Stop spi­der mite gar­den dam­age this safe, nat­u­ral way

The Progress-Index - At Home - - NETWORX - By Laura Firszt — Laura Firszt writes for net­worx.com. This post orig­i­nally ap­peared here: http://www.net­worx.com/ar­ti­cle/stop­spi­der-mite-gar­den-dam­age-this-safe.

They are tiny but deadly — to your gar­den, that is. We’re talk­ing about spi­der mites, a mi­nus­cule mem­ber of the arach­nid fam­ily with an enor­mous ap­petite. Not to be con­fused with dust mites, these vo­ra­cious pests, com­mon through­out much of the world, will hap­pily munch on any of 100 dif­fer­ent species of plants. Here’s how to stop them from eat­ing — and killing — your fruit trees, berry bushes, veg­gies, flow­ers and house­plants.

Signs of spi­der mite in­fes­ta­tion

Spi­der mites love hot weather and low hu­mid­ity. This makes the signs of in­fes­ta­tion easy to con­fuse with the ef­fects of a dry spell. And in fact, the two prob­lems are es­sen­tially the same; spi­der mites lit­er­ally suck the juice out of green­ery. Your plants will be­gin to ap­pear scorched, with yel­low flecks or edges. Should the in­fes­ta­tion con­tinue with­out treat­ment, they will grad­u­ally turn gray and even­tu­ally die.

Of­ten­times spi­der mites leave a more ob­vi­ous clue to their pres­ence, though — a mesh of silky fibers, de­signed to pro­tect the colony against preda­tors, which re­sem­bles the webs spun by their cousins, ac­tual spi­ders (that’s where spi­der mites get their name). If you see web­bing on your plants, look out for spi­der mites. At less than 0.04 inch in length, they re­sem­ble tiny red, yel­low, green, or black wrig­gly dots. The pests can be hard to spot with the naked eye, but will show up un­der in­spec­tion with a mag­ni­fy­ing glass, es­pe­cially if you check the un­der­side of af­fected leaves.

Nat­u­ral treat­ment for spi­der mites

The main rea­son why spi­der mites are so pro­lific to­day is rather ironic — large num­bers of their nat­u­ral preda­tors were killed off by the use of pes­ti­cides. Rein­tro­duc­ing these preda­tors (big-eyed bugs; stetho­rus, a type of lady bee­tle aptly known as the “spi­der mite de­stroyer,” pi­rate bugs, and preda­tory thrips) into your gar­den can be help­ful in gar­den pest con­trol. The spi­der mites them­selves re­pro­duce rapidly and can quickly de­velop a re­sis­tance to chem­i­cal in­sec­ti­cide.

Re­moval of the mites’ web­bing can be some­what help­ful, as well, since they will not lay new eggs un­til they have spun re­place­ment webs. At the same time, trim the plants care­fully and dis­card heav­ily in­fested leaves and plants. Sad to say, these trim­mings must not be put on your com­post pile, to pre­vent fur­ther spread­ing of the spi­der mites. In­stead, place them in garbage bags, close tightly, and dump them in the trash.

Once the plants have been trimmed, wipe down the leaves with a damp cloth or spray them with wa­ter, par­tic­u­larly the un­der­sides. You may wish to add a few drops of liq­uid dish soap and/or es­sen­tial oil to the wa­ter. Rose­mary oil con­sid­ered highly ef­fi­ca­cious, as are neem, chrysan­the­mum, thyme and le­mon oils.

We tried it: Spray­ing spi­der mites with es­sen­tial oil

My gera­ni­ums started out strongly this spring. Placed in a sunny out­door win­dow box, they graced the land­scape with gor­geous color for a cou­ple of weeks. Then they started to fade and wither rapidly. Opin­ions ranged from “not enough sun” to “too much sun” to “well, they’ve bloomed and now they’re fin­ished for this year.”

As a rel­a­tively new gar­dener, I de­cided to trust my in­stincts and try to nurse them back to health. When I be­gan re­mov­ing the burnt-look­ing leaves, I no­ticed both the sig­na­ture web­bing and hordes of barely vis­i­ble crit­ters. I didn’t have any of the afore­men­tioned essences, but I did find a bot­tle of nat­u­ral pep­per­mint oil, bought in an at­tempt to ward off mice (I have a lively house­hold!). I filled a spray bot­tle with wa­ter, a quar­ter tea­spoon of dish liq­uid, and 5 or 6 drops of pep­per­mint, and pro­ceeded to spritz the leaves, top and bot­tom.

The im­me­di­ate ef­fect was that the air smelled de­light­ful. And longer term? It’s now a week since I sprayed the gera­ni­ums and the dif­fer­ence is amaz­ing. They are mite-free, lively and lovely.

PHOTO: XANDERT/MORGUEFILE

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