Plant Bugs: What Are Spider Mites & How To Prevent Them

spider mites on plant, what is a spider mite?, how to get rid of spider mites
So, you get home, ready to see your plants and 
tiny red bugs on plant
WHAT are these spots and webs on my plant?? And are those…spiders??
They’re most likely from the creepy crawlers: spider mites! And if you’re seeing those microscopic bugs you’ve either got some really good eyesight, or a bad infestation on your hands! Let's get into the details about these guys!
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SPIDERS ON MY PLANT??

Spider mites are actually not insects, they are part of the arachnid family, and with their piercing mouthparts they will suck the nutrients out of your plants. They thrive in hot, dry weather and will often go for plants that are dehydrated. Though, they are really not picky when it comes to what plant they will eat from, so if you see any sign of spider mites, move your plant away from the others before they spread! And boy do they spread fast, maturing from an egg to an adult in about a week! This means you better spot them as fast as possible or you will be dealing with a whole country of spider mites before you know it! To know if its spider mites here is a guide:

Identification Of Spider Mites 

spider mites on plants

There are some defining features of spider mites, being:

  • Extremely small, about the size of a period at the end of a sentence. (less than 1/50 inch)
  • Have no antennae and an oval body region 
  • Males have pointed abdomens 
  • Females have round abdomens and larger
  • Come in different colors: red/orange color, translucent, brown, yellow/greenish (most commonly green/yellow - translucent)
  • Clear egg sacs 
spider mite eggs

Signs you have spider mites:

  • Yellow/bronze/silver spots on leaves 
  • Webs all over leaves/plant (to identify if they’re from spider mites put a piece of paper underneath a leaf and shake the plant, the spider mites will fall onto the paper and you’ll be able to see them better)
  • Curling leaves
  • Concentration of spots at the base of the plant
spider mite webs
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Prevention: 

Sometimes pests just find their way into your lives by accident, but other times there are reasons they are attracted to a plant. If you over-fertilize a plant, the mites will be more inclined to feed on that plant for its nutrients, so the first line of prevention is to fertilize only when necessary and to follow the instructions on the label! 
Next, try to create the opposite of their preferred environment by increasing humidity by your plants. Some plants may not like high humidity, so be careful about humidity levels! Also, make sure the plant is hydrated at all times, as they are less inclined to feed on a hydrated plant.
Spraying neem oil on your plant every now and then is a good preventative measure for not only spider mites, but other pests such as aphids and mealybugs.
Washing off your plant (literally taking plants to the shower) and wiping down the leaves regularly should prevent most pests from making your plant their new home!
Finally, consistently check up on your plant, look underneath the leaves and everything, so you have an idea of the health of your plant and can get a head start when dealing with pests. This way you don’t end up having to deal with a whole country of pests!
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Extermination: 

Finally, how to get rid of spider mites!

Predatory Mites

Buying a small jar of predatory mites, specifically Phytoseiulus persimili, and releasing them onto your plant is a natural, non-chemical way to kill the spider mites. These mites are not harmful to your plant, so don’t worry! After they have eaten all of their prey, they will soon die of starvation. It's sad, I know, but you don’t have to worry about any other bugs in your space!
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Drowning/Rinsing: 

Spraying down the underside of the leaves with a good pressure (enough to remove the mites, but not hard enough to harm the plant) should kill them! This, along with releasing predatory mites is a non-chemical way of treating your plant! If you wanted to do both rinsing and releasing predators to thoroughly rid your plant, that is recommended!
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Home-made remedies: 

You can mix together 2.5 tablespoons of liquid soap, 2.5 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 1 gallon of distilled water to make your own homemade insecticidal soap. This will make a whole gallon!
Tip: READ THE SOAP LABEL! Don’t use soaps made with sodium hydroxide, use ones made with potassium hydroxide instead. Though plants need both sodium and potassium, high doses of sodium can be harmful to plants! Make sure the soap you use doesn't contain bleach, synthetic dyes, fragrances, or degreaser. Also, steer clear of detergents they should not be used!
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Horticultural Oils/Insecticides:

Spraying chemical insecticides is a sure-fire way to kill these mites, but they can be slightly harmful to your plants, yourself, other beneficial insects, and aren’t the best for the environment. This is why insecticides should only be used as a last resort, after you’ve exhausted your other options, and still find yourself with an infested plant. Neem oil is usually the most common option when using insecticides! Another option is a neem-derivative called Azadirachtin that prevents them from maturing, meaning the population could no longer increase because there are no adult females!
little red bugs on plants
REMEMBER, if you have spider mites, or any pest for that matter, it is QUARANTINE TIME for the affected plant(s)!! Most pests can move around from plant to plant and before you know it, all of your plants are on the verge of dying.
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If you enjoyed this article and want to know more about plants, or read more specific articles, such as The Top 5 Terrarium Plants or How To Turn Your Home Into A Desert Vista, click here
If you have any questions, book a meeting with our plant expert here
Questions or comments? Leave them down below! 

2 comments

  • MaryAnn

    I have little white cocoons on my cactus plant what are they and can I get rid of them or should I throw it out

  • Nicole

    Thank you for the great information! I’m a fairly new plant momma and the thought of spider mites has freaked me out! I feel better on how to handle it if that day comes.


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