If you have beans, peas, squash and tomatoes in your garden then keep your eagle eyes peeled for the itsy bitsy spider mite, because this eight-legged arachnid—and more specifically, colonies of spider mites—will feast on plants, sucking the cell contents from leaf tissue.
What to look for:
- Plant leaves that look like they have light specks on them
- Gray, yellow or bronze colored leaves that eventually drop off of plants
- Fine silken webbing on leaves or branches
- Adult female spider mites lay round eggs on bark, leaves or in webbing
- Once eggs hatch, spider mite larvae—which only have six legs during their first stage of life—can develop into adults in as little as two weeks
- With plenty of food and appropriate temperatures, there can be multiple generations of spider mites per year
- Female spider mites may lay 100+ eggs during their short four weeks of life
If you suspect that you have spider mites but cannot see any, hold a white piece of paper underneath plants leaves then shake or tap the leaves. Dislodged spider mites will fall onto the paper and appear as little moving flecks. Spider mites may be brown, cream-colored, green, red or yellow.
Natural enemies of spider mites include lacewing larvae, lady beetles, and minute pirate bugs. Instead of using insecticides in your garden, try implementing some of these natural biological garden heroes.