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Spider mites are small sucking pests that are sometimes difficult to see without the help of magnification. They can be brown, translucent, yellow, green or red in color and they are very small (0.5mm). A hand magnifier with a magnification of at least 10x is usually required to see and identify spider mite. Both the adult mite and the immature offspring can cause extensive damage to plants. The most common species in grow-rooms is the Bonenspint mite (Tetranychus urticae). They can affect more than 200 types of garden, field, greenhouse and hydroponic crops.
The life cycle of spider mites is very fast. The cycle varies between species and depends on the temperature, but with all mites it consists of an egg stage, a larval stage, two nymphal stages (protonimf and deutonimf) and the adult stage. At ± 26.7 ° C spider mites develop from egg to adult mite in just five days. This process can take several weeks at lower temperatures. Left untouched, this results in many generations of mites a year. Adult females can be up to a month old and can lay several hundred eggs within this time.
Mites harm plants by sucking sap from the leaves. They start at the bottom of the leaf and go from leaf to leaf as they drain the valuable juice from the plant and the mite populations grow explosively. Damage caused by mites to plants appears as yellow dotted or spotted leaves, this is visible first on the underside of the leaf, but will soon also be visible on the upper side of the leaf. If nothing is done, the leaves will eventually turn yellow or brown and the plant will die due to the inability to photosynthesize.
Mites spiders like spiders webs. They move through this network of webs, which often becomes visible when the size of mite populations increases. To test for the presence of spider mites, place a sheet of white paper under the leaves of your plants and tap the leaves or shake them. If there are mites present, some will be visible as moving dots on the paper. Black pieces of feces, amber eggs and white fading hides are also a sign of the presence of mites.
Mites are often unintentionally spread by people. An innocent visit to a garden center can mean that you return with unwelcome lifters. If possible, try to change clothes before you enter your grow room and wash or disinfect your hands before and after handling your plants. Mites can also use their web to ride on a light breeze. They overwinter outside of fallen leaves and other organic waste, so it is possible that a normally clean growing area with increasing temperatures in spring suddenly becomes the center of a spider outbreak.
The natural spread of spider mite covers Europe and North America, ranging from temperate climate zones to the subtropics. They can even survive severe Canadian winters in the microclimates that arise in homes and buildings. Mites thrive best in warm and dry conditions. Try to keep your grow room as moist as possible, or at least as moist as you can tolerate plants and crops. This can be achieved by regularly spraying your plants with a plant spray, also on the bottom. Also make sure that you do not let the soil dry too far between irrigation cycles, this can promote the spread of mites.
Every time you want to add new plants to your grow rooms, they first need to be temporarily quarantined to make sure they do not house mites. Further prevention involves choosing plant species that are known to be less susceptible to damage from mites.
Spider mites do not belong to the insects. For that reason many growers do not succeed in getting them under control with commercially available insecticides. Mites are 8-legged arachnids, they can only be fought with acaricides or formulas that are specifically intended to combat spiders or ticks. If possible, treat your plants outdoors, so the mites that you beat from the plants can not simply walk back to the plant or to your other plants. If this is not possible, the plants can also be treated in the bathtub, all mites that fall from the plants can then be washed away.