How to Get Rid of Red Spider Mites
Red Spider Mites look like tiny sap-sucking insects that cause no end of problems for gardeners, as they infest your plants and can quickly damage plants beyond saving. These dreadful little sap-suckers must be cleared off your bonsai as soon as possible before irreparable damage is done to your precious trees.
In this article, we will look at how to identify an infestation and then more than one method to get rid of red spider mites.
How to Identify a Red Spider Mite Infestation
Red Spider Mites (Tetranychus urticae), also known as two-spotted spider mites, are tiny arachnids related to spiders that cause damage to plants.
If you notice white or yellowish patches on the upper surface of the leaves on your bonsai, take note and carefully turn the leaf over. You will need excellent eyes or a magnifying glass to try and pick out the tiny adult mites crawling around on the underside of the leaf.
If you see nothing, take a sheet of white paper and hold it under the leaf. Gently shake the twig and, then, look at the paper. If you have mites, you will see tiny speckles on the paper.
As these mites are realties of the spider, they share their web-spinning traits but not the neat geometric beauties we associate with spiders. The mite’s webs are very fine and wrap haphazardly around stems and leaves. If you see these webs, you must deal with them immediately to prevent your trees from being decimated.
The adult mites are tiny, at around one millimeter long, which is about the thickness of a credit card. Under a magnifying glass, you should see the miniature adults as red, brown, white, or yellow moving specs.
Because they are so tiny, Red Spider Mites spread very quickly. They are initially impossible to discern. They could be hiding in plants recently bought from a garden center, or they could have been blown in on the wind.
How to Get Rid of Red Spider Mites
There are a few ways to get rid of these pests.
Method 1: Water Spray
If you have discovered the mites but there is minor damage to the leaves, you can try simply washing them off with a water spray. Take the hose with a spray that will not damage the leaves but will be strong enough to blast the mites off the leaves. Lift the leaves and direct the water to the underside. You will have to repeat this each day for several days to ensure that the mites have all been removed.
Method 2: Oil Based Sprays
Spray the underside of the leaves with an oil-based spray. The oil will coat the insects, including the eggs and larvae, and suffocate them.
If you like to keep your garden organic and are not happy using pesticides, try making your own oil-based spray. Mix 1 cup (250 ml) vegetable or white mineral oil with ¼ cup (60ml) liquid dish soap. Mix the two ingredients in a bottle and shake very well. To make the spray, dilute 15ml of this oil/soap mixture in one litre of water.
You can also use essential oils such as lavender, coriander, spearmint, and chamomile in place of vegetable or mineral oil.
Method 3: Encourage Natural Predators
Red Spider Mites do have natural predators such as ladybugs, the larva of lace-wing flies, and other predatory mites. Encourage these beneficial insects into the garden by controlling ants and avoiding the use of pesticides that kill indiscriminately.
Prevention of Spider Mite Infestations
When purchasing new plants for anywhere in the garden, take a piece of paper with you to the nursery and do the paper test to ensure the plants do not have mites. This will save you importing the problem with your new plants.
Spider Mites most often attack stressed plants, especially during warm weather. In warm, dry conditions, ensure that your trees and well hydrated and adequately mulched.
Healthy plants are better placed to fight off a spider mite outbreak, but stressed, unhealthy plants may well succumb to an infestation.
Red Spider Mites can go from being a few to many hundreds in a very short time. In good conditions, they will develop from egg to adult in five to seven days, so in warm conditions, check your plants regularly for the tell-tale spots near the centre of the leaves.
Spider mites will move from the bottom of the tree to the top, so start checking at the tree’s base. At the first indication of trouble, begin the remedial process to prevent the infestation from getting out of hand.
With careful inspection and prompt action, you can prevent a mite infestation from exploding and seriously damaging your precious trees.