Because spider mites are too small for the naked eye to identify as a glance, they usually pass into many a garden without anyone noticing. However, no matter how few they are, each mite survives by sucking out the material of your succulent from their very plant cells.
They’re quite the problematic pest on the mostly ornamental succulent because these mites ruin the aesthetic value of your cactuses and kiwis. If there are enough of them around to form a full-blown infestation, their surging populations can outright kill your plants, particularly the annual ones.
In this article:
What are spider mites?
Spider mites of the Tetranychidae Family are common in North America. They tend to attack both outdoor and indoor plants by feeding upon them. They’re a destructive bunch in greenhouses, so greenhouse owners tend to deploy systematic pesticides or other safeguards against a potential spider mite infestation.
With that said, spider mites aren’t really insects. They’re a type of spider or arachnid; at the very least, they’re relatives to scorpions, ticks, and spiders. Adult mites are pale or reddish brown in color. They’re also so small that they’re 1/50 long and the size of a pixel. Baby spider mites resemble adults but are smaller.
Where do spider mites come from?
Spider mites infest plants by overwintering as eggs on the bark, leaves, or surfaces of host plants. Afterwards, once springtime comes along and the temperatures become warm again, the six-legged larvae will start hatching from the eggs and feeding for a few days before seeking shelter on a host plant such as a succulent.
From there, they’ll molt into their first eight-legged nymph stage and molt twice more before maturing into adults and repeating the cycle of life by mating with females who’ll produce as many as 300 eggs in just two weeks or more. The hotter and drier the weather—which succulents need to survive—the more rapid the development of these mites.
How to identify spider mites on succulents?
Your succulents might be suffering from a spider mite infestation if it has tiny yellow or white spots that stipple on the needles or leaves of your plant. If they have yellowed or bronzed discoloration, it might be a sign of mite infection as well.
The leaves could curl off and fall off as well. Naturally, the presence of the mites on the plant is a big red flag, but even webbing can be a sign of their presence. Such symptoms can also be confused with drought stress.
Preventing spider mites on succulents
Spider mites are drawn by dust on the fruit, branches, and leaves. Hose down your plants from time to time as you water them. Remove that dust. For succulents, spraying the plant free of dust is called for. Water stress and root rot can also make them more susceptible to mites. Water them properly and prune any infested parts of the plant ASAP.
5 natural ways to get rid of spider mites on succulents
#1. Rubbing Alcohol
If you want to get rid of spider mites without using insecticides that can become harmful to the environment and the bee population then use rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) instead. Spider mites thrive instead when you use insecticide because you’re usually killing their natural predators more than you’re killing them.
You should mix one part rubbing alcohol to one part water then spray the leaves of your succulent with it. The mites won’t be able to stand it and you won’t be harming any other insects or the plant itself with this method.
#2. Beneficial Bugs
Speaking of spider mite predators, you can also go about getting rid of these mites with beneficial bugs that you can buy commercially, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and even predatory mites that serve as natural enemies to any mite infestation. To ensure the best results, release these predators during low to medium infestation.
A predator mite snacks on these spider mites quite effectively. There are at least three species of these anti-spider-mite mites that will annihilate any mite infestation without killing off your succulents themselves. They’re available at garden centers or nurseries.
#3. Liquid Dish Soap
Liquid dish soap or detergent is super effective when it comes to making water wetter than before, thus the skin of the water that causes surface tension on smaller bugs like spider mites will burst forth and essentially drown them. To use them, just mix it with water in a sprayer.
Afterwards, just systematically spray the soap water unto your succulents in order to suffocate these pests, their larvae, and their eggs without harming or worsening the condition of your beloved plants. A couple of drops of soap are usually enough. No need to make it too foamy.
#4. Neem Oil
Neem oil is yet another mite pesticide that doesn’t use chemicals and won’t harm beneficial bugs like mite predators and bees or the earthworms that help make your garden soil more arable. It’s safe to use on both houseplant succulents and vegetables that grow in the shade as well as fruits.
You can even mix neem oil with your liquid dish soap spray for the best results possible, since it drowns out the spider mites in two different ways. The oil comes from Azadirachta indica or neem, an Indian evergreen tree. It’s a vegetable oil made from the pressed seeds and fruits of said tree.
#5. Diatomaceous Earth
Last but not least is food-grade (not pool-grade) diatomaceous earth (DE). DE is a frightening anti-mite dust that’s safe on your succulents and other plants but serves as pure death for the spider mites themselves. Just dust the concoction unto your infested succulent and see the mites die off in droves.
Afterwards, just prune the browning parts of your succulent to save it from dying off. DE works because it’s composed of sharp, snowflake-like diatoms that shred the mite to pieces on a cellular level. They get into the spaces between their joints and tear them apart from within then dry them out into husks.
Spider mites are among the most common enemies of succulents along with mealybugs, vine weevils, garden grubs, fleas, and fungus flies. Many of these pests can be dealt with using the same tactics of using rubbing alcohol or diatomaceous earth on them. These mites are also comparable to aphids, two-spotted mite, thrips, rose slugs or rose sawflies, and caterpillars in that they’re all the common pests for roses.
Learn more about individual types of succulents and how to care them.