Spider mites are a common pest that can become a problem even in an indoor garden. Mites feed on several types of plants including berries, vines, vegetables and fruit trees. Mites are often mistakenly called an "insect," however, they are from the same family as ticks and spiders.
Spider mites are also called webspinning mites. There are approximately ten species of web-spinning mites including the strawberry mite, and the twospotted spider mite. Web-spinning mites are generally the most common type of mite found in gardens.
Most species of spider mites are very similar including their biology and effective measures used to control the mites' population. Because several species of mites can be controlled using a single method, identification is not imperitive, in terms of controlling them.
Spider mites are extremely small to the naked eye. A 10x magnifier will allow you to analyze their appearance more effectively. Adult females are the largest of the mites, but small none-the-less, measuing a 1/20" long. A dark spot on each side of the body are usually found on female mites with hairy legs and body.
If there's one mite, there's probably more. Spider mites generally live in colonies of hundreds. They usually reside on the under-side of leaves, making it easy to over look them.
As the name implies, mites were named for the silk web spun by most species. Because not all mites spin webs' it's not a fool-proof method of identification, however, it allows you to distinguish between different species of mites.
Adult spider mites have two red eyespots near the head with an oval body and has eight legs. Unlike the adults, young aphids have only six legs.
Spider Mite Eggs
Mite eggs are spherical in shape and translucent in color. Before hatching, the eggs will change to a cream color.
Spider mites reproduce at a rapid rate due to their quick reproduction biological make-up. Their population increases the most during the warm season. If conditions are ideal, like warm, dusty environments, a generation can be produced in about a week.
Stressed plants are generally more susecptible to mite attacks. Water stressed plants are especially at risk. Keeping plant's healthy and thriving may help them fight off pest and disease attacks.
While a low population mites may not cause much damage, a large colony can cause severe problems. Severly affected plants may have spotted leaves and/or the leaves may appear bronz-yellow in color and may fall off.
If the infestation is caused by a web-spinning mite, their web will cover a great portion of the plant, including fruits, flowers, stems, leaves.
Depending on the type of plants infested, they may experience yeild loss due to dead foliage. Some crops may not be affect, however.
Unfortunately for mites, there's plenty of natural predatory insects available to control their population. It's nature's way of keeping the ecosystem balanced.
Other types of control include insecticidal soaps and oils. Avoid using soap or oils on water deprived plants or when temperature exceed 90°F.
Because mites must be in contact with insecticidal soaps and oils to be effective, proper coverage is recommended. Repeat treatment of oils and soaps may be required to control the problem.
Hosing down plants with water can help dislodge, as well as shaking them. Be sure to get the underside of the leaves where mites hang out the most. Keeping plants well hydrated is another step toward avoiding an infestation. Avoid dusty growing environments.
Broad-spectrum insecticide will typically cause a mite outbreak and should be avoided. Biological control should be the first method of control used. If the control measure taken is ineffective at controlling the pest affecting your garden, it may cause the infestation to get worst or mislead you to believe the problem has been resolved, and allow the infestation to persist and worsen.
Monitor the problem
Because of their small size, mites can be difficult to detect from at distance. In fact, your more likely to notice the damage to the plants before noticing the mites. Always check leaves, particularly, the underside for mites, their eggs and spun-web.
Natural enemies of spider mites includes the western predatory mite and Phytoseiulus species. Predatory mite resembles plant-feeding mites in size, but have longer legs and are more active.
Other predators includes the sixspotted thrips, the larvae and adult lady beetle, fly larvae, minute pirate bugs, lacewing larvae and bigeyed bugs. When using biological control, create an environment that is "predatory friendly."
Approximately one predator is suggested for every ten spider mites to provide adequate control.
Biological controls, insecticidal soaps and oils are recommended for managing mite pests. Applications of insecticides will often result in an outbreak, increasing the mites population.
Before using chemical control, always use the product, initally, on a small area to test it's effectiveness.
This article courtesy of www.hydroponicsearch.com
Predatory insects, spider mites, Carbaryl, Organophosphates, Pyrethroids, Neem oil, western predatory mite, Phytoseiulus, Sixspotted thrips, Lady beetle, Fly larvae (cecidomyid Feltiella acarivora), Minute pirate bugs, Lacewing larvae, Bigeyed bugs.