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Red spider mites (Tetranychus urticae) or the two-spotted spider mite is a pest to most plants. These mites not only eat the majority of plants, they lay their eggs on whatever is left. This process will continue to take cells from your plants to feed the eggs. The damage these mites can do to your plants, may have you asking if they are just as harmful to humans. We've gathered our research to answer if these mites can bring harm to humans and what attracts them in the first place.
Red spider mites are not harmful to humans. These mites can harm indoor and outdoor plants, but bring no major damage to humans or animals.
These pests do not harm humans, but can they live on us? Keep reading as we answer if these mites can live on or bite humans and how you can get rid of these plant-eating spider relatives.
What Are Red Spider Mites?
Red spider mites are the most widely known species in the Tetranychidae family. This spider mite feeds on the sap of plants, absorbing the leaf's cells. You can say these mites are one of the most troublesome pests when it comes to greenhouses and houseplants. You may even find an infestation of them in your summer garden.
Spider mites are related to spiders and are considered arachnids. So, why are they “spider mites” and not just spiders? These arachnids are much smaller than your average spider, and they have only one body section.
These pests will give your plants a molted look when they begin to feed. Eventually, their presence will cause leaf loss and the death of your plant. This mite reproduces quickly, making it vital that you catch their presence early.
Identifying Red Spider Mites
If you have a family of red spider mites reproducing on your plants, you will notice your plant looking generally unhealthy. After all, the mites are sucking out the cells of your leaves. Symptoms that point to spider mites include yellow or brown spots on the leaves, weak or declined plant growth, and webbing around the leaves and stems.
When you flip a leaf over, you may notice a dusty appearance. With a closer look, this dust is actually the spider mites themselves. The “dust” will start moving around. There may be webbing present on the leaves or branches too.
It is near impossible to identify the mite with the naked eye. If you have a magnifying glass, you can use this to take a closer look, revealing the red mites. If you shake some mites onto a white piece of paper, it may be easier to distinguish their color.
Where Do Red Spider Mites Live?
This two-spotted spider mite can be found in orchards, fields, yards, gardens, and on most indoor plants. You will start to see infestations of these mites on the underside of your plant's leaves. The mites are tiny, you will most likely note their silk webbing first. The presence of webbing is what makes spider mites different from other plant-eating mites.
If the climate is cool, red spider mites will rest in the soil waiting for warmer weather to emerge and feed on plant leaves. In warmer climates, these mites can live on and feed off plants all year round.
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What Attracts Red Spider Mites?
Certain conditions will increase the chances of enduring an infestation of red spider mites. Plants that are living in overcrowded conditions with high humidity are more likely to develop a severe infestation. Spider mites are attracted to drought-stressed plants and areas where pesticides have been overused.
Unfortunately, these mites can come from just about anywhere. The wind can even blow them in through an open window on a hot, summer day. Unsterile soil is another hiding place for these garden pests.
A healthy plant can fight off a number of these mites, but a stressed plant will attract infestations. Being on top of your garden care will keep your plants healthy, and will also give you the chance to notice the presence of these mites as early as possible.
Can Spider Mites Live On Humans?
Spider mites feed off plant cells and use the plant's surface to lay eggs and spin their protective webs. These mites need plant material to survive, making it impossible for them to live on humans. Seeing the havoc these pests do onto our plants, this should be a relief.
They cannot live on humans, but they can use your clothing to move around. In most cases, spider mites will remain on the plant they have infested, but if they need to move for more sustenance, they will. These mites can crawl to new plants, or they can be transported on clothing and other objects that touch an affected plant.
Do Red Spider Mites Bite Humans?
On rare occasions, red spider mites do bite humans. These mites can't feed on humans, but they may bite you if you rub against an infested plant or are gardening among one.
It is not likely that you will feel a bite from a red spider mite, but in some cases, you will see some skin irritation. One or two bites can look like small red dots or be confused for pimples, while a cluster of bites will look like a skin rash. Either version can cause an itching sensation.
These mites don't always bite, and if they do, there may not always be irritation that follows. To avoid the chance, wear gardening gloves and long sleeves when handling an infested plant.
How To Get Rid Of Red Spider Mites?
Once you have identified your infestation, it is time to act. There are a few methods to removing red spider mites, but in some cases, the infestation may have gone too far. First things first, isolate your affected plant from any other plants you have. With your plant isolated, you can use one of the following to rid of these red spider mites:
- Shower your plants
- Neem oil
- Soap spray
- Rubbing alcohol
- Rosemary oil
- Diatomaceous Earth
Let's take a closer look at each method used to control your mite infestation.
Shower Your Plants
Giving your plants a shower will dislodge mites that are hanging out on the underside of your leaves. Rinse your plant using lukewarm water or use a little pressure with a hose.
Neem oil contains a natural pesticide called azadirachtin. Another non-toxic option for ridding of your spider mites. Add 2 tsp. neem oil, 1 tsp. Castile soap, and 1 quart of warm water in a spray body. Spray the solution generously on your plant.
A warm water soap spray is a non-toxic way to eradicate red spider mites. By mixing 1 tsp. of Castile soap in 1 quart of water, you have created a solution you can spray or wipe on your leaves. This will kill the red mites along with their eggs.
Wipe 70 percent isopropyl alcohol over your plant's surface to kill red spider mites immediately. Rubbing alcohol can be too strong for some plants. If you have a sensitive plant, you can dilute your alcohol with equal parts water, or go with another method.
Rosemary oil is similar to neem oil. This is a natural insecticide that can be wiped or sprayed onto a plant dealing with an infestation of red spider mites. Just add 1 tsp. of rosemary oil to your spray bottle.
Diatomaceous Earth is made from the fossils of aquatic organisms. This is an organic pesticide great for arachnids and non-toxic to humans. This pesticide works by dehydrating the red spider mites.
Read more in this post: 5 Of The Best Plant-Safe Bug Sprays And Bug Bombs
Red spider mites do a lot of damage to plants but do not harm humans. In a few cases, these mites will leave small bites on you, possibly creating a rash. Take precautions when handling infested plants to avoid this.
You want to get on top of these mites as soon as possible, as an ongoing infestation will ultimately lead to the death of your plants. We hope you found this article helpful in understanding the relationship between red spider mites and humans and maybe grabbed some inspiration in regard to handling this pest.
Looking for more information on mites affecting your plants? Have a look at this post: How To Get Rid Of Gall Mites [Inc. On Maple Trees And On Fuchsia]