Spider mites are a tiny, menacing, and lethal pest that puncture plant cells to feed. Almost invisible to the human eye, it’s often difficult to detect the presence of spider mites until they’ve already spread and wreaked havoc on your plants. Follow this step-by-step guide to explore early detection of, treatment for, and prevention of spider mite infestations.
Step 1: Early Detection
Per usual, the most effective method of preventing spider mite damage in your plants is early detection. Ideally, you should carefully examine plants before purchasing them for any signs of disease – particularly if they’re from a nursery or a home improvement store (i.e. Lowes, Home Depot). Shops like these keep numerous plants in close proximity to each other, so diseases and pest infestations are easily transmitted from plant to plant.
Spider mite infestations in their early stages can be difficult to spot. Closely study the underside of all plant leaves, watching out for any traces of silky white web. Once you’ve selected a healthy plant, it’s advisable to quarantine it from all other plants in your home for at least 24 hours. Post-quarantine, reexamine the plant to ensure that it still looks healthy.
Step 2: Treatment of Spider Mite Infestation
Items needed: spray bottle, water, dish soap.
Spider mite infestations happen – even to the most cautious and loving plant parents. Your plants are particularly susceptible to them if you home them closely together or rotate them outside regularly for more sunlight. Again, take preventative measures; observe your plant leaves regularly to ensure that they appear lively. If your plant does get infected, follow this step to treat the infestation.
Spider mite infestations spread like wildfire, so all plants near your infested plants may have spider mites. Immediately separate all infected plants from your healthy plants. Then, create a solution by filling a spray bottle with warm water and a couple tablespoons of dish soap. Spray all leaves and stems thoroughly (even appearingly healthy ones), and vigorously wash the plant. For larger plants, you may find this easier to do in your bath. Don’t worry if your plant loses leaves in the process; the ones that go probably wouldn’t have survived anyway, and getting rid of the infestation gives your plant the best chance of survival.
After treating your plants, continue to quarantine them and carefully observe them for at least two weeks. If the infestation reblooms, repeat the treatment.
Step 3: Prevention of Future Infestations
Items needed: DIY humidity tray (tray and pebbles), humidifier, or vases; water.
The last thing a plant that has suffered a spider mite infestation needs is another infestation. Following an infection, you should take additional precautions to keep your plants safe, happy and healthy. Spider mites thrive in arid, dry environments. The easiest way to fend them off is to simply increase the humidity surrounding your plants.
Increasing the humidity around your plants can be achieved with a couple of simple measures. The first is pretty straightforward: you can group plants together so that they transpire as a team and create their own mini-rainforest. Be careful with this step if you’re not sure if your plants still have traces of infestation, as again, spider mites rapidly spread.
Another option is to create a DIY humidity tray. Take a tray (or dish) and fill it with pebbles. Pour water over the pebbles, but make sure that your plant’s roots don’t touch the water, because they’ll become susceptible to root rot. The idea behind this measure is that the water underneath the plant will evaporate around it, creating a nice and humid environment. The same effect can also be reached by surrounding your plants with wide-mouthed vases of water.
Lastly, you can purchase a humidifier to place near your plants. If finances are an issue, I’d recommend creating your own humidity tray, or searching Facebook Marketplace for a used humidifier.
Good luck and happy planting!