Spider Mites on Houseplants: Identification and Control Methods
Spider mites on houseplants and orchids are tiny arachnids and are often too small to see with the naked eye, but they can cause significant damage to plants. Here are some signs and characteristics that may indicate the presence of spider mites:
- Appearance: Spider mites are minuscule, about 1/50 inch (0.5 mm), and can be red, yellow, green, or brown. They often appear as moving dots to the naked eye if you look closely, especially against a light background.
- Webbing: One of the most telltale signs of spider mites is the fine, silky webbing they produce on the undersides of leaves and at the joints of stems. This webbing can cover leaves, stems, and even flowers.
- Leaf Damage: Infested leaves may develop yellow or brown spots, known as stippling, and can become dry and fall off. The damage is due to the mites piercing plant cells and feeding on the contents.
- Plant Stress: Heavy infestations can cause overall plant stress, wilting, and a dusty appearance to the plant due to the numerous mites and webbing.
- Location: On orchids, spider mites often target the tender new growths and the underside of leaves where they can feed without much disturbance.
To confirm the presence of spider mites, you can place a piece of white paper beneath the leaves and gently shake them. If mites are present, you’ll see tiny specks fall onto the paper that may start to move after a short while.
Control of spider mites includes increasing humidity around the plant, washing the plant with water to physically remove the mites, using insecticidal soaps or oils like neem oil, and in severe cases, using miticides. Always check the specific care instructions for your type of plant or orchid before applying any treatment.
Combine 1 tablespoon of dish soap with 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol and a quart of water and spray down your plant. Test the spray on one leaf before applying to the rest, and repeat every few days as needed.