Spider Mites

Info for the Indoor Gardener

Spider mites are among the most common garden pests to plague the Indoor Gardener. Here's how to find them and stop them in their tracks.


  • Spider mites look like little specks on small webs
  • about 1/50th inch or less
  • size of salt crystals
  • no antennae
  • whiplike mouths
  • red, brown, yellow, green - color depends on species and time of year
  • 8 legs
  • 6 legs on young
  • oval body
  • two red spots near front on common houseplant species
  • females have dark blotches on each side of body
  • bristles on legs and body
  • you'll see webbing on plant before you can detect the spider mites

Spider Mites: common indoor garden pests


  • top of leaves
  • bottom of leaves
  • at joints of leaves and stems
  • usually on lower parts of the plant


  • these garden pests proliferate in dry air
  • can crawl or be blown to nearby plants
  • reproduce 1 to 2 times/week
  • increase rapidly (see scientific life cycle info, below


  • the mites pierce holes in the leaves
  • plant loses internal water from the holes as well as cell structure
  • sucks out he contents of the plant's cells
  • leaves turn yellow, then bronze, then fall off


  • look for yellow stippling or specking on leaves
  • use a magnifying glass (10x) every few weeks to check your plants
  • leaf surface will show a white webbing
  • shake leaf over white paper - if there, you'll see them running on the paper


  • isolate your houseplant quickly
  • increase humidity around the plant
  • prevention:
    • frequently mist your plants
    • showers in tub or sink every now and then
    • keep plants dust free
  • as soon as you notice the mites or the webbing, spray with 10% rubbing alcohol, dish or miticidal soap, and water 1x/week for at least 3 weeks
  • use horticultural oils, such as Neem oils
  • make sure your organic or chemical arsenal against these garden pests is specifically for these garden pests; they're not an insect and many insecticides don't work against them
  • if plant is overrun, destroy it
  • continue treatment to be sure they don't return (most treatment doesn't work against the eggs, so repeat regularly)
    • keep in filtered sunlight while treating
    • keep soil slightly moist while treating
    • spray weekly with soap and water
    • use foliar insecticides made for indoor plants every 7-10 days (per product instructions)
  • chemicals: few insecticides work and few products work safely indoors: if you use a miticide (follow directions carefully) against them, treat every 10-14 days to kill off the next generation
  • treat all plants that may have spider mites at one time
  • treat outdoors if possible, especially if you have children and/or pets in the house
  • In greenhouses, conservatory, or separate room use natural predators:
    • predatory mites of the Phystoseiidae Family
    • small ladybugs (especially Stethorus species
    • pirate bugs
    • predatory thrips
    • lacewings
    • syrphid flies

For Botanists, Scientists, Outdoor Gardeners, and School Reports

FAMILY: Tetranychidae
COMMON SPECIES: Tetranychus urticae, two-spotted spider mite

  • spider mites are in the arachnid family and are not insects
  • related to spiders, daddy-longlegs, scorpions, and ticks
  • parts of mouth that pierce the houseplant called "chelicerae"
  • two-spotted spider mites like about 180 different species
  • favorite houseplants include: draecaena, figs, hibiscus, schefflera, ivy, Norfolk Island pine
  • Life Cycle = 1-2 weeks
    • reproduce every 3-7 days
    • mature females lay up to 5-12 eggs daily for a few weeks
    • eggs can be larger than the mother
    • eggs hatch in a few days into larva stage
    • leave egg shell behind (look for these to help detect the problem)
    • larvae have round bodies, 6 legs
    • in a few days the larvae become nymphs (two stages of nymphs)
    • full grown in about a week
    • males have a pointed abdomen
    • female spider mites have rounded abdomens and are larger than males

    DISCLAIMER: The Indoor-Gardener.com provides information through data research and personal experience and does not mean to recommend or refute any product used for insect control inside or outside the house. Read and follow instructions carefully as listed on all products. Indoor-Gardener.com is not responsible for use of any product or method described on these pages, nor for any possible adverse affects of such use. The legal use of chemicals for plant health can change, and it is solely the responsibility of the user of such chemicals to remain in compliance with such laws. Indoor-Gardener.com and Batya D. Wininger assume no liability resulting from the use of any information on these pages. While this website does its best to provide only the best, up-to-date information to its visitors, there can be changes and mistakes. Read labels carefully and follow instructions for use.

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