Red spider mites on perennials

terryr(z5a IL)June 18, 2013

I wasn't sure where to post this and since my plants are all native, I figured I'd start here. I have a lot of native perennials that are covered in red spider mites, not every species is, just some of them. The cupplant has a gazillion while the joepyeweed has none.Some of the mites are teeny tiny, others are bigger....I now know these are what killed my milkweed a few yrs ago. I don't use pesticides here, can anyone tell me how to get rid of these? The picture is when they were mild, when I first sprayed them with soapy water. I don't have an updated makes me sick looking at the plants :(


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Terry, look up brown ambrosia aphids. I know.....brown? But that's what they're called, despite their blood-red color, and I think that might actually be what you have. I have had huge populations of these things especially on Heliopsis. I soaped and soaped, I mixed neonicotinoids with hort. oil and soap, I repeated, and they would just keep coming back. Wish I had better news for you,. but if that proves to be what they are, and not red spider mites, you're in for a battle.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 9:00AM
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terryr(z5a IL)

Thank you!! I've never seen anything like this in my life! I'm afraid to use soap now, since the butterflies are here. I don't know what to do. sigh

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 12:36PM
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You can blast em with a strong stream of water. That'll mess them up for a while, but obviously, not for good. I wouldn't be overconcerned with insecticidal soaps and butterflies. You would have to really douse a butterfly with that to do it any harm. The butterfly larvae, in their very earliest life stages, could be killed by the soap, but the remedy is simple enough-don't spray it on them!

BTW, I did a lot of spraying of these aphids with an insecticidal soap/light horticultural oil combo. That worked a little better than either item alone, but not really all that well. Probably, to really knock these things back would require a systemic insecticide, which you're (rightfully) not going to want to use.

Maybe it's time to try ladybug larvae. OK, I know, they don't work so well outdoors. What ya gonna do?


    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 12:49PM
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terryr(z5a IL)

I haven't been using insecticidal soap, I've just used soapy water....a little dish soap mixed in some water. I read a long time ago that that's really all that insecticidal soap was....too much inert ingredients, a little dish soap in water would do the same thing. I dunno. It works great on the mounds of ants we get. I'm talking our sidewalk will get thick with ants. I've never seen anything like it before in my life. And yes, the ants find their way into the house...big, medium, little, red, brown, black, gold...I've never seen so many ants before we moved into this house. And now this aphid. What the devil is here?

What to do...I dunno...pull up all the plants that these buggers are on?? Will that work?? lol...

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 5:32PM
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Terry, you're almost right in thinking that dish detergent is the same as "insecticidal soap". Here's the difference: Say Proctor and Gambel (Or whoever) is making a batch of a popular dish soap. They will use whatever ingredients will work for that production run. Now say it's a year later-same product, same basic recipe, but another supplier has one of the ingredients for a little cheaper. P&G is going to use the cheaper ingredient for that run, even though it may not be identical to materials used in prior runs.

That's an oversimplification, but since these materials are designed to be sprayed on plants, it may pay off in the long run to use only those products formulated to be safe to do so, ie. no phytotoxicity. On the other hand, you might have real good luck and never run into this problem.


    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 9:32AM
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terryr(z5a IL)

Thank you, oversimplify works for me! I've never had a problem with phytotoxicity. I don't use soapy water that much, maybe 1 or 2 times a year, if that, maybe not at all. I haven't used it yet on these aphids! I blasted them with water....the bees are here and I don't want to accidentally spray a bee. No matter how careful, accidents can and do happen, and with the sheer number of them.... so I decided to just blast with water and be safe :-)

Thanks so much for your help!!


    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 5:26PM
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LADYBUGS! The trick with these guys, whether they are aphids or actually spider mites, is beneficial insects. Insecticidal soaps definitely work as a preventative measure but I have found they don't always do the trick when the infestation is this bad. Since they do look like those brown aphids, just buy some ladybugs, let them free, and let the natural cycle of predator prey do its thing.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 7:14PM
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terryr(z5a IL)

I've always been curious....when you purchase these bugs, how do you make sure they stay on your property? stupid questions, only stupid answers....:-)

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 6:28PM
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That's just is near-impossible to keep ladybug larvae where you want them, let alone flying adults.

Greenhouses have made good use of this insect predator. Out in the outdoors........not so much.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 8:12AM
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