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How to easily control Mites on your Trees and Landscape Plants

By Chris Leinster - April 10, 2020

Mites are tiny little spiders that crawl around on your plants and suck the juices out of the leaves and needles. A Mite is harmless, but females can lay hundreds or even thousands of eggs creating colonies that can decimate tender plants. Plants are particularly susceptible when they are waking up from winter slumber and starting to push out new leaves and needles. Mites hatch very early in the Spring before you may even be considering getting out to do yard work, so be aware of their existence and timing and get out to control the infestations on your landscape plants.

Mites are insidious because they are so teenie they are difficult to spot, so you may not notice an infestation until you see severe damage to your plants. This usually appears as “stippling” or tiny yellow or black dots on the leaves, or browned out or yellow needles on evergreens. You may notice very fine webbing if you’re paying attention. Broad leafed evergreens such as Boxwood or Euonymus are particularly susceptible, but different species can infect practically any plant, even Spruce and Pine Trees.

If you suspect Mite damage, get a clipboard or a sheet of paper and gently shake a branch over it, or lightly slap the branch on your clipboard or a piece of cardboard. The Mites will fall off the plant and begin moving about confused and disoriented. They are very small, but you can usually just make out the tiny dots moving about your paper. They can be almost any color, usually brown, black, red, yellow, or orange, but they can also be white, so use different colored paper if you don’t see them at first.

Fortunately, their miniscule size and fragile exoskeleton make them easy to destroy. There are dozens of pesticides available that can do the job, but pesticides unfortunately target beneficial insects like Bees and Ladybugs. Horticultural oils work, and so do insecticidal soaps. These are mild and less destructive, but can be expensive. Perhaps the easiest way to rid yourself of these pests is to dig under the kitchen cabinet and get yourself some mild dish soap.

Dish soap works wonders because it is cheap and readily available. It won’t harm most plants (Google search or test a small part of your plant if you’re concerned), and shouldn’t harm most beneficial insects. Simply mix up a solution in your hose-end sprayer and wash your plants and trees down. The soap coats the Mites and they either suffocate, slip and fall to the ground, or as the soap dries it cracks open the macilent shell just like it dries out your skin when you wash your hands. If this sounds cruel, remember they are little Arachnids, and Spiders are unholy demons from Hell that must be destroyed at all cost. Besides nature will make more, I promise.

Soap has other benefits as well. As it drips to the ground or washes down during the next rainstorm, it percolates into the soil and acts as a surfactant to break up tightly bonded clay particles. This assists water and nutrients to penetrate deeper into the soil. It will eventually get eaten by bacteria the same way it gets devoured in sewage treatment plants before water is released back into rivers, so it’s not a pollutant and it won’t build up in the soil. Plus it gives your plants that sexy healthy sheen that we so desire!

Mites aren’t generally considered problematic, but almost none of the trees and shrubs we plant in our landscapes along the Front Range are native to Colorado, so often our plants are under stress whether we notice it or not. Mites can easily invade and destroy plants weakened by stress, so make sure you’re paying attention to your trees’ water and nutrient needs to keep them healthy and resistant to insect infestations and other diseases.

We here at Happy Trees are always happy to analyze insect and disease problems, but we aren’t licensed pesticide applicators and we don’t perform pesticide services, even soap. Contact a licensed and certified Arborist for treatment if this is more than you are willing to perform. But for your tree planting needs always give Happy Trees a call!