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What Causes Spider Mites and How to Combat Them?

Most gardeners will have encountered spider mites at one time or another. These nasty pests feed on live plants by puncturing their cells to feed on their energy stores of chlorophyll. But what causes spider mites? And more importantly, how can you combat them?

In this brief article, we will go over everything you need to know about these plant-killing pests and answer questions such as what is a spider mite? What causes them? And what should you do about a spider mite infestation? We will also discuss the relationship between spider mites and cacti.

What is a Spider mite?

Spider mites are tiny insects that belong to the Acari family “Tetranychidae,” Presently, there are around 1200 known species of spider mites. Generally, they live on leaves and often cause significant damage to the plants they live on by puncturing the plants’ cells in order to feed.

What causes Spider mites?

Spider mites typically thrive in hot, dry environments. As such, spider mite infestations frequently occur during times of drought or when indoor plants don't receive much water. Applying too many nutrients can also increase the likelihood of indoor plants attracting spider mites, especially if the plants are given too much nitrogen. This is because large quantities of nitrogen can lead to the formation of small compounds known as “funny proteins,” which tend to make plant sap sweeter, attracting spider mites.

How to treat a Spider mite infestation?

If you are growing indoor plants and notice spider mites, then you may be able to get rid of them by pruning the leaves you spot them on; however, if you have many plants or are growing outdoors, then this may not be a viable option.

The most effective treatment for spider mite infestations is Neem Oil, an extract derived from the seeds that grow on the Neem Tree. Neem oil works by suffocating the spider mites and is also an effective pesticide for combating other pests such as aphids and mealybugs.

How to prevent a Spider mite infestation?

Treating a spider mite infestation is a major pain in the backside. Fortunately, it's often possible to prevent spider mites from attacking your plants in the first place. An easy way to prevent spider mites is by wiping the leaves of your plants periodically, essentially cleaning them. Also, by ensuring your plants have an adequate supply of water and that there is some humidity in the air, you can deter most species of spider mites from feeding on your plants.

Do Spider mites usually attack cacti?

Spider mites frequently feed on cacti such as the Monstrose Cactus and Peruvian Apple Cactus, as well as tropical plants including the Fiddle Leaf Fig, various species of Monstera, and others.

Summary

Spider mites are nasty pests that feed on the cells of plants, damaging their leaves and sapping them of their chlorophyll. Most species of spider mites are attracted to the sweet sap of plants, especially in hot, dry environments. To treat a spider mite infestation, you can apply Neem Oil to your plants. In most cases, you can also prevent spider mites by keeping your plants clean and well-watered.

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