One of the things that every passionate gardener dreads is pest infestations.
Sadly, even the most meticulous gardeners can suddenly end up with a garden full of pests.
Therefore it’s crucial to know exactly what type of pests you are dealing with in order to effectively fight them.
The more you know about them, the better you will be able to treat and eliminate the infestation.
If you examine your plants and find that they are covered in webbing with tiny white mites, then you should keep reading to find out how to develop the correct plan of action for fighting white mites.
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What are white mites?
White mites are also referred to as spider mites due to their spider-like appearance.
They’ve got eight legs, much like spiders, and are considered to be arachnids. Mites live in colonies, so if you’ve only spotted just one or two on your plants, you can bet your life on it that there are more hidden out of sight.
White mites are quite tiny and measure approximately 1/50 of an inch long or .5 mm.
They come in a variety of colors ranging from pale whitish to reddish-brown, although they are all referred to as white mites. The term white mites are genetic and actually covers a range of mite species.
They are commonly referred to as white mites, so while they are described by color, and we know that they have eight legs, it is unlikely that you will be able to see the details of their appearance due to how minute they are in size.
Rather you’ll most likely be able to see pale-colored specs moving around or spot their signature webs.
These mites can damage your plants and are considered to be relatively harmless pests when it comes to humans and animals.
They do, however, spread through your house, but they won’t bite you or your pets. Mites are commonly found in warm and dry conditions.
Which is basically the same conditions preferred by most species of plants such as succulents.
White mites are considered cosmopolitan, meaning that they can be found all over the globe. So irrespective of where you live, your precious plant life is at risk.
These mites are incredibly prolific as well, so just a small population can turn into massive proportions in a matter of weeks.
Their accelerated productive rates mean that mites are capable of adapting and resisting pesticides. So eliminating them can often tend to be challenging, especially for large infestations.
They are common on succulents, but they can spread to other types of houseplants, flowers, and vegetation as well. It is possible for the infestation to begin with just a single succulent plant.
However, as the mites multiply and increase, they will also spread rapidly to other plants in no time at all.
The sad reality is that mite treatment is not just a one-time application. Getting rid of mites is a laborious process, so you need to dedicate a significant amount of time to the treatment and prevention of these pests.
Life cycle of white mites
Mites do not have a long life cycle, and this is mainly because they produce rapidly. Therefore, an untreated infestation can spread from a single affected plant to the entire home.
The eggs are usually laid on the underside of leaves, so it makes it difficult to detect them in the early stages of infestation.
While the eggs attach to the leaves with the mite’s webbing, it is the same webbing that also disguises the eggs.
It can take up to 19 days for the eggs to hatch. Once they hatch, they go to a lava stage, and during this stage, very little plant material is actually consumed.
This stage lasts only a few days, and then they enter the nymphal stage. Mite nymphs look almost exactly like adults. It’s just that they are smaller in size.
They are not sexually mature at this stage, so they are unable to reproduce. Depending on the temperature, it takes anywhere between one to two weeks for eggs to hatch and reach the adult stage.
If temperatures are approximately 90 degrees Fahrenheit, this process is completed in as little as five days.
In cooler weather, it takes larvae around 20 days to complete the cycle. Considering female mites can lay up to 20 eggs a day, it may take just a few weeks for a single female mite to lay hundreds of eggs.
Source of white mites
Although the source of white mites is not known, we do know that they flock to gardens, bushes, shrubs, and greenhouses to feed on various types of plants, including succulents.
Signs of white mites
If you notice that your plants are not looking like their usual perky selves, then you should check for cast skins, leaf damage, and webbing, which are all signs of mites.
Also, look for signs of the mites themselves. However, they will be hard to detect since they are such small bugs and tend to have a transparent body.
They look like tiny white specs that are moving on a plant. Something else to look out for is the white silk threads the mites leave behind, which look like little white webbing or web-like hairs.
How to get rid of white mites naturally?
Once you identify the white mite infestation, it’s time to deal with the problem.
There are a variety of treatment options available for mite infestation and you need to decide which method is going to work best for you and your plants.
Experienced gardeners know that leaping straight for harsh pesticides is not the way to go.
While there are lots of chemical treatments on the market, some of them may be more harmful to your plants, yourself, and your environment than you may think.
Exposure to some of these ingredients and pesticides can expose you and your family to chemicals that could put your health at risk. In addition to this, mites can become resistant to chemical pesticides due to their accelerated reproduction rate.
So try to consider natural treatment methods first before opting for the harsh chemicals. Here is some natural remedies to get rid of them might infestation:
Water won’t get rid of the mites by itself but is a great place to start irrespective of what treatment method you are opting for. Water is completely natural, so it won’t harm your plants or your environment.
Additionally, it won’t affect your chosen method of treatment later on. Start by spraying your plants with a high-pressure blast of water.
For more delicate plants, you should be using a spray bottle and adjusting the nozzle to a single stream of water. Outdoor plants are usually hardy, and you can simply use a hose if you like.
Spray the areas of the plant that have been affected by the mites in order to knock them off the plant. So what the water is going to do is remove most of the webbing and will make additional treatment methods more effective.
You need to spray the underneath of the leaves in order to remove the webbing as well as any eggs that the mites have left behind.
Mites can find a way back into the plant after falling off, so bear in mind that this is not a permanent treatment.
This is quite a popular and effective method of pest control that old-fashioned gardeners have used for decades. It works great for white mites and is also gentle on cacti and succulents.
If you’re familiar with this treatment option, all it is required is a simple solution made from soap diluted in water.
It’s non-toxic to humans, pets, and the environment; therefore, it is ideal for use in homes that have kids and pets.
This insecticidal soap kills pests by drying their bodies out. So it will start by penetrating the mite’s cuticles and causing the cells to collapse and eventually dry out. It’s not a fast process, and this is something you should be aware of.
So you need to be patient when you are using this treatment method. You can find insecticidal soap at your local nursery, or you can even find it online.
It’s usually affordable, but you can make your own as well. Simply add a few drops of soap to a spray bottle full of water, and that will be enough to get you started.
You should take note that you need to use actual soap and not detergent for insecticidal spray.
Detergents are considered harmful to plants, so you need to make sure you are using real soap such as Ivory Snow or Dr. Bronners.
You also need to apply this mixture to the bottoms of the leaves just as you would have done with the water. The spray needs to make contact with the mites in order to be effective.
You can also add a few drops of cooking oil to the insecticidal soap solution. Lots of gardeners swear by the fact that this mixture sticks to the plants better, but you need to shake the spray bottle thoroughly before application.
This is a popular choice for ridding pests from gardens simply because it’s a completely natural substance. Neem oil is found in the seeds of the neem tree and is a yellowish-brown seed that smells like sulfur or garlic.
This naturally occurring pesticide can tend to irritate the skin and eyes, so proceed with caution when handling it and always use gloves during application.
You should also be aware that it is toxic to cats, so keep your pets far away from treated plants. Neem oil is usually often found in oil form but can also be used as granules and or dust.
It’s especially useful for white mite infestations since it affects the arachnid’s ability to grow and reproduce. So ultimately, this will slow down the mite’s reproductive rate so you can better handle and control the infestation.
Meanwhile, it also affects the mite’s ability to feed on succulents, and that will slow down the rate of destruction on your plants. So as with the water, you need to rub the neem oil to the top and bottom of your leaves.
If you have especially small plants, you might be able to hold the soil in the pot with one hand while you gently tilt the plant over to expose the leaves on the underside without spilling soil.
For larger plants, wrap the container with clear plastic wrap so that the soil is contained while you tilt the contain over. The plastic works great for spiky plants such as agave and cactus, which you may not want to handle directly.
However, one of the downsides of neem oil is that you need to reapply it after 2 to 3 days to ensure that the mites have been eliminated.
So by no means is it a quick fix. You’ll also be dealing with several generations of mites at any given point and time, so this treatment option could take several weeks before the mites are completely eradicated.
How to prevent white mites from entering your garden?
While there are various ways for mites to infest your garden, they are usually brought in by the gardener himself.
They can hitch a ride on your clothing and hair as well as any outdoor materials you bring in with you. So remember to always wash your hands and be as clean as possible before entering your garden.
Finding out that white mites are infesting your precious plants and garden can be a dreadful experience. However, the good news is that you can get rid of them using natural or store-bought solutions.
After that, your best bet is to prevent mites from re-entering your garden and home, which you can do by taking a few precautions.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she studied at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. She furthered her gardening education by working on various organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started UrbanOrganicYield.com to discuss gardening tips and tactics. Whether it’s succulents and houseplants or vegetables and herbs, growing and caring for just about anything in a backyard garden or hydroponics garden always makes her happy.