Mites are not true insects but are tiny pests related to spiders. They are small and often hard to see with a naked eye, so are usually identified by the damage they cause. This includes silvering or streaking of leaves, frass (droppings) under leaves or webbing.
There are many mites, but the.most commonly encountered are two-spotted mites (also called red spider), which attack a wide range of plants (both indoors and outdoors in the garden). These mites cause tiny yellow spots on the upper surface of the leaf as the mites feed by sucking from the leaf. Mites may also cause buds, including new growth and flowers, to be damaged or distorted, and the leaves may dry out and fall off. Mites also infest vegetables particularly tomatoes, capsicum, eggplants and chillies.
Control is hard, so prevention is the key to keep them at bay. When infestation occurs be careful when moving between plants as you can easily transfer mites to healthy plants. Prune away infested growth (bag and bin it), rather than putting it in the compost as this can spread mites. Natural predators such as ladybirds will also help to remove them. In glasshouses or controlled environments, it is possible to buy beneficial mites to control pest mites.
Some mites can be treated with a pest oil such as EarthCare Enviro Pest Oil insect spray. When spraying the foliage follow the directions on the back of the pack and spray both sides of the foliage. Repeat applications maybe needed for further control. Remember not to spray when beneficial insects and bees are around.
A healthy garden can also help prevent pest infestation. If your plants are strong and healthy, they may be able to handle and reduce the stress of pests and diseases. Applying Seasol regularly every two weeks during the year can help them to cope with environmental stress. Keeping plants fed with fertilisers such as PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives, better watering and appropriate light exposure can also help build tougher plants.