Saturday, August 18, 2007

Faces of Evil #2- Red Spider Mites >:(

Red Spider Mites: The Enemy.

Although these things are hard to see with the naked eye (but they are visible if you look close!) these things are my number one enemy. They are a menace and they drive me nuts. In order to conquer these, you must know them. Know their habits, know their environment, know where they come from. Know them. Be them. KILL them... in five easy steps.

Without chemicals or pesticides

These jerk-faces are a big problem to patio/balcony growers for many reasons.
-There is little space, so plants are often crowded.
-There is little natural humidity (esp if you are above ground level) due to the absence of a soil bed that can trap in a lot of moisture for all day timed release action.
-Because of the arid conditions, there is a small presence of beneficial bugs such as ladybugs and praying mantises.
-There might be another amateur gardener somewhere near you who doesn't take good care of his/her own infested plants and the creepies float on in by the wind currents.

The Spider Mite

(about 1,000x actual size, artist's exaggerated rendering)

-Very small tiny spider like creatures that make webs and suck the nutrients out of plants
-Loves dry climates
-Loathes wet things and humidity
-Is an equal opportunity plant eater/killer
-Is terrified of ladybugs

What to look for

-Webbing with little reddish spots that move around.
-White spots covering leaf
-Some wilting

How to kill them

Ok, so I know that a lot of people don't have much time. Don't worry. Depending on the level of infestation, it shouldn't take you over an hour.

If you have a potted plant, take them to the sink and wash them off. But if you have your plants growing in a heavy box with other plants, it will be a little more complicated. Especially if you live in an apartment with no garden hose available.

1. Get rid of the webs. Use a piece of toilet paper, Q-tip, napkin, stick, or anything. A lot of the little jerks will be on the webbings, so if you get rid of the webs, you get rid of them.

2. Dampen a Q-tip and get rid of all the other Spider Mites on the plants. Try a big bowl of water with 1-2 drops of dishwashing liquid. That's what I used. A very mild solution of soapy water.

Don't forget the nooks and crannies. The idea is to get rid of ALL the spider mites.

Look how disgusting this is.

3.Cut off the leaves that can't be saved.

Why waste a plant's energy storage on leaves that have no hope? Cut off the ones that can't be saved. But don't go crazy and cut off all the leaves.

4. Use that big bowl of soapy water and give your plant a good bath. This will leave a nice damp surface that Spider Mites hate. This will also get rid of any stubborn mites that you've missed.

5. My favorite step: Dump the water in the sink.

The bowl of soapy water will probably be a little brownish due to all the spider mites that are drowning in it. You can turn on the garbage disposal for added effect.

If you have really good hearing, the spider mites' dissension will be audible. Just shoot some expletives back at them. Don't worry. At this point there is no way they can beat you up.

Tomorrow, and every other extremely hot&dry day after that, spritz the plants with plain old water. Don't forget, most leaves like water too. This will also discourage new mites from coming back.


Italman said...

I've been experiencing the same problem almost every year and I must say that neem oil works the best, from my experience at least. It's organic and pretty cheap!You really captured the infested area nicely, good work and good luck fighting those nasty pests!
By the way, please let me know if you're still having problems with viewing the photos on my blog!

Sarah said...

I find myself on stranger's gardening blogs often. Good job capturing those mites in the photos. I'm still itching thinking of them! I'm off to get those buggers using that method of yours.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou so much, this has been an awesome post.
I am off to 'the final solution' - the spider mite holocaust

Great stuff!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great description, photos and how you get rid of them. I have them so bad on my tomato's that there are colonies of red on the tips. I so far have controlled them with a week solution of peppermint soap. Seems to work but I'm in the first stages of getting rid of them. I have/had 20 plants and lost maybe half of them before I knew what hit me.
Thanks again.