It is finally springtime. We had a rough winter this year and we can now enjoy the bits of warm weather that are ahead of us. Humans are not the only living creature on the planet that enjoy some sunlight. Regardless of whether we want it or not, we will have to share our yards and patios with the wildlife that rushes out to collect food, search for a new home or simply taking a walk.
One of the creatures that you may encounter while sunbathing in the backyards is the red spider mite.
Red spider mites are the horror of many gardeners and even commercial scale farmers. Those arachnids group in large numbers building colonies (like every other species in the family) and feed solely on plant juices. They group under the leaves of infested plants and build a web of fine fibre. The web is used to connect nearby plants sometimes and allow spider mites to move freely from plant to plant to feed.
The majority of those mites actually have a brown colour and carry two dark spots on their backs. This is why they are known by the name “two-spotted spider mites”. In September the females will search for a place to hibernate during through the winter. They are bright red by that time and sometimes find shelter inside houses, on pots, window corners and other. The first adults that spread out next spring will also be bright red. Therefore - Red Spider Mites.
Damage Inflicted By Spider Mites
Mite Damage to Your Garden
The red spider mite is destroying the cells of leaves, literally sucking the life out of them. The inflicted damage has been categorised into three stages.
- In the first phase, there are pale markings visible on the leaves;
- On the second phase, brown spots are visible on the surface of leaves and rotting has begun;
- On the third phase, the leaves are fully brown and dry.
Mite Damage to Your Home
On rare occasions, the two-spotted spider mite can infiltrate your property. They are usually in a search for food and if you have plants located near windows, they will be infested. Sunlight loving plants that are grown inside the house are the perfect victim. They are already located near windows (to obtain more sunlight) but during the warm seasons, this also creates a preferred environment for the spider mites.
Carmine Spider Mite
The Carmin spider mite is also a pest for many gardeners and farmers. They have the same feeding habits as red spider mites and are actually very hard to distinguish visually. The only difference between these species is that the adults of the Carmin spider mites are red, while the adults of two-spotted spider mites have a state that is a bit greenish.
Both insects are so small in size that it might be difficult to make a difference, especially with a naked eye. This colour difference would be your only leverage.
The Ideal Environment For Two-Spotted Mites
This pest prefers weather, without rain and strong winds. Any humidity will slow the development of the pest and winds might knock large groups off. Rainy days can wash a large amount of the mites away from the plant and drown them in the dirt.
They are also called “Greenhouse Spider Mites”. The reason behind it is that the environment in a greenhouse is just perfect for them. There will be no winds, no rain and it will be warm inside.
Lifespan Of Red Spider Mites
The spider mite starts its life when it hatches out of the egg (0.14mm) as a six-legged larva. This larva will be mature after 36 hours and if it is female it can start laying eggs (4-6 at a time). That is what makes red spider infestation so severe in some cases. The fast reproductivity process. Although in hot weather a mite can have a very short life - a couple of days. In normal temperatures, it can live for a couple of months and reproduce the entire time.
When the cold months get close the matured female will search a place to hibernate during the winter. Sometimes inside houses or on the walls of greenhouses. They even cover themselves under the soil sometimes to survive. Their ability to live through the winter is called diapause.
This creature has the size of a needle pin, if not even smaller (0.17–0.21). It loves spending time in high grass and deep bushes. It feeds on plant leaves and loves to keep company. Keep in mind that the larval stage of the red chigger prefers a diet that may include human flesh from time to time. The chigger mite is a bright red tiny insect that can be found in areas with low vegetation. Parks, lawns, golf courses and similar areas are often the home of chigger mites. Sometimes they prefer damp areas and deep berry bushes. That is why they are familiar by the name Berry Bugs as well.
The most “famous” chigger mite in the UK is “Trombicula autumnalis” also known as the harvest mite or autumn chigger.
Berry Bugs Colonies and Migration
The red bugs can reach a colony of. It lives under the leaves of plants that it consumes (strawberries, roses, berry bushes and others) With the approach of the autumn and the drop in temperatures you can see little red rivers flow in cracks on concrete or pathways through your garden. This behaviour has an obvious explanation.
The colony simply wants to protect itself, so it searches for a place to spend the winter and take the best chances of survival.
What Does the Chigger Mite Eat
The chigger mites can actually bite humans but are not known for transmitting any diseases. The bite of this insect, on the other hand, is extremely itchy and unpleasant. If you are out hiking and take on dense patches of shrubs it is most likely that you fall victim of chigger mites. If they fall on you they will quickly climb to a secure location on your body, where they can have a quick snack and leave. Chigger bites are not painful or harmful, but it is for sure, annoying and itchy.
Signs of Chigger Bites
The first symptom of a chigger bite would be the intense itching. It occurs a couple of hours after you have been bitten. The bitten area will soon get swollen and reddish much like a pimple or a mosquito bite.
The itching will prolong a couple of days, but it will actually get worse each day. This is a sure sign with which you can determine what bite you a chigger or a mosquito. Often the chigger bites will be more than one because multiple mites attack the same target. This will result in a skin condition similar to an allergic reaction, especially when combined with the swelling.
The swelling on its own and the wounds you may inflict on yourself while scratching can stay for weeks.
Will The Chigger Mite Infest Your Home
It is possible. Chigger mites usually stay at bay from our homes. If we have vegetation with touch with the walls of our home, or very close, they might transit inside the building through a crack. The presence of plants inside will give them a well known habitat to call their own. If you have any pets inside they will soon act as transportation and restaurant for the berry bugs.
Distant relatives of red spider mites the clover mite looks almost the same. Both of these insects are living in colonies. And to the naked eye, it is almost impossible to make a difference between them. Especially if you don’t know what you are looking for.
Clover mites have no interest in your flesh and will not bite you. That is maybe the main difference between those two species.
The higher classification for this mite is “Bryobia Praetiosa”. They are 0.75–0.85 mm (diameter) in size. They have 8 legs and are an arachnid. The front legs of the mite are longer than the others, so they are commonly mistaken for antennas.
What Are Clover Mites Feeding On
The diet of this creature includes a wide range of plants. Mostly lawn grass, flowers and clovers, from where the clover mite gets its name. It lives in well-vegetated gardens where it can feed freely.
This mite can’t ruin your lawn with its feeding habits, despite its large numbers. If you spot a silverish glance on the grass on your lawn it might be a sign of clover mites feeding on it.
Clover Mite Reproduction
During the late spring, these insects colonies can infiltrate your home through small cracks around the doors and windows. Any opening can serve as an entry point and with a size less than a millimetre in diameter it can come in from anywhere! The reason for those insects to invade your home is simply to find a safe place to lay eggs.
They lay their eggs inside cracks. A single female can lay up to 70 eggs, and that is why the colonies of mites can reach enormous numbers. The younglings will be fully grown in 30 days. That means that in 30 days the colony will have 70 adults ready to reproduce as well. This is the reason why colonies might have to split. They are just reproducing too fast and half of the colony will have to find a new place to live in (want new tenants?).
Unlike the chigger mites, this mite won't bite you or your pets and children. It won't cause any structural damage and the only thing that it can actually do is leave small red spots when you accidentally (or not) squash them.
They might be harmless, but this does not mean they are welcomed inside.
Follow the rules listed below and you will limit the possibility of mites (of any kind) to infiltrate your home.
All of the mites are active from spring to late autumn. The basic rule is: If vegetation is growing, so are the mite colonies.
In order to keep them away, mow your lawns on a regular basis, especially during the active period.
Don’t over-fertilize your lawns and gardens, mites love rich fertilized plants.
Keep the bushes, flowers and any other plants approximately half a meter away from your house. Make sure that half a meter is not covered in grass. Use pebbles or mulch, mites don’t like crossing areas with such surface.
If you are out hiking or just taking a walk in the park but you pass an area that might be crawling with chiggers. Wash your clothes on the highest temperature possible and take a shower. Machine dry your clothes afterwards, if possible.
Wash yours and the beddings of your pet on a regular basis.
If you take your pet for a walk in the park or hiking, you should give it a hot shower afterwards.
There is one mite that can safeguard your plants if you are a gardener or farmer and that is the “Phytoseiulus”. This mite is also known as the red spider mite killer.
It has a reproduction rate slightly slower than the one of its prey, but on top of that, it consumes pretty fast. Making it a perfect weapon to fight pests out of the gardens and fields.
The female Phytoseiulus lays around 54 eggs, against the 70 of the female red mite. On the other side, a single Phytoseiulus consumes 7 adult red spiders or 25 eggs.
Please, if you do not recognise the pest you are personally dealing with as any of these mites, contact 24/7 Pest Control. If you are, indeed dealing with a spider infestation you might be in need of spider control service. Just like the mites, spiders can increase their population quite rapidly.
If your garden is being attacked by this red menace, follow the tips provided in the post to limit the damage and prevent any further infestations. You can also get in contact with professional gardeners if things are getting out of hand.
Most importantly, don't panic if you spot them in your home.