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Insects in the City

The best in science-based, pest management solutions from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Biting Mites

Rat mites are wingless parasites that live in the nests of wild rodents.

Mites are tiny arthropods, related to ticks. Several types of mites can be found in homes and of these a few may bite humans. Most mites are harmless predators of insects, or feeders on decaying plant material. Some pest mites feed on stored products like cheese and grain. Others are merely nuisance pests, accidentally entering homes from their normal outdoor habitat. Only a few mite species are parasitic on birds or mammals; but these can occasionally become biting pests in homes. Identifying the type of mite and/or likely host is the first step in solving an indoor mite infestation.

HUMAN BITING MITES

Several types of mites are associated with cases of skin dermatitis in humans. The tropical rat mite, Ornithonyssus bacoti, is one of the most common house invading species. The tropical fowl mite, Ornithonyssus bursa, and northern fowl mite, Ornithonyssus sylviarum, are also frequently encountered in homes. The latter two species are found principally on domestic or wild birds. The house mouse mite, Liponyssoides sanguineus, may also be found in structures with house mouse infestations. The tropical rat mite is a parasite on rats. Although none of these species are truly parasitic on humans, they bite people readily, often producing dermatitis and itching.

Rat and bird mite infestations occur in structures where rat or bird nests are located. Mites do not hop or fly, but may crawl several yards from an infested nest. Most often, bites are noticed only in certain rooms of the structure, presumably close to the rodent or bird nests. Unlike bed bugs, neither rodent or bird mites “hitchhike” on people or on belongings to other locations.

Infestations are sometimes first noticed following extermination, or after the natural hosts have died or left the structure. Infestations may also occur where heavy mite infestations have developed around a rodent or bird nest. Occasionally rodent or bird mites may be found on rodents kept as pets.

Rat mites are small, approximately the size of the period at the end of this sentence (see video). They move actively and can be picked up with a wet finger, brush or piece of sticky tape. Distinguishing between different species of Ornithonyssus mites to determine whether birds or rodents are the likely source is difficult and requires special expertise. The first course of action when faced with a suspected biting mite problem is to look for all potential bird or rodent sources and collect some of the mites, if possible.

Collecting mites. Most pest control companies will (rightly) not treat a home without proof of pest presence. It is therefore important to collect mites prior to treatment. Parasitic mites are often first noticed when biting. Mites can be collected from the skin with an artist’s brush or tissue dipped in rubbing alcohol. Mites collected in this way should be placed in a small vial or other waterproof container with a small amount of rubbing alcohol. Mites can also be collected from the skin with a piece of tape (although this makes accurate identification of the mite unlikely). Sticky traps are also useful tools for sampling tiny arthropods around the home. Place several sticky traps in rooms where bites are occurring.

Control

The primary mite host must be eliminated before successful control rodent or bird mites can be achieved. Clues to the type of host that has invaded the house can be deduced by the time of year that the mite infestation occurs. Rodent infestations are possible at any time of year, though they seem to occur most frequently in the fall and winter. Bird problems are most common during the spring and summer.

Roof rats are the most common rat encountered in Texas homes. As their name implies, roof rats are good climbers and often enter the home through openings in the roof or soffit areas. Noises in attic or ceilings, especially at night, can indicate roof rat activity.

To seal homes against rodents all vents and electric service entry points should be tightly closed with rodent-proof metal hardware cloth, metal flashing, or copper wool. Entry points around chimneys and between loose shingles should also be checked. Doors and windows should seal tightly. House mice will enter structures near the ground, especially under poorly-sealed doors. Rodent proofing must include the smallest entry holes. Mice can enter a home through a hole as small as a dime; rats can enter through a hole as small as a quarter.

Bird infestations are often first indicated by the sound of chirping coming from a chimney or soffit area. The same rules and materials used for rodent-proofing are effective in keeping birds out of the home. Special screening may be needed on chimneys to deny birds access to chimney areas. Birds nesting in chimneys may also indicate the need for chimney maintenance and cleaning. Chickens and other fowl kept in sheds or coops attached to a home can also be a source of mites indoors.

Pesticides can help suppress mite populations in the home, but must be used in combination with bird or rodent control. Treatment for mites should be done concurrently with, or even before, rodent extermination to control mites before they disperse from previously occupied rodent nests. Several pesticides can be used indoors to treat mite problems. Sprays and aerosols containing syngergized pyrethrins should kill mites immediately on contact, though the treatment will only remain effective for up to a few hours. Insecticide sprays containing permethrin or bifenthrin are effective against many mites and should retain their killing properties for several weeks. Read the label carefully before spraying to make sure these products allow application to living areas, attics and crawl spaces. Indoor sprays should be applied only to the bases of walls and other potential entry points, not to furniture or other surfaces where people come into direct contact. Desiccant dusts, such as diatomaceous earth or silica aerogel, may be applied to electrical outlets or other wall void access points in living areas of a home.

When a nest can be located, it’s best to first treat the area around the nest (e.g., the soffit or vent from which a bird nest is removed) with a pesticide spray, or else dust the area with a desiccant dust. This should reduce the risk of live mites dispersing from the site and entering the indoor areas of the structure after the nest is removed. Long sleeves, gloves, and a tight-fitting dust mask are recommended when removing old bird or rodent nests to reduce the risk of exposure to ecto-parasites, like mites, and other pathogens.

If rodent pets, like gerbils, white mice or hamsters, are present in areas where bites are occurring, they should be taken to a vet and examined for mites.

Other Mites

The non-biting clover mite is reddish in color and has two long front legs.

Other mites that can be found in homes include the clover mite and certain mites associated with stored products. Clover mite infestations are common in homes during the late winter and early spring. Clover mites are feeders on grasses and weeds and can sometimes be found invading structures from the outside through windows and doorways. Adult clover mites are approximately 1 mm-long and can be distinguished, under magnification, by their long front pair of legs. These mites sometimes produce a red stain when crushed. Clover mites do not bite people, and are mainly a nuisance pest. Keeping grass and weeds cut short immediately around structural foundations, and maintaining tight seals around windows and doors can help reduce invasion of the home by this pest. Pesticide sprays can be applied to potential entry areas from the outside. Indoor sprays are generally not needed for this pest.

Stored product mites are uncommon pests in homes. The grain mite, Acarus siro, is one of the most common stored product mite pests. This mite is found most frequently on processed cereal products (e.g., flour); whole wheat flour is a preferred food source, as are some fungi and molds. Grain mites have also been recorded from cheese, poultry litter, and even from abandoned bee nests. Parasitic mites can be distinguished from stored product mites only with the use of a high-powered microscope; however the location of an infestation within a home may provide the best clue as to whether the pest is a feeder on stored grains. Most stored grain insects do not bite. Removal of the infested product, and thorough cleaning of the storage area, is usually sufficient to eliminate infestations. High humidity and moisture also favors mite infestations, so moisture control should also be a goal of a storage mite infestation.

For more information

For more information about about mysterious insect bites around the home, see Internet publication Diagnosing Mysterious Bug Bites. For more information about bird and rodent control, see the Texas AgriLife Extension Service wildlife publication website.

Insects in the City The best in science-based, pest management solutions from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Biting Mites Rat mites are wingless parasites that live in the nests of

How To Get Rid Of Spider Mites On Houseplants, For Good!

Spider mites look like tiny white spiders that create webs on houseplants, and they are extremely destructive pests. It can be difficult, but don’t worry, you can get rid of spider mites on indoor plants, and eliminate them FOR GOOD!

There’s nothing more frustrating than finding a spider mite infestation on one of your beloved indoor plants.

They are one of the most destructive plant pests there is, so it’s super important to get rid of them as quickly as possible.

But the good news is that, when it comes to getting rid of bugs on houseplants, these guys are pretty easy to control.

Simply follow the natural spider mite treatment methods below, and you’ll be able to eradicate this annoying pest, for good!

Here’s what you’ll find in this guide for getting rid of spider mites on houseplants…

Table of Contents

What Are Spider Mites?

Spider mites are tiny bugs that can attack many different types of plants, and can be a major problem on indoor plants. Often times they look like tiny white spiders on plants, but can also appear to be tan, red or black.

They create telltale spider webs on houseplants, which they use for protection and to crawl around on. Since they are so small, spider mites aren’t noticeable until their population explodes.

You’ll likely notice the webbing on plants first, and then see the mites when you take a closer look. It will look like there are tiny spiders crawling all over your plant.

Spider mites thrive in warm, dry conditions and can become a major problem during the winter, when your dry house becomes the perfect breeding ground for them.

If you see small bugs crawling around in your houseplant soil rather than on the leaves, then you might have fungus gnats instead of spider mites. Here’s how to get rid of fungus gnats in houseplants soil.

Otherwise, if the bugs are crawling around on the plant leaves, and you see spider webs on houseplants, then keep reading…

Spider mites look like tiny white spiders on plants

Indoor Plant Mites Identification

Spider mites are easy to identify, and finding spider webs on plants is a dead giveaway.

They tend to start their webs on the underside of leaves and at the leaf joints, so that’s why they usually go unnoticed for so long.

They are sneaky little suckers. Like I mentioned above, they are difficult to see, and usually by the time you discover them on a houseplant, it’s already been heavily damaged.

You might notice the whites spider web on plants first, or the plant leaves may just look dusty. From a distance, the houseplant might look like it isn’t getting enough water and the leaves are drying out.

If you notice any of these, take a closer look. Hold the plant up to the light and look under the leaves. It may take a minute, but you should be able to see the tiny mites moving around on the fine webbing.

Spider Mites Webbing and Bugs

Spider Mite Life Cycle

Spider mites multiply very quickly and, in the right conditions, can double their population every couple of weeks.

Spider mites become fully grown about a week after they hatch. It only takes a few weeks for an adult female to lay hundreds of eggs, and for those eggs to start to hatch.

The end result is in an exponential growth in their population over a very short amount of time.

Since the eggs are invisible to the naked eye, and the adults are minuscule, most people don’t discover spider mites on their houseplants until after the population has exploded.

Webs and spider mites on houseplants

Where Do Spider Mites Come From

The tricky part about mites is that they can come from anywhere, and you’ll probably never know where they came from in the first place.

But, here are several common places where spider mites can come from…

  • Buying a new plant that has mites
  • Repotting plants with unsterile potting soil
  • Moving your plants outside for the summer
  • Flowers and vegetables brought in from your yard and garden
  • Since they’re so small, they could easily come in through the screens of open doors and windows

Spider Mite Damage On Houseplants

Spider mites are one of the most destructive houseplant pests. They can heavily damage or even kill a houseplant in a very short period of time.

They suck the sap out of the leaves making them look discolored, speckled, curled under, dried or shriveled up.

The infested leaves will shrivel up and die, and usually fall from the plant, which will ultimately kill the houseplant.

Spider mites can kill indoor plants pretty quickly, so it’s important to take fast action to get rid of them as fast as possible.

Spider webs on plants is a sign of spider mites

How To Get Rid Of Spider Mites On Houseplants

Once you discover the infestation, it’s super important to begin spider mite treatment immediately, before they spread to the rest of your collection.

The first thing you should do is to quarantine the infested plant and inspect all surrounding houseplants for mites. You want to contain the problem immediately.

There are chemical pesticides that are specifically designed for mites. But spider mites may develop resistance to them in a short time.

So, I don’t recommend them (plus these types of chemicals are toxic to humans and pets, so I wouldn’t recommend using them anyway).

It’s best to use safer pest control methods and products to get rid of mites on houseplants. You can learn more about natural pest control for your houseplants here.

Below you’ll find the best methods that will work for treating a spider mite infestation on your houseplants…

Spider mites on indoor plants

Spider Mite Treatment For Indoor Plants

The best way to avoid heavy spider mite damage to your houseplants is to start treating the plant as soon as you discover the pests.

As soon as I notice the spider webs on any of my plants, I bring the plant to the sink or bathtub.

Then I wash the leaves with my homemade insecticide soap, and rinse the leaves well to wash away as many of the dead mites as I can.

After cleaning the leaves, I use a variety of home remedies for spider mites, and all of them are very effective for controlling plant mites indoors.

Keep in mind that pesticide sprays, even organic ones, can damage sensitive plants, so it’s best to test it on a few leaves before spraying the entire plant.

Also, be sure to focus your sprays on the undersides of the leaves, this is where spider mites lay their eggs.

Spider Mite Insecticide Soap

To kill mites on plants, use an organic insecticidal soap, or mix a solution of my homemade spider mite insecticide soap (recipe below).

My homemade spider mite insecticide soap recipe:

  • 1 tsp of mild liquid soap
  • 1 liter tepid water

Mix the ingredients in a spray bottle and then spray directly the leaves of your houseplant. This homemade spider mite killer is great for getting rid of the bugs right away.

Homemade spider mite insecticide spray

Use Neem Oil For Spider Mites

Neem oil is very effective to control spider mite infestations long term, and also works for pest prevention as well.

I like to buy neem oil concentrate, and make my own spray for mites on plants using the recipe below.

While neem oil does kill bugs, it can take some time to get rid of spider mites, so I use it after washing the leaves and spraying the plant with insecticidal soap first.

A pre-mixed horticultural oil or hot pepper wax spray also work very well for controlling spider mites on houseplants by repelling them.

My homemade neem oil spider mites spray recipe:

  • 1 1/2 tsp of pure neem oil concentrate
  • 1 tsp of mild liquid soap
  • 1 liter of tepid water

Use neem oil for controlling spider mites indoors

Keep Humidity Levels High

Since spider mites thrive in dry conditions, keeping the air around your plants humid is one of the best spider mite pest prevention methods. Ensuring your plants are properly watered is important to keep them well hydrated.

Misting houseplants regularly helps to prevent spider mites. You could also try leaving a container of water near the plant, or use a humidifier to help keep the humidity up around your plants.

If it’s really dry in your house, then I recommend getting an inexpensive indoor humidity monitor so you can be sure the air around your houseplants isn’t too dry.

Getting rid of mites on plants by misting them

In addition to washing and spraying the plant, you can trim off heavily infested leaves and throw them into the garbage to get rid of even more of the spider mites and eggs.

Be sure to throw the infested leaves into the garbage outside of your house! Don’t prune all of the leaves from your plant though.

How To Prevent Spider Mites From Ever Coming Back

Keeping your plants healthy, and maintaining adequate soil moisture are two of the best ways to prevent spider mites on indoor plants.

A soil moisture gauge is a great tool to use to figure out how moist the soil is, and ensure you’re watering your plants properly.

Here are a few other tips for getting rid of spider mites for good…

  • Mist sensitive houseplants regularly, and keep the humidity level high around the plant
  • Use neem oil as a preventative spray or as a leaf polish to keep your plants leaves clean
  • If you move your plants outdoors for the summer, be sure to debug all of your houseplants before bringing them back indoors

They key to getting rid of spider mites for good is good houseplant care habits, and keeping your houseplants healthy. Healthy houseplants are the best way to prevent recurring problems with spider mites and other houseplant pests. Also make sure you check your houseplants on a regular basis for any signs of problems.

If you’re sick of battling bugs on houseplants, then my Houseplant Pest Control eBook is for you! This eBook is jam-packed with information about how to get rid of bugs on indoor plants, using organic pest control methods. It shows you how to identify common pests, and how to prevent recurring infestations so you can debug your houseplants for good. Download your copy today!

Recommended Products

More About Houseplant Pest Control

  • All Natural Pest Control Supplies
  • How To Use Neem Oil Insecticide On Plants
  • Where Do Houseplant Pests Come From?
  • How To Get Rid Of Whiteflies On Indoor Plants, For Good!

Share your tips for how to get rid of spider mites indoors in the comments below.

About Amy Andrychowicz

I live and garden in Minneapolis, MN (zone 4b). My green thumb comes from my parents, and I’ve been gardening most of my life. I’m a passionate gardener who loves growing everything from vegetables, herbs, and flowers to succulents, tropicals, and houseplants – you name, I’ve grown it! Read More.

Comments

Darlene Borcherding says

We have recently brought our huge Boston ferns back inside for the winter. Are they likely to get red spider mites from our forced air heat registers? One of them is about 4 ft. away from one. We’ll place bowls of water near them, of course. Should we spray them with neem oil altho we don’t see any bugs yet? Thank you so much!

Amy Andrychowicz says

If they have had problems with spider mites in the past, then I would spray them regularly as a preventive treatment. Otherwise, I would just keep a close eye on them to watch for bugs, and treat them if any show up.

Brandi Washington says

Great article. Thank you so much for this. Would it be a good idea to leave a jar of water near the plant for the entire winter?

Amy Andrychowicz says

You sure could give it a try, it will help to add a bit more humidity in the air to keep the spider mites at bay. But if that’s not enough, then misting or running a humidifier might work better for you.

Thank you so much for this page, i found my Areca palm infested with webs sooooo gross. I was so worried I bathed my palm twice with the soap and water mixture. Literally wiped every leaf twice over.

I ordered neem oil which is harder to find than thought. SO just to be clear soapy water spray is good for right now while the mites may still be around, so continue that for how long? and then add neem oil solution once every few weeks? Sorry if this was already asked. Thank you in advanced.

Amy Andrychowicz says

You’re welcome. Sorry to hear your plant is infested with spider mites! That is never fun. You can stop using the insecticidal spray once you start using neem oil. Yes, then spray the neem oil every few weeks. Here’s an article that talks about exactly how to use it… How To Use Neem Oil Insecticide On Houseplants. Good luck!

Vallye Chandler says

I have spider mites on my tomato plants. After I wash the plants well with the soap and water is it safe to use the need oil on the tomato plants, or just continue with the soap and water?

Amy Andrychowicz says

Bummer to hear your plant has spider mites! You can safely use neem oil on the leaves of your tomato plants, no problem. Just be sure to test it on a few leaves first to make sure it doesn’t cause damage. And don’t spray while it’s sunny outside, either do it in the early morning or evening, or on a cloudy day.

Anam tahir says

Hi there. I’ve just discovered spider mites on my monstera and hoping to use your soap method. How often should i spray the plant? Will the soap leave a residue I need to wipe off?

Amy Andrychowicz says

Oh no, sorry to hear your plant has spider mites! Wash the leaves with the mild liquid soap as I mentioned above first, then rinse them well. That will get rid of most of the adults and eggs. Then you can spray the plant once every few days until all signs of the mites are gone. Good luck!

I have spider mites on my meyer lemon tree. Is neem oil safe ?

Amy Andrychowicz says

Yes, neem oil is safe to use on your meyer lemon to help get rid fo the spider mites. But just be sure to test it on a few leaves before treating the whole plant to make sure it doesn’t damage them.

Lita Collazzo says

my potted basil plants were beautiful and then suddenly they were drained shriveling and drooping. I noticed this faint web with tiny little white.specs So I am guessing it is spider mites. I am wondering if after I wash the basil plants with the gentle soap solution and treated with oil, will the basil still be edible?

Amy Andrychowicz says

Yes, it sounds like spider mites to me. For herb plants, I would recommend misting them with water, and washing the leaves with the water/soap mix using an organic liquid soap. Personally, I wouldn’t use neem oil on edible leaves.

Alana Kuhnert says

So I just discovered spider mites on a plant. I sprayed them off with sink hose and then just did the soap and water spray. I ordered neem oil and will be here in a couple days. How often should I spray the soap mixture and the neem oil ? And then for preventative purpose…how often would I spray the neem oil ? Thank you

Amy Andrychowicz says

Oh, bummer to hear your plant has spider mites! Neem oil has a residual effect, so you only need to spray the plant every few weeks. Here’s more info about how to use it… How To Use Neem Oil On Plants.

Maria Montrond says

Hi I have an indoor plant infested with spider web.i don’t have neem oil, is there any other oil to substitute for neem?

Amy Andrychowicz says

Oh bummer, sorry to hear that you plant is infested with spider mites. Simply keeping the humidity high is usually enough to get rid of them. But, you could also try horticultural oil, or regularly washing the laves with insecticidal soap as alternatives to neem oil.

Kathy Stanford says

Hi, I don’t have any Neem oil but do have powdered sulfur. I just sprayed a solution of 1/2 t. sulfur and 1t. castile soap in 1 L of water on my plant. Have you ever done this? Or has anyone else? It’s an Elephant Ear and I’ve moved it away from my other plants. I really don’t want them on my orchids!

Amy Andrychowicz says

No, I have never tried using powdered sulfur, and I’ve never heard of using it for killing spider mites either. So I can’t speak to it. Good luck, I hope it works for you! рџ™‚

Do we leave the unscented Castile soap, neem oil & tepid water mixture spray on the plant? Are we supposed to pour it on the soil too?

Amy Andrychowicz says

Yes, you can leave the neem oil/soap solution on the plant. You don’t need to pour it into the soil unless you see bugs in there. Spider mites live and bred on the leaves, so you only need to worry about spraying the foliage to get rid of them.

Hi..my okra and bean plants are totally infested with spider mite..i am spraying with a soap solution every day but not much result..I’ll try ur tips and hope for the best

Amy Andrychowicz says

Oh no, sorry to hear your plants have spider mites! You could also try the neem oil solution I mentioned above to see if that takes care of them. Good luck!

Spider mites are one of the most destructive houseplant pests and they multiply quickly. But spider mites are fairly easy to prevent and control. ]]>