Spider mites are tiny, red, spider-like insects that can infest a variety of plants, including ornamental and vegetable plants. They are difficult to see with the naked eye and often go unnoticed until they have caused extensive damage to the plant. Spider mites can cause yellowing or bronzing of leaves with stippling or webbing on the underside of the leaf. This can lead to leaf drop, reduced flowering, and fruit yield.
Because spider mites can cause such significant damage to plants, it’s important to do your best to catch them early. Unfortunately, early signs of spider mites can be easy to miss.
The good news is that there are several tell-tale early signs of spider mites you can look out for to help ensure you get rid of these tiny pests before they damage your garden.
Keep reading to learn more!
What Are Spider Mites?
Spider mites are arachnids closely related to ticks and spiders.
Spider mites are tiny arachnids in the order of Acari (which also includes ticks). They have eight legs and move quickly from one place to another. These pests have needle-like mouthparts that they use to suck plant juices from their hosts. They’re usually greenish-yellow or red in color with dark spots on their bodies. The size of each spider mite varies depending on its species but they usually range between 0.2 millimeters (0.0079 inches) and 0.6 millimeters (0.024 inches) long when fully grown.
These tiny spider-like insects are known to attack more than 200 plants. They suck the sap from the leaves, stems, and even fruit of plants, causing damage to the plant’s vascular system and eventually killing it if left untreated. Spider mites usually feed in groups, so a small population may not cause any noticeable harm to your plants right away. However, as their numbers increase, they can cause significant damage.
Spider mites are very small — about the size of a pinhead — which makes them difficult to spot with the naked eye. You will need to use a hand lens or magnifying glass to examine your plants for signs of a physical infestation.
Spider mites are not considered dangerous to humans, but they may cause a skin rash or an allergic reaction if you come into contact with them. Spider mites aren’t known for biting humans, but if you’re allergic to spider mite bites, it’s possible that you could have a severe reaction after coming into contact with them.
What are the different types of spider mites?
There are about 2,500 species of spider mites, although only a few dozen are common in greenhouses and gardens. The most common four spider mites you might encounter include:
The Gorse Spider Mite – Tetranychus lintearius
This is a common pest of gorse, broom, and heather. It is a small, soft-bodied mite that feeds on plant sap and secretes honeydew. The honeydew can flow freely from the leaves and stems of infested plants and can cause sooty mold growth on the surface. This species has one generation per year with four overlapping generations occurring at different times of the year depending on location. The overwintering eggs are laid in late summer and hatch into nymphs in spring. These feed for several weeks before becoming adults and may live for up to two months.
The European Red Mite – Panonychus ulmi
The European red mite is a pest of apple, pear, hawthorn, plum, cherry, raspberry, and other fruit trees. It can also attack other woody plants including roses, raspberries, strawberries, and some vegetables such as tomatoes. The mites feed on the surface of leaves leaving tiny spots which turn brown when they die off; these spots then turn black as they become covered in sooty molds which block out light from entering the leaf tissue thereby weakening it further.
The Boxwood Mite – Euseius finlandicus
This is a small mite with a yellowish-green body and two red spots on the sides of its body. It is found on boxwoods, holly, and privet as well as other plants like rose and lilac. The mites overwinter under the bark of the plant where they feed on the sap. In spring, they leave the cover of bark and move up the stems to feed on new growth and flowers. They are visible to the naked eye but are very small (less than 1/16 inch).
The Two-Spotted Spider Mite – Tetranychus urticae
The two-spotted spider mite has orange or red legs with white spots on each leg segment. Its body color varies from green to yellowish or brown depending on its age and host plant. This mite feeds by piercing leaves with its mouthparts then sucking out plant juices through its hollow mouthparts called stylets. Damage from this insect may not be apparent until you see yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and sometimes webbing between leaves or around buds or stems.
Why Do I Have Spider Mites? Understanding What Spider Mites Are Attracted To
Spider mites are common problems in warmer climates.
Spider mites are one of the most common pests that gardeners encounter. If you’ve ever seen small brown dots on your plant leaves, then it’s likely that you have spider mites.
Spider mites are most common on plants that have been recently moved from one location to another or have been repotted into new potting soil. This is because they prefer hot, dry conditions and need a host plant to survive. Spider mite eggs hatch and develop quickly in hot weather, so it is important to act as soon as possible after noticing their presence on your plants.
Spider mites are also attracted to stressed plants, so if your plants have been under stress for a while, they may be more susceptible to an infestation. In fact, spider mites love warm temperatures, so if you live in a region where temperatures often rise above 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months, you’re at risk of having an infestation.
Another reason why you might have spider mites is that they’re very common in greenhouses and nurseries where many different types of plants are grown together. This makes it easy for them to spread from one plant to another.
Some of the most common early signs of spider mites include:
- Small Discolored Spots On Plant Leaves
- Holes In Your Plant Leaves
- Yellowing Or Browning Of Leaves
- Bronzing Of Single Leaves Or Even Several
- Premature Wilting Of Leaves
- Premature Dropping Of Leaves
- Thick Webbing On Foliage That Looks Like Cotton
- Tiny Moving Insects On Plants
- Small Eggs On The Underside Of Plants
- An Influx In Predatory Insects That Feed On Spider Mites
Let’s learn more.
1. Small Discolored Spots On Plant Leaves
Yellow spotting on leaves is one of the first signs of spider mite damage.
The first sign of a spider mite infestation is usually a discolored spot on the leaves of your plant. These spots can take on a variety of colors, but the most common are yellow or white. The discoloration is caused by tiny mite feces that are left behind on the leaf after feeding. The feces contain nutrients that are absorbed by the plant and these spots will turn brown over time as they dry out and age.
Spider mites are so small that they can be hard to see without magnification, but when you see these little yellow or white spots on your plants it’s a good indication that there may be an infestation occurring. If there is more than one of these discolored spots scattered across your plant then you should definitely inspect them for signs of spider mites.
2. Holes In Your Plant Leaves
Many pests cause holes in leaves, but yellow discoloration in leaves as well as other early signs of spider mites can help you identify the culprit.
Spider mites are tiny little critters that live on your plants and suck out their juices. They’re hard to see with the naked eye, but if you look closely at your plant leaves, you can usually find them.
Spider mites are pretty common and can be found on many different types of plants, as we’ve mentioned above, and one of the earliest warning signs of spider mites is holes in plants.
However, many other pests can also leave holes in your plants, so it’s easy to confuse holes in plants as being caused by other insects like caterpillars or grasshoppers.
You can tell holes in plants are caused by spider mites because they look different than other pests’ holes. Here’s what to look for:
The holes are in a fine pattern around the edge of the leaf (not all over)
They have a silvery sheen to them
If you see these types of holes in your plant leaves, there’s a good chance they’re being caused by spider mites.
3. Yellowing Or Browning Of Leaves
Yellowing or browning of leaves is another early sign of spider mites.
Yellowing or browning of leaves is another early sign of spider mites. Yellowing or browning occurs because the mites suck nutrients from the leaves, causing them to lose nutrients. The leaf scorching may start at the tip and progress to the base, giving the leaf a ragged appearance.
This damage is what is known as “leaf scorch”.
Spider mite feeding can cause leaf scorch where portions of leaves turn brown or yellow while others remain greenish-white with flecks or streaks along their edges. These streaks appear as fine lines running parallel to each other across the leaf surface. Spider mite feeding is often accompanied by stippling (small dots) on the leaf surface, which may be either red or purple in color depending on the plant species affected by spider mites.
4. Bronzing Of Single Leaves Or Even Several
Bronzing of leaves can mean spider mites have taken hold. (
The bronzing of single leaves is one of the most common symptoms of spider mite infestations and is often an early sign of spider mites. The bronzing occurs because of feeding by the spider mite which causes leaf cells to burst, causing them to dry out quickly. This results in the browning of leaves which can be seen as a yellowish coloration around the edges or even all over the leaf depending on how severe it is.
Is this damage reversible?
If you catch this early enough then yes, it is possible to reverse this damage and save your plant. A good way to do this is by using a spray bottle filled with water and adding a few drops of dish soap into it (make sure you don’t use too much though). After spraying the plant, shake off any excess water that doesn’t stay on your plant, and take note that some parts may still have some water droplets on them after shaking off any excess water
5. Premature Wilting Of Leaves
Leaves that are wilting before they should mean spider mites or other pests are feeding.
Spider mites often feed on the underside of leaves, where they leave a fine webbing (more on that below) that can be seen with the naked eye. Spider mites cause damage by sucking juices from the plant and leaving behind small dots.
Premature wilting of leaves is caused when spider mites suck out all the nutrients from a plant’s leaves. These nutrients are what help keep plants healthy, so without them, the leaves will begin to wilt and die off.
If you catch spider mites early enough, you may be able to save your plant by removing it from its current environment and treating it with insecticides or neem oil. If you notice any early signs of spider mites or of spider mite damage on your plants, check them every day for at least two weeks after treatment has started to make sure that all signs of damage have disappeared completely.
6. Premature Dropping Of Leaves
If you notice fallen leaves, this could mean spider mites are causing a good amount of damage to your plants.
Although spider mites are tiny, they can do a lot of damage to plants because they suck so much sap from them.
Spider mites typically feed on the underside of leaves and stems, as we mentioned above, which can kill the plant slowly without you noticing.
One of the many early signs of spider mites or of an infestation begins with the yellowing or browning of plant parts that have been heavily damaged by feeding by spider mites. This yellowing or brown, which we touched on early, leads to the premature dropping of leaves because not only have the spider mites sucked up so much sap from plants but also because they inject toxins into the plant when they feed. This causes further damage to plant tissue and results in the premature dropping of leaves.
7. Thick Webbing On Foliage That Looks Like Cotton
Webbing from spider mites can range depending on the severity of your spider mite problem.
As the spider mites feed on the leaves, they not only damage them, but they also leave behind clues. We’ve already touched on another early sign of spider mites – thick webbing.
If you notice thick webbing on your foliage that looks like cotton, it’s a tell-tale early sign you are dealing with spider mites.
The webbing usually appears first on new growth, but as it spreads throughout the plant it can appear anywhere on the plant. It is more noticeable when there is a lot of humidity or moisture in the air because it clings to surfaces more easily.
The webbing that spider mites leave behind on plants is actually silk, which is made from a protein called sericin. Spider mites secrete this protein and use it to spin a web, which they use to protect themselves from predators.
Although it may seem like a harmless cottony growth on the foliage of your plants, spider mite damage can quickly spread throughout your garden if left untreated. If you notice signs of spider mite infestation, identify your plants as a priority so you can treat them before they become damaged beyond repair!
8. Tiny Moving Insects On Plants
Spider mites are so small that they can be hard to see with the naked eye. The best way to identify them is by inspecting your plant closely and looking for early signs of spider mites instead of the mites themselves.
However, if you have a severe infestation, you may notice hundreds of tiny insects moving around on your plants.
Spider mites will look like tiny red or yellow dots that move quickly on plant leaves.
If you suspect spider mites, look through your garden carefully. Check the undersides of leaves, especially on new growth, because they often hide there. You’ll see webbing if you have a spider mite problem, as mentioned above, but you may also see the mites themselves.
Spider mites can be hard to see with the naked eye so use a magnifying glass or hand lens to help you spot them. If necessary, use a fine spray of water from a hose to dislodge them from their hiding spots so that you can see them clearly.
9. Small Eggs On The Underside Of Plants
Though spider mites are difficult to see with the naked eye, you can sometimes spot them on plants.
Spider mites are prolific breeders, and they can have multiple generations in one season. The entire lifecycle of a spider mite takes about five or six weeks from egg to adult, but each generation only lasts about three weeks. That means that an infestation could quickly get out of control if it’s not treated quickly enough.
Spider mite eggs are laid on the underside of leaves where they’re difficult to see because they’re flat and pale yellow in color. These eggs hatch into tiny nymphs that look like moving specks under a microscope. After they mature into adults, they continue to feed on leaves until they produce more eggs.
The eggs of spider mites are tiny and difficult to see with the naked eye, as we mentioned. However, they’re usually laid in clusters around the stem of a plant or under leaves. The eggs are oval or round, white or yellowish in color, and measure about 0.25 mm long (1/100th of an inch). Use a magnifying glass and look on the underside of leaves for clusters of small eggs. If you find them, use the measures we listed below for how to get rid of them.
10. An Influx In Predatory Insects That Feed On Spider Mites
Seeing more predatory insects like ladybugs can be a sign of spider mites.
There are several other insects that feed on spider mites, and another early sign of spider mites could be an influx of predatory insects on certain plants. Ladybugs, lacewings, and predatory bugs all eat the pests. If you see many of these insects near your plants, this could be a sign that there are too many spider mites for them all to keep up with.
Below are several predatory insects that eat spider mites you should look out for. Their presence in your yard or garden could mean that you are seeing some early signs of spider mites and need to take action to remove them.
- Green Lacewings
- Scale Insects
- Predatory Thrips
- Big-Eyed Bugs
If you do notice the above insects in your garden or any of our other early signs of spider mites, it’s time to act. While spider mites can cause serious damage, they are luckily relatively simple to control with some changes to your gardening tactics as well as with some common products.
Best Products To Use After You’ve Noticed Early Signs Of Spider Mites
Products that contain neem oil often work well for getting rid of spider mites.
As we know now, spider mites are a very common pest in the garden and the home. They feed on plants and cause damage that can be seen in the form of yellowing leaves, leaf drops, and even plant death. If you’ve noticed any of the above early signs of spider mites in your garden or houseplants, it may be time to start looking for products to get rid of these pests.
Spider mite infestations are easy to prevent with proper care and maintenance. But if you do notice any signs of infestation, you need to act quickly to get rid of them before they spread to other areas of your garden or home. There are many different products available for getting rid of spider mites, but which ones are best? Below are a few products we found that come highly recommended by experts.
Trifecta Crop Control Spray
Trifecta Crop Control Spray works to get rid of spider mites, aphids, and other pests that can cause plant damage in your yard or garden. The product contains three different types of insecticides including neem oil, pyrethrins, and spinosad.
Neem oil is used as an insect growth regulator (IGR) to prevent any new eggs from hatching into more mites; pyrethrins kill adult mites directly, and spinosad kills both adults and larvae alike.
You’ll need to spray this product directly onto your plant’s foliage every two weeks for at least three weeks in order for it to work properly.
Mite Massacre Spider Mite Killer
Mite Massacre Spider Mite Killer is another product you can use immediately once you notice early signs of spider mites. This product contains Pyrethrins, which are synthetic compounds that have insecticidal properties. They’re derived from chrysanthemum flowers and are non-toxic to humans and animals (with some exceptions).
To use this product for spider mites, spray it on the undersides of leaves and around leaf axils where spider mites hide most frequently. Spray both sides of the leaves until they’re dripping wet but not saturated. Apply this product every 7-10 days as needed until spider mites are gone or until temperatures reach 90°F or higher for more than 3 consecutive days, whichever comes first.
Bonide Mite-X Insecticide Spray
Mite-X is an insecticide that kills spider mites on contact. It also works well for controlling other types of pests such as aphids and whiteflies. The active ingredient in Mite-X is spinosad, which is derived from a naturally occurring substance found in soil bacteria.
To use this product, spray your plants with Bonide Mite-X Insecticide Spray according to the label directions.
Wait three days after the first application before spraying again if the weather is warm and dry; wait two weeks if it is cool and wet.
Repeat this process until no further signs of spider mites appear on your plants for at least one week after the last application.
Early Signs Of Spider Mites – Tips On Preventing These Pests In The Future
Spider mites can be a problem, but they can also be easily managed.
Spider mites can be devastating to your garden, but you can prevent them from taking over again once you’ve managed to get rid of them. Here are some tips on preventing spider mites from returning to your garden:
Clean up debris – Spider mites like to hide in debris such as leaves and grass clippings. If you have a large number of leaves and other debris lying around in your yard, it is important to clean it up so that there are no places for the spider mites to hide.
Water your garden regularly – Watering your garden regularly will make sure that everything stays healthy and green, which is great for keeping away pests like spider mites. It is also important not to over-water or water too much at one time because it can cause damage to plants and roots.
Trim back any dead branches or leaves – If there are any dead branches or leaves on plants in your garden, they need to be trimmed back so they don’t provide shelter for these pests!
Keep an eye out for early signs of spider mites – Look for yellow spots on leaves or other discoloration, webbing on plants, wilting of plants, and the rest of our above early signs of spider mites. Remember, once you notice any early signs of spider mites, it’s important to act quickly to get rid of them.
We hope this has been a helpful guide on spider mites and how to manage them quickly once you notice the activity of spider mites.
Now we want to hear from you! Have you ever noticed any early signs of spider mites? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.