Spider mites are small, light brown arachnids which exist throughout the United States. They are very small – smaller than a poppy seed – and are many times confused with clover mites or chiggers.
SPIDER MITE HISTORY
Spider mites used to be strictly an outside pest. They would infest cotton, corn and other food crops causing enough damage to ruin the harvest. Awareness and treatments for this pest has enabled farmers to control populations, but the spider mites have remained persistent. They are now common around the home choosing to live on any plant or shrub they can find. Juniper, arborvitae, succulents and pine trees are common hosts, but just about any vegetation will do. In recent years, spider mites have found their way inside. The increase of plants in the home and the practice of keeping some plants outside for the summer and inside for the winter have allowed the spider mite to become an indoor pest. They do not commonly migrate inside but in fact are being carried in by the homeowners and horticulturists.
SPIDER MITE DAMAGE
Plants that have spider mite damage will have the mites themselves, web like material on the bottom sides of plant leaves, bronzing of the plant stem and leaves where activity is highest and in extreme cases, plant death. Unlike other mites, spider mites can reproduce quickly. Several cycles may be complete in one season. If conditions are good, they may go through all cycles in under a month. Their cycle includes egg, nymph, two molts of the nymph and then adult. Since they don’t migrate quickly, most populations will grow around each other, slowly moving outward as their population increases. The main part of their nest is usually where damage is most prevalent. Expect to find dead leaves and plant parts. Upon closer observation, you will see the mites feeding or slowly moving if you disturb them.
SPIDER MITE CONTROL
Spider mite control should be implemented as soon as activity is diagnosed. This will prevent further damage and help to minimize treatments. However, spider mite control will almost always take several treatments. This is because the spray will not kill eggs. Consequently, eggs will be hatching following your first treatment. To insure you kill all activity, treat once a week for 3-6 treatments. This schedule is necessary in the warmer months when cycles develop quickly.
SPIDER MITE CONTROL SPRAY
If it is the off season and development is slower, treat 2-4 times every two weeks. The best material for spider mite control is called BIFEN. This concentrate uses a synthetic pyrethrin which has no odor and is very active on mites. More importantly, it is very gentle on treated plants. Use it to treat as many plants that you believe may have activity. Spider mite activity may be centralized, but don’t limit your coverage area to just the active plants. The more you cover the better protection you will get. And be sure to add some called SPREADER STICKER to the tank mix. It will help get all the sides of the plant covered when spraying. Since Spider Mites have a tendency to hide in small protected areas of the host plant, the Spreader Sticker can really help insure good coverage and get the Bifen where it needs to be to obtain the best results.
And potted plants readily get spider mites too. Fortunately Bifen is excellent to use on household plants which show signs of activity. Take them outside to treat and dry; once dry they can be brought back inside. Be sure to inspect all plants in the home to catch any activity before it is too late. In most cases, treating plants around the infested one is a good practice. Bifen is gentle enough to use and getting the mite before it causes damage is important.
ORGANIC SPIDER MITE CONTROL
If the mites are being found on an edible plant or tree which will produce fruit or vegetables, go with something organic like INSECTICIDAL SOAP. This material can be applied to any plant and though it will kill insects when applied, it is important to understand that it provides no residual. This means you will have to use it over and over – sometimes once every couple of days – to break the cycle of most any spider mite infestation. The benefit of Insecticidal Soap is the fact that it is so safe to use presenting no hazard to anyone that might be eating the produce or plant. Another organic option is the stronger MULTIPURPOSE INSECT KILLER. It will work faster than Insecticidal Soap but more importantly, treatments seem to keep plants spider mite free for a week or more.
SPIDER MITE VEGETABLE CONTROL
But if you want something stronger than the organic options, go with VEGETABLES PLUS PERMETHRIN. Treatments with this will last 7-14 days providing a mild residual so that there is something left behind to kill off rogue mites which are missed with the first spraying. It is both odorless and very effective on just about any pest and is probably the single most used insecticide on vegetable and fruit plants in the world.
Any of these liquid products can be applied with a good PUMP SPRAYER. And don’t forget to add some Spreader Sticker to add to the tank mix for better “coverage” when spraying. This material enables the active ingredient to better “spread” over the targeted plant so you are less likely to miss key areas where some mites may be nesting. There is no need to use Spreader Sticker with Insecticidal Soap; in fact Insecticidal Soap has many of the same qualities as Spreader Sticker so it will do a good job of covering targeted plants regardless. But if you go with Multipurpose Insect Killer, Vegetables Plus or the Bifen, get some Spreader Sticker too.
SPIDER MITE CONTROL DUST
One last option you might consider is the use of PERMETHRIN DUST. Like the sprayable Permethrin, this product will provide residual that can last 2 weeks or more. The other advantage of using a dust is that you can clearly see where you have treated. Since the dust will leave a white powdery film over areas where it lands, one can clearly see just where it has been applied. Use a HAND DUSTER for small jobs or a DUSTIN MIZER if you have a lot of dusting to be doing and expect to be treating over the course of the growing season. The Dustin Mizer is very efficient and will allow you get complete coverage with little effort. Dusting is a much faster way to treat targeted plants then spraying and is rapidly becoming a favorite amongst farmers and weekend gardeners alike.
SPIDER MITE CONTROL INSIDE THE HOUSE
Once on the house, you’ll need to spray the siding with BIFEN. Be sure to spray high enough. If the spider mites are coming from low lying ground cover, you’ll need to treat at least 10 feet up. But if you have trees or large shrubs that stand 10 feet or more, you’ll need to spray all the siding behind them and then another 10 feet above the tallest point of the tree. Spider mites migrate great distances and moving 5-10 feet from an infested plant is quite common.
Keep in mind once one side of the home shows evidence of spider mites, it doesn’t mean you have to spray all 4 sides. But spider mites do migrate so it’s suggested you treat at least the side and each adjoining side where you find activity. Use the Bifen every 2-3 months and understand the house will be subject to re-infestation if you don’t treat the ground surrounding the home.
SPIDER MITE CONTROL AEROSOL
Lastly, if you’re finding spider mites inside the home, Bifen can be applied to the baseboards anywhere they’re seen. But to get deep into the voids where the mites are hiding and traveling, use some ECO ACU. It’s an aerosol that comes with an injector straw so you can direct the spray where it needs to go. ECO should be applied to the moldings, around window frames and basically any crack or crevice where spider mites are seen. Treat every 2 weeks as needed.
Spider mites are persistent pests which can kill most any plant. They reproduce quickly and will move inside if given the chance. Treat once a week for several weeks to insure you have got the entire population. Use Bifen in a hose end or a pump sprayer to get the best results. Once under control, try to inspect every month or two and be sure to treat again if they reappear.