Contrary to popular belief, spider mites are not spiders. They are actually very small arachnids that feast on the sap of plants and trees.
Legions of them run together and reproduce quickly within one or two weeks. The eggs they lay under silk webbing can hatch thousands of baby spider mites on a single leaflet.
Measuring around 1/50th of an inch long, these insects have four sets of legs and an oval-shaped body that can be either translucent or solid green, brown, or orange-red color.
The most common species internationally is the two-spotted spider mite (also known as red spider mite) which lives on the underside of leaves.
The two-spotted kind gets its name from the two dark spots on its back (which you can see if you magnify it under a magnifying glass).
Every winter, most mite species lay eggs on leaves and tree bark.
Early in spring, as the weather warms up, tiny six-legged larvae hatch and feed for a few days until they find a place to shed their skin to enter the first nymphal stage.
Nymphs have eight legs total before molting two more times into mature adults. After mating, females can produce anywhere from 200 to 300 eggs over several weeks.
Pests develop rapidly during hot, dry weather. Under such conditions, it may take as little as five days to pass from egg to adult. There are usually several overlapping generations per year.
Where Do Spider Mites Live?
Spider mites are most common in hot, dry conditions. They feed on plants, and large infestations can cause damage to the plant.
Some species of spider mites are predators of other spider mites, which is why they can build up unnoticed before causing any damage.
Host plants for most spider mites species in North America generally include strawberries, melons, beans, tomatoes, eggplant, ornamental flowers, trees, and many other houseplants.
These tiny creatures live in colonies and feed on the underside of leaves. They pierce the leaf tissue and suck up the plant fluids, which leave light dots on the leaves.
As they continue to feed, the leaves turn yellow and may eventually dry up and fall off.
Do Spider Mites Live On Humans?
Generally speaking, spider mites can live on humans, but they do not prefer to do so. They are not usually found in homes because they prefer warm outdoor climates.
If spider mites do find their way into your home, they will likely die within a week because of the lack of humidity.
So, can they bite humans?
Yes, they do!
Although spider mites have mouth parts that pierce human skin cells, it is unlikely you would feel their bite because of their microscopic size.
In rare cases, people allergic to bug bites might experience increased itching or swelling.
The real danger of spider mites in the home is not so much their bite as their ability to stunt or kill otherwise healthy houseplants.
How to Get Rid of and Prevent Spider Mites?
You might not be able to see them with your naked eye, but you may be able to spot their webs or the tiny moving dots they leave on white paper after wiping a leaf.
They feast on approximately 200 species of both indoor and outdoor plants, fruit trees, and shade trees.
If you have one spider mite in your garden, rest assured there are at least 100 more where that came from.
Unfortunately, there’s no hundred percent sure shot Lowes or Home Depot solution for this problem.
But you can use a natural miticide or treat the infested areas with a botanical insecticide like organic pyrethrum.
If the infestation is not so severe, you can try these non-chemical ways to eradicate spider mites…
- Use your garden hose to spray the undersides of the leaves of your outdoor plants.
- Use mild soapy water to wipe the leaves of your indoor plants
- Use a diluted solution of neem or rosemary oil to spritz the plants
- Use diatomaceous earth to dust the leaves of your plants
- Cover the base of your plants with plastic to prevent spider mites from crawling up the stems
- Keep your garden clean and free of debris where spider mites can hide
If you have a severe infestation, it might be necessary to destroy the infested plants to prevent the spread of spider mites.
Prevention is always the best cure when it comes to spider mites.
So, check other plants in your garden for signs of infestation and take action quickly to prevent the problem from spreading.
Also, inspect new plants before bringing them into your home or garden. And, if you do spot spider mites, isolate the plant and take action to eradicate them immediately.
Spider mites are tiny arachnids that can cause significant damage to plants. While they don’t typically live on humans, they can bite if they get on your skin.
If you think you have spider mites, try the above tips to get rid of them, or call an exterminator if you suspect there’s a severe problem that cannot be dealt with independently.
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