If you have a problem with spider mites on your plants, you’re probably familiar with the tiny critters, but how far can spider mites travel?
Spider mites are small, leggy insects that look like spiders. They fly and move about in a similar fashion to mosquitoes but are far smaller. They cause damage to many kinds of plants, causing them to turn yellow and wither.
Many gardeners consider spider mites to be one of their worst problems because they’re so hard to get rid of. They can cause major damage to your plants. But don’t worry! The good news is that these pests can be controlled and even eradicated in many situations.
How Far Can Spider Mites travel?
Spider mites are parasites that feed on plants’ vascular systems (the system that moves nutrients from the roots up to the leaves), and they can spread as far as 100 feet from their point of origin.
Spider mites are pretty small and can travel surprisingly far — about 1/4 inch per day. This means that a single infestation can quickly become very widespread, especially if the critters hitch a ride on clothing or furniture. When they begin moving from place to place, it’s time to call in the exterminators.
They’re typically found in warm, humid areas like basements, crawl spaces and even kitchens.
Because they spread so quickly, spider mites can be difficult to control if you don’t know what’s causing them. Some people think they’re caused by a roach or spider infestation, but that isn’t always the case. In fact, many equate the two terms and assume that mites are spiders’ babies — but that’s not necessarily true.
Spider mites are usually a symptom of an underlying problem: moisture in the air, poor ventilation, or poor construction materials like paint. Unless you know what’s behind the problem, it’s hard to stop spider mites from spreading and doing damage.
Types of spider mites
There are many types of spiders, including brown recluse, black widow spiders, the red spider mite, which has red bodies, and the white spider mite, which has a white body. The most common type is the red spider mite, commonly referred to as a ‘red bug.’ The white spider mite is less common but much more difficult to control because it’s hard to see or identify. Both types of arthropods have eight legs and a pair of antennae at the front of their bodies that allow them to sense their surroundings; however, the red spider mite has twice as many legs as its white counterpart.
The biggest threats to your plants come from using insecticides around them, such as pesticides or weed killers. This can kill beneficial insects that keep the spider mites at bay. Spider mites themselves cause the most damage to plants, so they’re the most dangerous pest you’ll face if you grow plants indoors.
Spider mites are so small that they can travel long distances on human hair, clothing and contaminated surfaces. If you think spider mites are causing problems for your plants but aren’t sure where they’re coming from, clean up your house thoroughly and vacuum every surface that people might have touched on their way out.
You should also check your houseplants every month or two for signs of infestation, such as webbing in their leaves or small clumps of silk called “frass” around their base.
How to find out how far spider mite has travelled in your house
If you have a spider mite problem in your house, the best way to find out how far the critters can travel is to look within their habitat.
If you want to know how far they’ve travelled, follow the spider mite life cycle: When a female spider mite lays eggs inside a plant, she dies and her body disintegrates into sludge that dries into a thin layer on the plant. The eggs hatch and the baby spider’s mites latch onto leaves, then spin silken webs between the leaflets to survive. If no nutrients are available for them to eat, they’ll eventually die off, too.
How to get rid of spider mites
Spider mites are major concern for horticulturalists. They can spread quickly, and their sheer numbers can wreak havoc with your garden in just a matter of days. Because these pests reproduce quickly and have been known to hitchhike on clothing or pets, you want to be on guard from the moment you start gardening. You need to know how to identify them and what they look like. These minuscule pests are often overlooked until it is too late. Their appearance usually resembles tiny white specks or cotton-like strands that have been spun together into a long string.
Fortunately, spider mites are not hard to control.
Here’s how to do it:
1) If you don’t have a garden but have outdoor plants, try coarser mulch or leaf litter to keep the soil from drying out. Spider mites thrive in dry soil, so you should put down a layer of good dirt before you add the mulch or leaf litter. If possible, cover the mulch or leaf litter with cloth or burlap sacks so that it stays moist until spring and is less likely to attract pests.
2) Use an insecticidal soap and water solution to treat all leaves and foliage on plants that are not being grown for food production (such as houseplants). The insecticidal soap will kill spider mites before they can spread beyond the plant’s immediate area and begin infesting other areas of your yard.
3) Find out which pests are affecting your plants and keep up with their control efforts with insecticide treatments.
4) Do not use pesticides that contain systemic insecticides such as pyrethrum or neem. While these chemicals can kill spider mites on contact, they also kill any other insects around the treated area, which can be problematic for other garden pests.
5) Be sure to treat plants with a strong systemic insecticide only when you are certain there are high populations of spider mites present. It is better to use a weaker treatment in cases where the infestation is small, but if you are sure there are large populations present, this will ensure you kill all the pest invaders, including spider mites.
So how far can spider mites travel? Far enough to damage an entire plant. Spider mites are microscopic pests that can fast multiply in your greenhouse, on your plants and even on your clothing. They’re often referred to as whiteflies because of the white scales they leave behind when they feed.
These pests can be a real challenge, so it’s paramount to take care of them quickly to keep them from wreaking havoc in your greenhouse or garden.
The good news is that spider mites are not particularly difficult to control; following the steps above will help you prevent their spread.