Image by Jeff Vier
By Heather Rhoades
Red spider mites are a garden pest that affects a wide variety of plants, but is most commonly affect azaleas and camellias. Once you get an infestation, you will find red spider mites everywhere on the plant and it is important to take care of the infestation before the plant becomes permanently damages. Let’s take a look at red spider mite control.
What is a Red Spider Mite?
Red spider mites can be one of two kinds of mites, either the European red spider mite or the Southern red spider mite. The most common red spider mite is the Southern variety. The European spider mite is normally only seen on apple trees, while the Southern spider mite attacks a much wider variety of plants.
A spider mite is related to spiders and is an arachnid, but are smaller and have only one body section (where spiders have two).
Identifying Red Spider Mites
A plant that is infested by red spider mites will start to look unhealthy and will have a “dusty” appearance to the undersides of their leaves. Close inspection will reveal that the dust is actually moving and is in fact the spider mites. The plant may also have some webbing on the underside or on the branches of plant.
You cannot easily make out the details of red spider mites with the naked eye but a simple magnifying glass can make the details more visible. A red spider mite will be all red. There are other kinds of spider mites, such as the two-spotted spider mite, that are partially red. Red spider mites will be all red. Knocking some off onto a piece of white paper will make it easier to distinguish the colors.
How to Control Red Spider Mites
Red spider mites are most active in cool weather, so you are most likely to see an infestation of them in the spring or fall.
The best way to control red spider mites is through the use of their natural predators. Lacewings and ladybugs are commonly used, but predatory mites can also be used. All of these spider mite predators are available from reputable gardening supply centers and websites.
You can also use pesticides to eliminate red spider mites. Insecticidal soaps and oils work best. You should be careful using pesticides though as they will also kill their natural predators and the red spider mites may simply move from the pesticide treated area to non-treated areas.
Of course, the best way to eliminate red spider mites is to make sure you don’t get them in the fist place. Work to keep plants healthy and the areas around the plants free of debris and dust to keep red spider mites away. Also, make sure plants have enough water. The water will help keep the red spider mites away as they prefer very dry environments.