Spider mites are small—but just because they’re small doesn’t mean they can’t cause a lot of damage. Most spider mite species are known for infesting many different types of plants from crops to houseplants, and can be a concern for the seasoned gardener and new gardener alike.
Signs of spider mites and spider mite damageBefore you can get rid of spider mites, you need to be able to spot their damage. And it’s much easier to spot the damage of spider mites than the spider mites themselves—spider mites are only about 1/50 of an inch in size and barely visible with the naked eye. Spider mites cause damage to your houseplants - they use their sharp mouthparts to puncture a plant and suck out vital juices and nutrients including chlorophyll. According to the University of Maryland extension office some common signs of spider mite damage include:
- Leaves with small white dots or a stippled appearance
- Yellowing or bronzed coloring throughout
- Brown leaves falling off, perhaps prematurely
- Webbing on the plant, most likely on the leaves and underside of leaves
If you’re unsure if you are dealing with spider mites or not, one way to check is by gently shaking your plant over a piece of white paper. The contrast will make it easier to tell if you actually have a spider mite problem on your hand—if you have any, you should be able to see them moving on the paper. You can also just visually inspect plants for evidence.
It’s worth emphasizing again that two of the most distinct characteristics of spider mites are that they are small and found on plants. If you see what looks like a mite in your house and it is clearly visible to your eye and not on your plant—it’s probably not a spider mite.
How to help get rid of spider mites
If you already have spider mites, there are a few steps you can follow to help get rid of them. The first may seem obvious, but it’s a good reminder: Always make sure to keep a close eye on your plants. The sooner you notice spider mites, the faster you’ll likely be able to prevent damage. If the coloring looks off or you notice any signs of damage—like stippling or webbing—inspect your plant closely, taking special care with the leaves. If you have a magnifying glass, it might come in handy considering the small size of spider mites.
Similar to how you can help get rid of aphids, using a high powered spray or stream of water can help to dislodge spider mites. You can also wipe your plant down with a damp cloth to dislodge spider mites that have made themselves at home. Just be careful if you have a delicate plant.
As with other pests—whether they’re ones that feed on plants or animals—prevention is key when it comes to how to get rid of spider mites. After all, if spider mites don’t make their way to your plant then you won’t have any to try and get rid of. Keeping plants well-watered is an important way to help prevent spider mites because spider mites are known to attack plants under stress. This also means it is important not to overwater or overfertilize.
Is it spider mites or something else?There are a lot of different pests and insects that can latch onto plants and cause damage. Some, like fungus gnats, prefer to live in the soil as opposed to on the leaves and stems like spider mites. Other common houseplant pests include:
- Scale insects
In general, there are a few good rules of thumb to follow when it comes to taking care of your houseplant to minimize the chances of pests. Firstly, keeping the plant stress-free is important. That means watering correctly and choosing the right plant for the environment you’re in. Change the soil regularly and only fertilize the recommended amount. Finally, stay aware. Look out for signs of damage or discoloration.