red spider mite

Defending the garden from the red spider mite

The red spider mite is a parasite so small that it requires a careful look or rather a magnifying glass to be detected. It is a plant mite with the scientific name of Tetranychus Urticae that often infests vegetable and orchard plants.

We can find it on tomatoes, beans, eggplants, and many other vegetables, its proliferation is harmful to the plant that inexorably loses vigor.

Fortunately, there are several methods to defend against the red spider mite allowed in organic farming, even using vegetable preparations that can be easily self-produced. The organic fight against this mite is all the more effective the sooner you recognize the threat and intervene to counter it, let’s discover the main remedies to red spider mites to learn defense strategies.

Recognize the attacks of the red spider mite

The spider goes to locate on the lower page of the leaf, since the mite is tiny it is not easy to see the small red dots. The cobwebs it forms are also very thin. Only when the infestation is really consistent can we see the clearly red leaf or guess the presence of the cobwebs of this mite.

The presence of the parasite can be hypothesized when the plant has a slow growth, the leaves are deformed and lose shine until they discolor.

What plants affects

What makes this red mite particularly harmful is its ability to feed on different plants: in the garden, the red spider mite can affect legumes (beans and green beans above all), Solanaceae (peppers, eggplants, tomatoes), and cucurbits (pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber, watermelon, melon).

Even in the orchard, there are many trees that can suffer from the presence of this harmful mite.

This sort of small insect with its tiny bites compromises the health of the leaves of the plant and with the network of cobwebs tends to asphyxiate the leaf. A plant can also die as a result of the action of the pest, while if the fruits are hit, the crop is ruined.

red spider mite

Prevention from the red spider mite

In organic farming there are many ways to defend the vegetable garden and orchard from the red spider mite, let’s see the most effective ones.

Rather than having to kill the mite, the best thing is to create an unfavorable environment for its presence, thus preventing it from attacking the vegetable garden or orchard. Prevention is in fact always the most ecological and economic method to defend against adversity in cultivation.

This first occurs via biodiversity, which brings into the ecosystem some natural predators of this small parasitic mite. A formidable ally against the red spider mite is the ladybug, which devours them quickly, so it is important to know how to attract ladybugs into our cultivation.

Rain watering. Frequent rain watering has the effect of driving the spider from the plants. Be careful, however, that it can prove to be a double-edged sword because wetting the leaves often is an operation that can favor the development of fungal diseases.

Natural and macerated remedies

There are some plant essences that are unwelcome to the red mite and can be used to keep it away from our crops. This system is excellent because it is totally natural and also without cost since the vegetable preparations to be used can be self-produced.

The two best vegetable macerates that can be used against red spider mites are garlic and nettle.

Garlic is predominantly repellent, nettle thanks to formic acid performs a certain insecticidal function.

Counteract the red spider mite manually

You certainly cannot think of fighting the mite by catching it: it is too small to see and take, however it is possible and often useful to counter the threat manually. Controlling plants and removing infested leaves is a good way to contain the presence of red spider mites.

If you can intervene when the infestation is in its infancy, the manual method can be effective. Obviously, it is not applicable on a large scale but in a small garden before spending money on pesticides it is better to do what you can by hand.

Organic insecticides against the red spider mite

The options allowed in organic farming to combat spider mites are varied, the most widely used organic insecticide is sulfur, but soft soap or white oil treatments are also useful for this purpose.

Sulphur

Sulfur-based treatments sprayed on the leaves can be helpful in fighting spider mites.

Sulfur is allowed in organic farming but it is not without contraindications: there are also remedies with a lower environmental impact (from soap to nettle macerate).

To make treatments with sulfur you need to pay attention to the temperatures, there is a risk of phytotoxicity that damages the plants.

Soft soap and white oil

The mite is very small and can also be killed by asphyxiation, spraying an oily and adhesive substance that goes to completely cover the body by suffocating it. For this purpose we can use three products, allowed by the organic method:

  • White oil
  • Marseille soap (or similarly soft potassium soap)
  • Soybean oil

Beauveria Bassiana

The Beauveria Bassiana is an entomopathogenic fungus, which can be used to counteract the red spider mite with insecticidal mode.

Natural antagonists

We have already talked about ladybugs, as excellent predators of Tetranychus Urticae, there are also other antagonistic insects that can help fight the red spider mite without resorting to pesticides.

Introducing insects is a method of biological defense that due to costs and difficulties of finding is certainly not suitable for small-scale cultivation, while it proves to be an excellent idea for professional organic companies. In particular, it is a useful remedy in greenhouse cultivation, since the partially closed environment prevents the antagonists from dispersing elsewhere.

A biological defense can be implemented by releasing specimens of Phytoseiulus Persimilis, a natural phytoseiid predator of the spider.


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