Succulents are visually appealing and easy to maintain. However, it can be stressful for plant owners when these plants become discolored, have brown or yellow speckles, or start to wilt. The probable culprits include overwatering, exposure to too high or too low temperatures, and pests. Succulents can be prone to pests and bugs like spider mites at any given time.
If the creatures are not controlled, the plants become damaged and eventually die.
Spider Mites on Succulents: What are they?
Spider mites are not insects, but a type of arachnid and relative of ticks, scorpions, and spiders. The adults are pale or reddish brown-colored, oval-shaped, and very tiny, just around 1/50 inch long. The immature stages of these pests look like adults but are smaller in size. They get their name because they spin webs to protect their colonies from predators.
These pests live in colonies, usually on the underside of leaves and they pierce leaf tissues, sucking out the plant fluids. As the mites feed, the leaves turn yellow, dry up, and eventually drop off. Spider mites usually thrive in hot, dry areas where their natural enemies have been eradicated by insecticides. They are very prolific and multiply quickly, resulting in heavy infestations.
These pests are hard to see with the naked eye. Adult females lay their eggs in the leaves, which hatch in days to weeks. They usually invade succulents through the following ways:
- When you use unsterile soils
- When plants are moved outdoors during the summer season
- When they crawl through screens, which they can do because of their small size
- When you buy plants from a nursery or garden center that are already infected
How do you know if there are spider mites on your succulents?
These are the ways that you will know if there are spider mites on succulents:
- If there are small white spots or holes on the underside of leaves
- If there are tiny red, brown, or yellow dots under the leaves
- If there are silk webs on new growth or leaves
- If the leaves are turning white, then yellow or brown and falling off the stems
Plant owners can easily spot traces of these pests by monitoring the plants vigilantly for any discolorations or changes. The mites themselves are hard to spot because of their small size, so the best way to notice them is by watching for stunted growth or discoloration.
How can I eradicate spider mites on succulents?
These are some effective methods to get rid of spider mites on succulents:
1. By pruning the plants
If your plants are infected with mites, isolate them and prune the affected areas that cannot be restored to control the infestation. Throw away or burn the pruned stems or leaves, and do not place them near any other plants. If the infestation is too heavy, throw the whole plant away rather than risk infecting the other plants.
2. By flushing with water
Flush the whole plant with water or spray at high pressure to dislodge the spider mites from your succulents. Be sure to wash the undersides of the leaves where these mites usually hide.
3. By using alcohol spray
Spraying the affected plants with alcohol is one of the most common methods that plant owners use to get rid of pests. Simply mix one part alcohol with one part water. You can also mix a small amount of dish soap into the solution. Spray it on the affected plants liberally and regularly until there are no traces of spider mites.
4. By using organic insecticides
A safe way to get rid of spider mites is by using an organic insecticide like neem oil. It has a strong smell that repels pests and has no adverse effects on humans, birds, and other animals. It is obtained from the seeds of a neem tree. Since its oil is sticky, you should mix it with a mild soap solution.
Simply mix 1½ teaspoons of neem oil concentrate with one tablespoon of dish soap or liquid soap in one liter of water. Spray the affected areas daily for at least a week, or until you do not see traces of the mites.
5. By using insecticidal soap
Insecticidal soap is only moderately effective compared to neem oil spray, but it can wipe out small infestations of mites. It does not cause damage to the plants and is not harmful to humans and other animals, as it does not contain artificial insecticides. Simply mix one tablespoon of the soap into one liter of water. Fill the spray bottle and spray the affected plants liberally.
6. By using mouthwash
Plant growers attest that this is an effective method for eradicating spider mites. You can see results as early as day one of using it. To make the mouthwash spray, mix two parts mouthwash with one tablespoon of dish soap in one liter of water. Spray the solution on affected plants for a few consecutive days for the best results.
7. By using lemon water spray
This method is ideal since it does not cause damage to plants. Simply squeeze out half a lemon and mix it with one liter of water; the ratio should be 2:3. Mix the solution well and spray the affected plants thoroughly.
8. By increasing the humidity
Mist the affected plants regularly and keep the humidity high around the plants because spider mites do not like it. These pests usually thrive in dry climates.
9. By using natural predators
You can also opt to use natural predators if you cannot stand the strong smell of organic insecticides or other solutions. Common natural predators include the following:
- Ladybugs – These dainty bugs devour spider mites, including aphids and scale. They are attracted to pollen and pests; the best way to lure them in your garden is to plant cilantro, chives, and marigolds, as well as other flowering plants.
- Lacewings – These net-winged insects feed on spider mites, mealybugs, whiteflies, and thrips. They also like insect larvae, pollen, and plant nectars.
- Pirate bugs – These black or dark purple bugs feed on aphids, spider mites, and thrips. They also tend to feed on tender plant leaves, although they cause less damage. You can attract these bugs by planting marigolds, cosmos, spearmint, and fennel.
10. By using artificial insecticides
These are man-made chemical pesticides such as Imidacloprid and Acephate that effectively eradicate spider mites and other pests. However, extreme caution should be practiced to avoid any adverse effects on humans, animals, and the environment.
Plant growers note that you should only resort to these artificial insecticides if the earlier methods have no positive results or if there is an extremely heavy infestation.
Succulents add color and character to any room or garden because of their unique shapes and various colors. However, they are not immune to diseases and pests. Spider mites on succulents can lead to yellowing and wilted leaves that eventually drop off.
These pests can be eradicated through certain methods like using an alcohol and water spray, mouthwash and water spray, or organic insecticides. You can also use natural predators like ladybugs and lacewings to get rid of spider mites.
Image: istockphoto.com / ECummings00