Spider Mites Can Be Treated Safely And Naturally. As we move our growing indoors, our plants become susceptible to a whole new host of pests. At the forefront of these are Spider Mites, particularly the Two-Spotted Spider Mite (Tetranychus urticae). Fortunately, we can treat and prevent these plant pests both safely and naturally using a few homemade solutions. In this article, I will show you 4 ways to get rid of spider mites on indoor plants safely. As well, I will also show you 2 ways to prevent and repel new infestations from occurring in the future!
So by the time you discover a spider-mite infestation, the population will likely be quite large. The chances of you randomly discovering a single or even a few mites on your plant’s leaves is very small. It’s the subsequent damage to our plant foliage that alerts us to a spider mite outbreak in the first place.
Spider mite life cycle
The life cycle of the spider mite is pretty straightforward. Females lay two to six eggs a day usually on the undersides of the leaves. They do this for about two weeks.
The eggs themselves hatch in less than a week and then roughly a week after that they’re going to be ready to lay their own eggs. Thus in any given infestation, there are going to be multiple generations of these things present.
The damage comes from how the spider mites feed. They first pierce the plant tissue and cell walls and then suck out the juices, causing mechanical damage that’s not reversible. It is this damage that first alerts us to a spider mite problem rather than actually seeing these guys running around.
So now that we know how they grow how they eat and how to identify a spider mite problem let’s talk about how to eradicate these guys naturally.
Numerous chemical treatments exist on the market and are readily available for those that wish to use them. The purpose of this article however is going to be to discuss the natural methods of dealing with spider mites, so that’s going to be our focus.
4 Ways to get rid of spider mites on indoor plants
1. Use insecticidal soap
The first method to get rid of spider mites on indoor plants is to use a homemade insecticidal soap. The soap is only effective on contact and repeat treatments must be made to ensure that all generations of the spider mites are eliminated.
The formula is easy. Start out with one liter of water, add in one tablespoon of natural perfume-free hand soap, and one more tablespoon of vegetable oil to act as a spreader sticker.
Spray that mixture all over the plant’s foliage paying special attention to the undersides of the leaves. Repeat the sprayings every three days for up to three weeks.
Now it’s important if you see the leaves reacting negatively to this spray you’re going to have to wash them with a clear pure water solution in between each application.
This soapy spray acts as a smothering agent essentially suffocating the adult and sub-adult stages. The eggs can remain unscathed hence the need for multiple applications. This homemade soap should be your first line of offense.
2. Use alcohol spray to get rid of spider mites on indoor plants
The second natural method that I use to control spider mites is another homemade spray. This time using alcohol as the active ingredient.
For this application, we simply use rubbing alcohol, specifically 50% isopropyl over-the-counter rubbing alcohol. I dilute it to about 25% strength but the percent strength that you start with may differ so take note.
Again spray all the leaves paying particular attention to the undersides that’s where the spider mites live.
The alcohol will most certainly kill all mites on contact but again is gonna leave the eggs relatively unharmed. As with the insecticidal soap spray every three days for about two to three weeks.
Wash the leaves with regular water in between applications if you start to notice any foliar damage.
3. Use diatomaceous earth to get rid of spider mites
The third method to get rid of spider mites on indoor plants a little more naturally is diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring silicon-based rock that’s pulverized into a fine white powder.
It works as a miticide in two ways:
- It acts as an abrasive material that pierces and physically damages the mites.
- As a powerful desiccant.
As such diatomaceous earth only works when dry so most definitely do not use it in conjunction with the first two methods.
When you’re applying this stuff make sure to wear a mask or respirator. Simply dust the leaves of the affected plants as well as the topsoil. It will work as a systemic so you might only need two applications.
Again this stuff won’t kill the eggs. However, a two-pronged attack first with the insecticidal soap for one to two weeks, followed by two applications of diatomaceous earth can be massively effective and permanent.
The fourth method for eradicating spider mites naturally is predators, two in particular.
- The ever popular ladybug. Ladybugs or ladybirds as they’re sometimes called are a beneficial insect in the beetle family. Common in most gardens in europe and north america. A single ladybug can consume up to 100 spider mites in a single day. So if the female spider mites are only laying two to six eggs a day, a few ladybugs can really control that population.
- Another spider mite. These are known as predatory mites specifically the species persimilis. These guys are easily one of the most effective biological control methods known. They need 70 to 85 degrees fahrenheit to operate most efficiently but at those temperatures these guys get the job done fast.
It feels weird to release even more bugs into an area especially indoors when you’re dealing with an infestation I get that and dollar-wise predatory insects can have a high initial cost compared with the other methods.
The predatory insect root works best when the initial spider mite population is already somewhat under control. So give the first three methods a try before resorting to biological warfare.
2 Ways to prevent and repel new infestations from occurring in the future
Now that we have all the tools to rid our plants of spider mites, let’s work on preventing any future outbreaks. To accomplish this we actually need to change the environment.
1. Give a good dose of moving air
Spider mites love it warm and dry and calm. Now we can’t exactly lower the temperatures without negatively affecting our crops but we most certainly can change the other parameters.
It has become proven that spider mites don’t like the increased air circulation of a simple fan blowing over the leaves of your plants. So make sure that at least once a day to really give those plants a good dose of moving air.
Indoor plants can really benefit from it anyways. So it’s already a smart indoor practice to be doing.
2. Mist with plain water
The other thing you can do to create an inhospitable environment for spider mites is to mist with plain water. They really don’t like standing moisture on the leaves. so a couple of times a week especially if you have good airflow give those leaves a good misting with just regular tap water.
When you think about it nature already does this with rain outdoors so it’s not a new concept.
Do these two things of increased airflow and regular mistings and your chances of a spider mite outbreak are greatly reduced.
I know these infestations can be super frustrating and seemingly make indoor gardening appear difficult and troublesome. But at the hobbyist level of a few hundred square feet, it’s not that difficult to get these guys under control.
You really don’t have to resort to harmful systemic chemicals on either your indoor food crops or your grow operations. The natural methods used in this article if followed diligently will work effectively and safely.
If you have any other natural safe methods that you’ve used to control spider mites in the past throw them in the comments down below.
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