Spider mites (Tetranychus urticae) are among the most common garden pests and are smaller than the head of a pin, making it hard to identify them. These tick-like bugs are considered arachnids (related to spiders) rather than insects because of their eight legs. There are many different types, occurring in colors of red, green, yellow, or brown, with the most common being the two-spotted spider mite and red spider mite.
When the weather warms in spring, spider mites emerge to feast on plants. This can weaken plants, making them susceptible to disease and other problems. Spider mites reproduce quickly, with each female laying hundreds of eggs. The resulting exponential population growth can cause a serious infestation in a matter of days or weeks.
Signs of damage:
Spider mites damage foliage by sucking juices from the leaves. This shows up as stippling on the leaves and more severe damage can result in leaf bronzing that may lead to leaf drop. Leaf drop increases incidence of sun/light burn and negatively affects both vegetative and flowering stages.
Additional signs of spider mites are curled and/or burned leaf edges as well as leaves that have taken on a leathery texture. Webbing will be produced when mite populations grow in size and can be found on foliage, twigs and fruit/buds.
How to prevent:
Look before you buy:
Inspect indoor and outdoor plants before purchasing to make sure they aren’t infested.
Keep plants healthy:
Make sure plants are well-watered and fertilized. Healthy plants are more able to withstand pests and diseases, while weakened or stressed plants are more susceptible to problems.
Keep the area clean:
Clear weeds and debris out of garden areas where pests can more easily hide.
Bump up moisture levels:
Since spider mites thrive in dry conditions, keep air humidity levels higher around plants.
Use high-quality soil:
Use a high-quality, sterile potting soil to avoid possible soil-borne pests.
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