mixes or use any special ingredient, just go to the kitchen.
You can create a dish soap solution by mixing:
- 3 tablespoons of dish soap
- 1 gallon of water
Then put the solution into a spray bottle and apply it on the leaves of the affected plant. Always turn the leave and spray the undersides as well since that’s where most pests hide.
As with any spray, always test it on a small part of the plant first to check if it has any adverse reactions.
Rubbing alcohol is another effective home remedy that works for many pests. You can create your own pest alcohol solution mix by creating a spray that contains:
- 25% alcohol
- 75% water
The water will dilute the alcohol to reduce its potency so it won’t damage delicate leaves of some plants. For more robust or hardier plants you can increase the concentration of alcohol to:
- 50% alcohol
- 50% water
I suggest to start with the weaker solution and work your way up if needed. Although I’ve found that the weaker mixture works really well.
Once you created the mixture, you can spray it on leaves or use it to wipe the leaves.
Introducing beneficial insects to your garden is another way you can get rid of spider mites without actively trying to spray them.
Insects like lady beetles and minute pirate bugs are predators of spider mites that will eat the pests.
Spider Mites Home Remedies You Can Make
Another alternative to create your own essential oil sprays. The DIY recipes below work to get rid of spider mites. And, some will likewise work for other pests as well.
Essential Oils Mixes for Spider Mites
If you want to be very safe with your pest treatment options, consider essential oils. These are the same oils many people use to relax. And, they smell great too.
Here are some DIY essential oil recipes that get rid of spider mites.
- Eucalyptus Oil – eucalyptus oil is one of the most common essential oils and usually comes in set packs. It is antibacterial and eliminates spider mites. Just mix a few drops with water and apply on plants.
- Peppermint Oil – peppermint oil has a strong scent. It is very similar to eucalyptus oil. And, it contains antiseptic properties in addition to being effective against spider mites.
- Lemon Oil – lemon oil is a good choice if you don’t quite like the smells of eucalyptus or peppermint. This gives you a more refreshing scent in addition to containing natural antibiotic properties.
- Canola Oil – canola oil is not an essential oil. But it is something most kitchens will have which makes it easy to get hold of if you happen to suddenly spot some spider mites. Also, it does not have any smell and is non toxic to humans or animals. So, it’s perfectly safe to use. To use it, just mix canola oil with water and use as a spray.
Spider Mites Prevention
Like all pests, prevention is better than spending a few weeks treating the plant hoping it fully recovers. It also eliminates the chance of the pests spreading to other plants a well.
Here are some tips that will help you keep the spider mites away.
- Maintain higher humidity – spider mites like dry conditions. Thus, they’re less likely to appear with humidity is high. Fortunately, most houseplants, being tropical in nature, need high humidity to thrive. However, it is important to be aware the humidity does increase the likelihood of some diseases. So, you do need to watch out for that.
- Regularly clean the leaves – cleaning the leaves of plants once a week or every two weeks helps keep pests and other problems away. It lets you remove excess dust so the plant can breathe better and absorb more light as well. Using a damp cloth also lets you remove any excess moisture on leaves which causes stress. And, when plants are stressed, they become easier victims for pests and diseases.
- Inspect the plant regularly – I know that this does not prevent pests from coming. But, it will allow you to notice any damage or pest presence when it is just starting out as opposed to when they’ve almost become an infestation.
- Always debug houseplants – before bringing any houseplants indoors, always debug them.
- Quarantine and check new plants – I always make sure to do this for any new plant I take home from the store. This will ensure that there are not bugs or pests there that can cause more problems with my other plants.