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How To Deal With Tiny Plant Pest Spider Mites

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Spider mites can destroy entire plants if left alone.

If you have house plants, you may have noticed tiny insects making a home inside your plants this winter.

Spider mites, which are actually more closely related to spiders than insects, are so small you’ll often need a magnifying glass to see them. Gardening expert Melinda Myers says you are more likely to see the effects of spider mites.

Leaves turning a bronze color or becoming sticky are both consequences of having spider mites, and an infestation can even kill your plants.

“You don’t wanna wait for the webs, because by the time you see the webbing, you really have a high population of spider mites. It’s still treatable but a lot more work on your part,” she says.

If you start to see signs of spider mites, isolating that plant is important to make sure the population doesn’t spread throughout the house. Because they aren’t insects, insecticides are not the most effective tool against the invasive species.

“The first thing that I’d recommend is really give your plant a shower,” she says.

Dousing both the top and bottom of the plant’s leaves can help remove spider mites. If that doesn’t completely eradicate the problem, insecticidal soap or lightweight horticulture oils can be applied repeatedly to kill spider mites. Myers recommends buying organic so that kids or animals that may decide to chew on the leaves won’t be affected.

If spider mites do claim the life of a plant, Myers says to add it to your compost pile outside.

“It’s cold outside, they’re toast and that’s one way to prevent their spread,” she says.

To learn more, Melinda Myers is hosting webinar on organically controlling house pests on Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m.

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Joy Powers joined WUWM January 2016 as producer for Lake Effect. Most recently, she was a director and producer for The Afternoon Shift, on WBEZ-fm, Chicago Public Radio.
Jack Hurbanis started as the WUWM Digital Intern in January 2020, transitioning to Assistant Digital Producer in July and Digital Producer in January 2021.