What Are Spider Mites and How Do You Get Rid of Them?

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Often hard to detected, tiny plant-corrosive spider mites are pests you don't want in your garden, window box or home.

Minuscule spider mites make extremely formidable garden pests, feeding on some 200 species of indoor ornamental plants and outdoor fruit and shade trees. And there’s no such thing as having just one spider mite.

What Are Spider Mites?

Spider mites are not spiders. They’re actually teeny tiny arachnids that feed on the juice of plant and tree leaves. They run in colonies and reproduce quickly, in one or two weeks. The eggs laid under silk webbing can hatch thousands of baby spider mites on a single leaf.

The most common species internationally is the two-spotted spider mite (AKA red spider mite) which lives on the underside of leaves.

What Do Spider Mites Look Like?

Almost too small to see with the naked eye, an adult spider mite measures approximately 1/50-in. It has four sets of legs and an oval body, and can be translucent, green, brown or orange-red. If you put the two-spotted kind under a magnifying glass, you might see two dark spots on its back.

Do Spider Mites Bite?

Yes.

Spider mites have mouth parts used for piercing plant cells and therefore occasionally bite humans. However, given their microscopic size, it’s unlikely anyone would feel it, although they might note small, red pimply marks on the skin that look like a rash. In rare cases, people allergic to bug bites could experience increased itching or swelling.

The real danger of spider mites in the home isn’t so much their bite as their devastating ability to stunt or even kill otherwise healthy houseplants.

Signs of Spider Mites

Reliable indicators that you have spider mites inside your home or in your yard are:

  • Tiny punctures or a speckled look to leaves;
  • The presence of webbing;
  • Tiny moving dots on white paper after wiping a leaf with it.

How To Get Rid of Spider Mites

Here are some effective ways to eradicate these pests indoors and out.

Non-chemical ways to get rid of spider mites

  • If outdoors, spray undersides of leaves using a garden hose.
  • Indoors, wipe leaves with a solution of mild dish soap and water.
  • For indoor or outdoor plants, spritz with a diluted mixture of neem or rosemary oil.
  • Dust diatomaceous earth on indoor and garden plants to dehydrate the mites.
  • Use a natural miticide.

Chemical eliminators:

How To Prevent Spider Mites

An insidious enemy, spider mites can pass from plant to plant unnoticed; they can even be spread by the wind. Spider mites should be dealt with as soon as possible. Here are the best ways to control spider mites:

  • Introduce insects that feed on spider mites — predatory mites, lady beetles, praying mantises, wheel bugs and other types of predatory insects (AKA assassin bugs).
  • Mist plants regularly to keep surfaces moist. Spider mites prefer hot, dry conditions.
  • At the first sign of trouble, remove and place the infected plant in a plastic bag and discard.

Toni DeBella
Toni DeBella is a freelance travel, lifestyle and digital content writer based in a medieval hill town in central Italy. Her work has been featured in such publications as Fodor's, The Telegraph, Walks of Italy, Italy Magazine, Frommers.com, Touring Bird (via [email protected]) and more. Most recently she authored the 2020 edition of DK Eyewitness Sicily travel guide. When Toni is not roaming around Europe, you'll find her tending her alley-side container garden or honing her clay-court tennis game.