Spider mites are among the worst pests to have in your vegetable garden and are bad for pepper plants in particular. If you notice webbing around the leaves on your pepper plants during the driest and hottest part of summer, you probably have a spider mite problem. Spider mites usually are not an issue in cool climates until the weather warms up, since they like dry and hot weather. Typically, they wait out the winter in the soil. In warm locations, spider mites can be a year-round issue for home gardeners.
Table of Contents
- What are spider mites?
- What do spider mites look like?
- What does spider mite damage look like?
- Recommendations for getting rid of spider mites on pepper plants
- Must-read related posts
What are spider mites?
Spider mites are arachnids that can infest and kill your pepper plants whether they are grown indoors or outdoors; they are related to other arachnids including spiders and scorpions. Spider mites pose no threats to humans, just vegetable plants, including pepper plants. A spider mite infestation can kill a plant in as little as three weeks.
What do spider mites look like?
After hatching from their eggs, spider mite larvae take between 5 and 20 days to reach maturity. Mature spider mites have oval-shaped bodies and eight legs. They measure about 1 millimeter in length, which is roughly about the same size as a grain of sand. Spider mites are tiny enough that you will probably have trouble seeing them without a magnifying glass, especially when the colony is in its early stages. Usually, spider mites only draw attention after their population explodes.
Because of their small size and how hard it is to identify them, spider mites are often mistaken for aphids. There are hundreds of spider mite varieties with different colors including black, red, and translucent. The two-spotted spider mite — an orange spider mite with dark spots on either side of its body — is believed to be one of the most damaging for pepper plants. Other spider mites that are believed to attack pepper plants include the strawberry spider mite and the Pacific spider mite. The strawberry spider mite is orange, while the Pacific spider mite is typically amber but will turn orange once their population spikes.
What does spider mite damage look like?
Spider mites live on the undersides of leaves to start, but they will gradually take over both sides. Spider mites feed by sucking the pepper plants’ sap from the leaves and as they do this, they generate strands of web. The web is often the first visible indication of spider mites. If the infestation is severe, the plant will be covered in the webbing.
Along with the web, other symptoms that spider mites are present include brown and yellow spots on leaves where they have fed and downward-curled leaves as the leaves crumple and fall. The entire pepper plant will eventually turn brown and die if the spider mite population is allowed to grow unchecked. If the spider mites are stopped after attacking only a few leaves, the plant should recover without any special efforts on your part.
Spider mites don’t limit themselves to just the leaves, they will consume the blossoms and the fruit as well. If you don’t notice the spider mites — which is possible when there are just a few of them — the initial damage may appear similar to nutritional deficiency. Spider mites may also cause sunscald on fruit if they cause your pepper plant to lose enough leaves. Check the undersides of the leaves when inspecting your pepper plants.
After an adult female spider mite mates, she can lay up to 300 eggs each day for the remaining weeks of her lifespan. Spider mite eggs only need 72 hours to incubate. Because of how fast they feed and multiply, a single pepper plant won’t support the colony for long, and it will quickly spread to other pepper plants in the vicinity.
By the time you notice the damage caused by spider mites, the colony will already be sizable, so you will need to treat the plants immediately.
Recommendations for getting rid of spider mites on pepper plants
Spider mites can develop a resistance to some commercial pesticides; however, there are safe and non-toxic alternatives that you can try.
Spraying with water
Spraying your pepper plants off with water works best when there are just a few of the spider mites. Use a water hose with a nozzle that allows you to adjust the force of the spray. Use only as much force as you need to dislodge the insect. Be careful since it’s possible to damage the plant if the water pressure is too high. Along with physically removing them from the plants, spraying gives the plant moisture and makes the area around it humid; spider mites tend to attack water-stressed plants, and they prefer a dry climate.
Spider mites are among the pests killed quickly with insecticidal soap. While insecticidal soap is best for controlling spider mites, regular dish soap diluted in water can provide some of the same benefits. More on that below.
Ladybugs are the best-known beneficial insects. They are predators that will eat spider mites and other pests. You can attract them naturally or purchase them online for release in the vicinity of your infested plants. Attract ladybugs by planting marigolds and cilantro, among other plants.
Other insects that prey on spider mites include lacewings and minute pirate bugs, both of which can be purchased online. You should also make an effort to avoid using chemicals that might harm these helpful insects.
Get rid of infested leaves, blossoms, and fruit. Don’t simply remove them and dump them near your pepper plants, as the spider mites will simply leave them and re-infest the plants. Because there will be eggs wherever there is a spider mite infestation, you will have to be careful when discarding the clippings.
Dispose of the infested leaves by burning them or by placing them in a sealed plastic bag that you can then discard with your household trash. If you have multiple pepper plants and the infestation is limited to just one of them, you should consider getting rid of the one plant to keep them from spreading.
Neem oil is an effective (and natural) way to treat a spider mite infestation. The oil block the mite's ability to reproduce and kills any eggs on your leaves.
The oil from the neem plant is a popular organic pesticide that works by disrupting the spider mites’ reproductive cycle so that they are unable to multiply. Neem oil diluted with water will also kill any spider mite eggs on your pepper plant leaves.
Make a DIY spider mite spray with neem oil by diluting it in water with a little soap — insecticidal soap or dish soap can work — and use it to emulsify the mixture. Shake vigorously and spray pepper plant leaves generously. Apply the mixture every three to five days or after rain.
Another recipe is simply dish soap in water. Use three tablespoons dish soap to one gallon of water for the spray. Place the mix into a spray bottle and apply to any plants needing pest control. Simple sprays like this are especially safe for pets that may have access to the infected area.
Wipe down the undersides of the leaves using a cloth moistened with some 70 percent isopropyl alcohol. If you are concerned about harming your plant, you can dilute the rubbing alcohol up to a 1:3 mixture and use it as a DIY spray.
Must-read related posts
- 12 Common Pepper Plant Problems: Pests are only one of the issues that can impact chili plants. See the ones you’ll see the most often.
- Pepper Plants Growing Slowly? Here May Be Why: If you have a plant that appears stunted or not growing at all, you’ll want to consider these potential issues.
- Fertilizing Pepper Plants: The What, When, And How: What type of fertilizer should you use? When should you fertilize? How is it best to do so? We cover these questions and more.