How to Treat Spider Mites
Cobwebs on your plants may suggest you’ve just neglected to dust for a bit too long, but they could also be an indication that your plant has spider mites, a tiny pest most easily identified by its trademark webbing.Spider mites will look like tiny little specs usually clustered around the stem of the plant on the underside of the leaf. This is an example of an early stage of infestation. If you look closely, you'll see the spider mites suspending in webbing.
As their name may suggest, spider mites are tiny eight-legged creatures in the arachnid family, and are typically found in colonies on the underside of leaves. They thrive on houseplants as there are no natural predators to stop their spread, and they love dry environments. They can often be found on plant leaves exposed to A/C or heating vents, as the dry air is perfect for them. Their webbing usually is the most notable indicator of their presence, but leaves will typically turn a splotchy yellow and be left with a tiny spotting or stippling after spider mites have been sucking at them.Spider mites under a magnifying glass. Video by Lauren Sottile.
Telltale signs of spider mite infestation include spotting on the top of the leaves and yellowing around the edges.
To treat a plant for spider mites, the first step is to hose the plant down under the sink or shower faucet, dislodging the bugs. Take care not to overwater the soil with the runoff.
Follow this with an insecticide, such as neem oil. Neem oil is a natural pesticide and leaf shine that’s been used for hundreds of years on crops and houseplants alike. Best of all, it’s non-toxic to birds, animals, and many beneficial insects. Mix the neem oil with water and apply it to the plant with either a microfiber cloth or a spray bottle, wiping it all over afterwards. Be sure to apply the neem in 7 day intervals, however you can rinse or physically remove pests daily.
For serious infestations that are undeterred by neem oil, insecticidal soap is a stronger treatment option. When the insects are present, apply thoroughly to all of the plant’s surfaces and repeat every 10 days until you no longer see any of the bugs. Please note insecticide should be applied in the evening, or when the plant is removed from the direct sun, as sunlight combined with the insecticide can burn a plant.
Separate the affected plant from the rest of your collection while it recovers, taking special care to ensure that none of the plant’s leaves are touching another plant’s. For future prevention, regularly wiping down the leaves with water and regular misting will deter spider mites from returning.