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Posted on: 4/18/2014
Host Plants and Description 
Spider mites attack annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, vegetables and houseplants. Spider mites are 
so called because they resemble extremely tiny spiders, so small they can barely be seen with the 
naked eye. They vary in color from red to yellow to green. Mites fit into two categories: warm season 
and cool season. Those that are most commonly seen in the garden and on houseplants are warm 
season mites, usually the red or two-spotted spider mites. Cool season mites attack primarily evergreen 
trees and shrubs. 

Warm season mites are most active when the temperature range is between 75º and 
95º F, and at these temperatures, they can reproduce twice as fast as they can at temperatures in the 
55º to 75º F range. In a hot, dry summer, as many ten or more generations are produced. These mites 
feed on the sap in plant leaves, and they winter over in grass or weeds. 

Cool season mites are active when the temperatures are cool, and they may even hatch on warm days 
in January or February. They are at their most bothersome during spring and fall when evening 
temperatures fall to less than 60º F, and they remain inactive during the hot summer months. These 
mites winter over on the woody parts of plants. 

Plant Symptoms/Damage 
Warm season mites cause leaves to become dull and increasingly yellow, and finally drop. On closer 
inspection, a stippling, or very fine mottling can be seen on the upper leaf surface. Fine, silken webbing 
may also be seen on leaves, in leaf axils or on growing tips; this is where the mites lay their eggs. The 
best way to check for an infestation is to hold a sheet of white paper underneath the suspect leaf, then 
gently shake the plant to dislodge the tiny mites onto the paper where they can be seen. Plant-eating 
mites can be distinguished from predatory mites by squashing the mites to produce streaks. Green 
streaks indicate plant-eating mites; red or brown streaks are most likely predators. 
 
Cool season mites produce a bronzed or brownish cast on leaves or needles. The eggs of spruce 
spider mites can frequently be found at the base of needles. Those of the Southern red mite, which 
attacks broadleaf evergreens, are laid mostly on the upper leaf surfaces and can be seen with a hand 
lens, along with webbing that may be on both upper and lower leaf surfaces. 

Control 
 
Cultural controls for spider mites include keeping plants well watered and properly fertilized. Plants that 
are under stress are much more likely to become targets of a spider mite attack. 
 
Wet weather sometimes acts as a natural control for spider mites, producing a fungus that is detrimental 
to them and dislodging them from trees. Try hosing infestations with a forceful spray of water for a 
similar effect. 
 
Spider mites have many natural enemies, including ladybugs, lacewings, pirate bugs and predatory 
mites. Encourage these predators by choosing pesticides carefully, using those with the least residual 
effect. 

Warm season mites can be controlled with insecticidal soap. Concentrate spray on the lower leaf 
surfaces, as this is where mites congregate. Applications may need to be repeated two to three times at 
weekly intervals. 
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