Spider mites are a common garden pest that lives on the underside of the leaves of trees and shrubs and and in evergreens. It feeds on plants by puncturing the leaves or needles and sucking out the chlorophyll.
For a non-evergreen type plant, this damage won’t be fatal, but it certainly weakens the plant and makes it more susceptible to damage from other insects and diseases. However, if an infestation occurs on an evergreen tree or shrub, the damage to the needles and branches can be permanent, killing the tree. And, because the spider mite reproduces quickly, an infestation can occur within days or weeks.
Detecting spider mites in your plants
How can you tell if you have a spider mite infestation?
If a tree or shrub’s leaves have tiny, white dots or flecks (called ‘stipples’), this could signify spider mites. The infestation will cause yellowing and then browning of the leaves, and they will eventually die. For evergreen-type plants, the damage appears as tiny yellow stipples on the needles, which will turn yellow and then brown.
Because they are smaller than the head of a pin, identifying them easily on the plant can be somewhat tricky. However, if you place a white piece of paper under the branch of a tree or shrub that you suspect may be infested, shake the branch and then inspect the piece of paper. If you see small, tiny black dots, it’s a good indication that the plant has mites.
Another possible clue is if your tree or shrub has small silk webs wrapped around its leaves or branches. Mites create these webs to protect their eggs.
Ridding your plants of spider mites
Though spider mites are not known to be harmful to humans, their bite can cause a red, itchy bump or irritation on the skin. Eliminating and controlling a population of spider mites requires treatment of the plant to kill the mites and eggs. It’s best to get an infestation under control before it causes issues with your tree or shrub.
If you have any concerns regarding spider mites or any other outdoor plant or insect issues, please contact us.