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It is always nice to have a healthy display of plants, whether they are indoors or outside. Most of the time we get this right, but occasionally our plants become ill and do not look as good as we would like.
Spider mites are one of the tiny pests that can do damage to our plants, if left unattended. These are plant eating mites, which will feed on the fluid that extract from the plants.
Eventually the leaves will shrivel and turn brown because the moisture has been sucked out of them. Once an infestation has grown it does not take long before the plant shows signs of being unwell.
In cool climates they rest in the soil but as the temperatures rise they become set on causing damage to plants.
While spider mites do not cause any harm to humans or pets, they can leave our plants in a sorry state if they are not stopped.
Spider mites thrive in warm dry conditions, particularly when there is low humidity. They come in different colours, and you may – if you look under a microscope – be able to see them in red, light red, black, and even spotted yellow/orange.
Life Cycle of the Spider Mite
The life cycle of the spider mite is about three or four weeks. However, while this does not seem a very long time, in that period they will reproduce rapidly.
Females begin to lay eggs at 5 days old and during a lifetime can deposit literally thousands of eggs, which take just 72 hours to hatch.
You can imagine, then, just how many spider mites can be found in an infestation which is left unchecked.
How do you Know the Infestation is Spider Mites?
You will see tell-tale signs of minute webs. If you shake the plant onto a white sheet of paper, you will be able to see tiny black or dark dots which, when moving are an indication of spider mites.
You may also see very fine spider webs as the wind blows. This is one of the ways that spider mites are transported from one plant to another, they are simply blown there on the breeze.
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Where do Spider Mites Come From?
While it is possible that humans can carry spider mites from the garden into the house and the onto plants, the most likely place they come from is other live plants.
This is why it is a good idea to keep plants you have just bought from the garden centre away from others for a few days, until you are certain they are not infested.
Mites are so tiny that it is also possible for us to carry them into the house on shoes and clothing. They can even be transferred from clothing to plants, or from pets to plants.
The webs are so fine that they blow in the wind and easily transport the tiny mites from one place to another, often without us being aware of them.
Does Neem Oil Kill Spider Mites?
There are several solutions for killing spider mites, and neem oil is one of them so yes neem oil does kill spider mites. This is thought of as a natural pest repellent which smothers the spider mites when applied.
Neem oil is a long-lasting solution and often applied after a dose of insecticidal soap. It is a natural extract from the neem tree.
As with anything, you should make sure to keep neem oil away from children and pets.
Does Neem Oil Kill Spider Mite Eggs?
Applied every 3 – 5 days neem oil will kill spider mite eggs by smothering them. This will help to interrupt the reproductive cycle.
You need to make sure to spray the entire plant, checking specifically on the undersides of the leaves where the spider mites like to hide.
Another option is to use rubbing alcohol as this will also kill the eggs. Soak cotton balls in the alcohol and wipe down the leaves. Leave the residue on the leaves for several hours before rinsing with water.
Whichever option you choose, the key to getting rid of a spider mite infestation is to be stringent and regular in your plan. You must interrupt the breeding and reproductive cycle, as well as killing the adults and smothering the already laid eggs.
If you cannot interrupt the cycle, no amount of application of anything will work permanently.
For this reason, it is important to apply neem oil regularly. If you cannot guarantee being at home to do it, then enlist the help of a friend or your gardener to do it for you.
We also have an article that may help you which is about how to use diatomaceous earth to control spider mites.
How Do you use Neem Oil to get Rid of Spider Mites?
If you plan to use neem oil to combat a spider mite infestation you should start by hosing down the entire plant.
Ideally take the plant outside or place it under the shower and rinse it to displace the mites.
You can also use the shower to wash any mites away, although there is a chance that some may blow onto towels and be transported to other plants after you have dried your hands.
Apply Neem Oil
Mix the neem oil with a little water in a spray bottle. You can either spray it on or apply it on a microfiber cloth. Make sure that you wet the entire plant with the oil.
Pay particular attention to the undersides of the leaves and in the corners where they will be hiding.
Look along the thick centre spines of leaves as this is where mites will suck moisture from the leaves.
Re-apply the neem oil/water mixture every 7 days at the most. Do not leave it for longer than this to spray again as they will return to the plants.
How Long does Neem Oil take to Work on Spider Mites?
Neem oil works when it comes in contact with the spider mites’ digestive and reproductive system. Eventually it will kill them, although this can take up to 7 days to happen.
For neem oil to work you need to use it frequently, so set yourself a day and time when you plan to do it and be sure that you stick to the routine.
When applying every 3 – 5 days the neem oil interrupts the reproductive cycle and kills the eggs before they hatch.
Note: do not apply neem oil to plants when the temperature is above 90 degrees F and make sure you can leave the lights off for at least 6 hours after application as lights mean heat, which they like.
You need to repeat the application every 7 days to stop any eggs from hatching and the infestation form starting all over again.
It will normally take several weeks until the problem in completely under control. If you do not continue you will find that the infestation starts again.
How to get Rid of Spider Mites Indoors?
When you consider that spider mite infestation is never a problem in the tropics because of the humidity, you can also understand the conditions which will bring a thriving spider mite community.
Warm, dry places make perfect homes for spider mites so if your favourite plant is infested, you should – after you have taken care of the infestation – move it to another place, away from dryness and warmth, and into more humid areas.
If you intend to move a plant inside your house then you should also be aware that the conditions may change and in fact encourage spider mites to breed.
You can discourage infestations by maintaining a humid atmosphere around the plant. This can be achieved by placing your plant in a tray of small pebbles which you fill with water.
Just as dry warm conditions attract spider mites, so moist leaves repel them. Spraying leaves on a regular basis will remove the ‘ideal conditions’ for the spider mites.
Once you have removed the infestation you can make a mixture of washing up liquid and water and use this to spray your plants. This will smother any mites which have survived or returned.
Add Another Predator – if you can
Not everyone likes the thought of deliberately introducing more bugs into their homes, but there are some which thrive on the spider mite community and will gobble them up, eggs and all in no time.
These predators can be quite expensive, and you may be reluctant to add them, but they are an option of you don’t have any luck getting rid of an infestation. However, neem oil regularly applied works well most of the time.
Fortunately, it is possible to get rid of spider mites and them to keep further infestations from happening.
It takes a little planning about where to situate your plant and what sort of watering schedule you have, but it can be done.
Although spider mites are unsightly and can decimate a plant if not addressed early, in most cases you will be able to save your plant if you change its living conditions and get rid of the infestation as soon as you find it.
Before you go, here are some more related articles I encourage you to read below to help solve more of your gardening issues: