Spider mites are a menace to plants generally, but are particularly fond of munching on the flesh of Succulents and Cacti. Spider mites tend to thrive in dry and arid places, and therefore plants that don’t need a lot of watering are an ideal target for these tiny pests.
They also start breeding at temperatures of around 53°F or 12°C which means Cacti make for an ideal environment. If temperatures stay above this, they can breed all year round.
Spider mites on Succulents and Cacti can destroy plants if left unchecked. Thankfully, there are easy treatments that will help you get rid of these pests.
The best way to get rid of spider mites on cactus and succulents is by using an acaricide or neem oil spray. Households remedies like soap and water, garlic and chili are also tried and true methods.
What Are Spider Mites?
The name ‘spider mite’ comes from the webs they make, similar to spiders, which they are related to. There are several species of spider mites, the most common being the red spider mite, also known as the two-spotted spider mite.
They are nearly microscopic and so often only spotted by the signs of damage they’ve caused. If you’re able to see them, they appear orange-red in winter and fall, while for the rest of the year they are a pale green color with two dark spots on their back.
Do Spider Mites Like Cacti?
Unfortunately, spider mites are very partial to Cacti. Their little mandibles can make light work of the tough skin of Cacti, and they gorge themselves on the juicy flesh beneath. The same goes for Succulents.
Where Do Spider Mites Come From?
Spider mite infestations can spread from plants that have already been contaminated. As such, it’s a good idea to quarantine new plants for a couple of weeks before adding them to your plant collection. Check the new plants for spider mites by paying careful attention to the undersides of foliage.
Spider mites can also be brought into the house or greenhouse by hitching a ride on your clothing, or an animal’s fur. They can also come sailing into your garden on their silk parachutes and invade any plants that happen to be in their landing zone.
The adult female spider mite lives two to four weeks and is capable of laying hundreds of eggs during her life. Eggs only take approximately three days to hatch, so as you can imagine, things can rapidly escalate.
What Does Spider Mite Damage Look Like?
Stippling on foliage is the first tell-tale sign that spider mites have overrun your plant. You might also find brownish webbing on the surface of the leaves.
For Cacti and Succulents, the first sign you have spider mites will be webbing and small brown spots on new growth. Infested plants often take on a brownish appearance. A fine webbing will also be noticeable on the undersides of the leaves.
How to Tell if My Plant Has Spider Mites?
If you think you’ve spotted symptoms of spider mite damage, one way to find out for sure whether your plant is infested is to place a sheet of white paper under a leaf and tap the leaf to dislodge the mites.
If you examine the paper closely you should be able to see mites moving on its surface. Given the tiny size of spider mites, it’s worth using a magnifying glass to inspect the paper thoroughly.
How Do I Get Rid of Spider Mites on My Cactus?
As ever, prevention is better than a cure when it comes to battling spider mites. Frequently inspect your plants. Spider mites dislike humidity, so if possible, it is ideal to keep a high level of humidity.
However, once you have confirmed that you have a spider mite problem, there are various strategies you can employ to combat spider mites on your Cactus or Succulent.
Firstly, separate your plant from the rest of your collection.
Products known as acaricides can help. The problem with using chemicals is that they can harm beneficial organisms that also visit your plants, and spider mites can also become immune to such treatments.
Mix dish soap with water at a ratio of one teaspoon of dish soap per liter of water. Spray the mixture on your plants.
Non-toxic Treatment Options
Not all mites are enemies. There are predator mites that feed on spider mites. Encouraging these predators to visit your plants can help them.
Predatory mites can also be purchased and released onto infested plants. But check online to see what species of predator mites are suitable for your Cactus or Succulent.
The predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis is an ally that people commonly employ against spider mites.
Chilli and Garlic Water
This is a good non-toxic treatment option and can be made from things you might have already at home. Crush some garlic and slice some chillies (make sure they’re as hot as possible) then add them to warm water. Spray the mixture on your plants.
Soap Water Mix
Combine 1 liter of water with ½ ounce rosemary essential oil and 1 teaspoon of lemon-scented liquid dish soap. Spray the mixture on your plants.
What is the Fastest Way to Get Rid of Spider Mites?
The quickest way to get rid of spider mites is to simply blast them off your plant with a hose, or even a spray bottle. Applying treatments such as Neem oil can also make short work of spider mites.
How Do You Get Rid of Spider Mites Organically?
Neem oil is a natural derivative of the neem tree. This makes it organic and biodegradable. Neem oil can be used as both a preventive and a treatment for spider mites. You can safely use neem oil on most Succulents.
Another benefit of using neem oil is that since it only targets bugs who chew on leaves, it is safe to use around butterflies, ladybugs, and most other beneficial insects.
How Do You Use Neem Oil to Get Rid of Spider Mites?
For best results when using neem oil on Cacti, mix it with a high-quality horticultural soap. To use neem oil as a treatment to get rid of spider mites, mix 1 liter of warm water with 5 ml (1 tsp) of neem oil and 10 ml (2 tsp) of horticultural soap.
However, make sure to read the measurement requirements on the back of the bottle of whatever brand you are using.
You can use a spray bottle to apply the neem oil mixture to Succulents and Cacti. Repeat the process daily for at least three days.
If you have Cacti or Succulents that you haven’t used neem oil on before, you can treat a small area of the plant first with neem oil and wait to see if there are any adverse reactions. If all is well after a day or so, you can go on and treat the entire plant.
When Should I Spray For Spider Mites?
For best results, spray neem oil in the evening when beneficial insects are least active. If you are using other methods of treatment, the best time of year to spray is in spring when the temperature rises, and female spider mites will begin laying eggs.
Can a Plant Recover From Spider Mite Damage?
Plants can definitely recover from spider mite damage, but it depends on how much harm has been caused by the greedy little creatures.
If you can, prune places where spider mite infestation has occurred. Sometimes, if the damage is too extensive, unfortunately, you will have to discard your plant.
Make sure not to put the plant in your compost as spider mite eggs can lay dormant and hatch when an opportunity presents itself.
Spider mites are a problem for Succulents and Cacti, but fortunately there are various options that can be used to treat infestations, or prevent spider mites from invading your plant in the first place.
Acaricides and neem oil are the most powerful defense against spider mites. You can spray these products directly onto spider mite eggs and larvae to eliminate them.
If your plants react adversely to harsh sprays such as these, you can try household remedies such as dish soap and water, garlic, and chili.
As always, prevention is the best remedy. When you bring home new plants from the greenhouse, always check for any spider mites under leaves and petals. This way you can catch them before they spread to your other plants.