White Mites

What are white mites?

The term ‘white mite’ is a misnomer because the bugs it refers to aren’t always white. They come in a spectrum of colors ranging from pale white on one end to reddish-brown on the other. These tiny insects can be a disaster for your gardening project.

white mites
White mites @Pinterest

Physical Attributes 

White mites live in colonies. Whenever you see one somewhere, always know they are not alone; there are more of them around.

These mites are extremely prolific. You could be looking at a full-blown infestation within a few days of seeing one.

There is yet more bad news for you because they are hardy and exceptionally adaptable. They have been seen to be able to resist pesticides after a short exposure. Developing resistance would certainly complicate your efforts to manage them.

These bugs are in the arachnid family. That is why they are often referred to as spider mites. Some of the features they have in common with ordinary spiders include having eight legs and producing a web.

They are around 0.5 mm, so you wouldn’t be able to see the number of their legs or much else about them with your naked eye.  

Spider mites thrive in warm, dry conditions. They share their preferred habitat with succulents, and this is why they can be such a challenge to your plants. Something else about them is that they are found everywhere in the world where conditions are right.

Reproduction and Life Cycle 

The female white mite lays her eggs on the underside of the leaves of an infested plant. They use their webbing to hold the eggs in place.

It takes between three and nineteen days for these eggs to hatch. The warmer and drier the environment, the faster the eggs hatch. Temperatures below 750 F (240 C) cause the egg to take a maximum of 19 days.

Of course, they don’t eat at the egg stage, but they adversely affect the plant’s health by staining their leaves.

The hatchling then stays in the larval stage for a few days before giving way to a nymph. The larval stage is less destructive because it eats very little. Nymphs, on the other hand, eat a little more. They look more like adult mites, but they can’t reproduce.

The entire reproductive process can last from 5 days to 20 days. Five days is possible where temperatures are optimum for reproduction. In areas where temperatures are below 750F, eggs take 20 days.

Therefore, it is clear that if you live in warmer environments, your mite infestation will grow much faster. The life expectancy of a mite from adulthood, under normal circumstances, is between two and four weeks. A female mite lays up to twenty eggs per day, so even if it lives for a minimum of two weeks, it can lay upwards of two hundred eggs.

White mites are genetically peculiar because their eggs don’t need to be fertilized to hatch. Unfertilized eggs produce male mites, which contribute to the destruction of your succulents just as much.

However, the colony population usually consists of more females than males, which means greater reproductive capacity and greater detriment for your plants.

Stages of Infestation

Stage 1

The initial stages of an infestation are pretty inconspicuous. It starts with mite webbing beneath the leaves. The leaves will be pristine on the upper side while a time bomb is ticking on the underside. This is why you need to check beneath the leaves from time to time. It will be much easier to control the white mites at this point.

 You can lift a potted plant and check beneath the leaves for mites. Should your succulents be planted in the garden so that you can’t lift them, take a white piece of paper, position it under the leaves, and tap gently on the upper side.

If there are mites present, they will fall on the paper. Don’t try to fold the leaves to see their underside. Succulent leaves are small and brittle, and they will break if you fold them.   

Stage 2 

The damage to the leaves becomes noticeable. They start getting discolored, and they generally appear unhealthy. Your leaves’ deteriorating health is because they can feel the effect of mites sacking their sap out of them.

Stage 3

The leaves of your succulents start showing ‘stippling.’ This refers to yellow and white sections on the leaf. Such a change in color means that cells in the affected leaves have been damaged.

At this point, the mites will be roaming on the succulents and the neighboring areas. If you don’t get rid of the mites, entire leaves will turn yellow or brown, and they may eventually fall off.

Preventing Infestation 

White mites are difficult to eliminate, and you are better off preventing them from getting infected. The following are some preventive measures you can take.

Using Diatomaceous Earth

This is a sedimentary rock that is made up of fossilized algae. The algae are usually found in lakes, rivers, and other water bodies.

If you make a diatomaceous earth barrier around your succulents, it keeps mites from getting to them. This substance destroys the white mites’ exoskeletons, and this causes the bugs to dry out.

Introduce Predatory Mites 

Predatory mites are carnivorous bugs; they feed on white mites. They are a good way of keeping spider mites from overrunning your succulents because they eat them during the infestation’s early stages.

An attempt to use predatory bugs to clear infestation would fail because spider mites procreate too fast. They are most helpful when introduced to the plants before the infestation becomes apparent.

 The things that kill white mites also kill the predatory mites. Your mites will die as well if you take other measures such as diatomaceous earth.

Managing Infestation 

There are various ways of getting rid of mite infestation, but not all are appropriate for succulents. Harsh pesticides may scald the leaves or destroy the plant. It is also not prudent to use these pesticides because they poison the environment, which is a concern if your succulents are indoors.

The following are some methods you can use.

Spraying with Pressurized water 

You can spray the infested parts of the leaves with rainwater under high pressure; it dislodges the mites and their web. This method does not apply to succulents that form rosettes. Water often leads to fungal infection and causes succulents to rot when it settles on rosettes.

Using pressurized water is not final because white mites are resilient enough to climb back to the plant after you dislodge them. You should use the method to ease pests’ concentration and make it easier to apply a more permanent solution.

Applying Neem Oil

Manufacturers of this pesticide obtain it from neem seeds. It is entirely natural-no additives. Apply the oil on the infested areas either in its liquid form or by dusting it as granules.

Neem works in two ways; it makes the leaves of your succulents unpalatable to the mites and inhibits their ability to reproduce. Thus, it saves your leaves by keeping the mites from eating them and reducing the population.

Apply neem oil on the infected part of the leaf every two days until there are no more mites. Please note that neem is poisonous to cats. Be cautious when using it on house plants. It is also advisable for you to have protective gear because it can irritate your eyes and skin.

Insecticidal Soap 

This is an old-school method of dealing with mites. Insecticidal soap is simply a mixture of soap and water. All you need is to get ordinary soap, add it into a spray bottle, shake, or stir it. Detergents are toxic to plants, so you should avoid them – use ordinary soap.

Insecticidal soap helps with your infestation by killing the mites. It penetrates the mites and dries them up.

You are very likely to encounter white mites at some point in your career as a gardener. Prevention is better than cure here, just like everywhere out.

Institute preventive measures and check your plants regularly to see if the measures are working. Apply the curative measures we have outlined above if preventive measures fail. You will save your plants.

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