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Hi All,

I have an infestation of what I am told are spider mites - very tiny little bugs that are eating/killing the leaves of my awesome plants. The leaves eventually shrivel up and die and then the spider mites just crawl up to another leaf. I think I got them, from some seedlings I bought at Whole Foods - never doing that again.

How do I get rid of them? I tried cooled chamomile tea but no luck. Is garlic juice the solution?

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Mark, I've controlled spider mites for a couple of decades by spraying them off with water.  It takes observation to detect the infestation and then you must repeat the hard spray of water every other day for a week or so - this has to do with their short life cycle, eggs left on underside of foliage, etc.  Be persistent and good luck.

If your system is indoors, this isn't practical.

They can be a tough crowd as is the internet, in general.  When I perceive that I've been attacked, my first inclination is to respond accordingly, even though that is usually wrong and pointless.  It's all small stuff, really.  Cheers, as they say.

Steve Champion said:

I agree Vlad, but I was a newb, and the Mates from down under flamed me for not searching and researching first, when I asked a question.

Cheers, George!!

Sounds like maybe your search function may not be working Mark...here's some stuff that came up when I typed in "spider mites" in my field...I've left the permalinks so that you can hopefully click to the full threads if you so desire...And no this is not some foolish attempt to be a sarcastic dick (this time :) ... and good luck, spider mites have often been the bane of my controlled environment growing experiences...I can't stand those little fuckers.

Comment by Vlad Jovanovic on September 22, 2012 at 9:46am in Arizona Aquaponics Group Comment section

Hi guys...all soft bodied insects (aphids, mites, mealybugs, whiteflies etc...) breathe through their skin. Oils, (and probably many, but not all, soaps...saponified fats) do a good job at clogging up the pores and suffocating them. Unfortunately, both can do a number on your fishes gills, so just be careful and cover your tank to protect it from the overspray. Spray lightly and try to get as little on your media as you can...it doesn't take much to kill those buggers...But if enough gets into your system, you may harm or even kill your fish (if you go about it too carelessly)...

A safer bet might be to would be too brew worm tea from fresh casting and apply as a foliar spray...and even better would be to employ biological pest control species...You can buy these predators (eggs) at a good nursery I'm sure. Aphidoletes aphidimyza(aphid predatory midge or gall midge larva), seem to be about the most voracious aphid eaters Hippodamia convergens, (lady bug), and Lacewing larvae seem to work well too...This spring I collected various eggs while foraging in the woods...and tried some out in a sacrificial corner of the garden. Lady-bug larva do great, adults too, lacewings larva appeared to do well, but they were pretty much useless as adults...and this is 100% fish safe to boot...

If you make your own oil spray, don't use more than 4-5% maximum or you will burn your plants (some seem more sensitive than others, with peppers being the worst in my experience)...and it's not necessary to add more than 2 or 3 drops of soap per litre of oil/water mix to act as a surfactant for the oil. Too much soap will also burn your plants. Follow some guidelines and be smart about it and you shouldn't have any problems. I sacrificed many a plant to come to the conclusion that 4-5% is plenty.

Also, for spider mites you have to repeat multiple spray every few (2-4) days or so to take care of the newly hatched eggs. I usually spray with oils, then two days later after the worm tea is done brewing I'll use that for a re-spray...aphids I usually don't have problems with, so I don't really know about their life cycle or how long it takes for their eggs to hatch...look it up or ask somebody...and keep it up until they are all gone...all of them... or, in all probability, the whole sprawling aphid metropolis will be back right quick...good luck....

Crap. I have spider mites. I have been pinching off areas of the plants where I see the webbing, but it looks like I need to buy some predatory mites ASAP.

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Hi Windy, in my experience pinching off the webbings isn't going to help a whole lot in the long run...if you can get predatory mites (larvae) that would surely help, but if there is webbing already you need to act a bit faster...this past fall/early winter I experimented a bit and found that a the  following worked the best

2% tea tree oil + 1% lavender oil (really though any essential oils seemed to work ok) 0.5% dish soap the rest is water. Mix well and spray. Try to get the undersides of your leaves, since this is where most of the mites as well as there eggs are at. Even spraying str8 water will kill some (maybe 20% of them), they do not thrive in humid/wet environments) The oil clogs their skin (which they breathe through) and they suffocate right there on the spot.

Cover your fish tank, and if you can, otherwise protect your grow beds (within reason) from the over spray, as oils are NOT good for the fish. Though with some common sense precautions, people have done this in their AP systems with no ill effects. You don't need to super soak the leaves or anything anyways. After about 4 day repeat once and then again after another 4 days, and then once more just to make sure. (Since more eggs that have already been laid,  will probably hatch). Get a decent magnifying glass and spot check undersides of some the leaves once in a while.

Good luck. Spider mites a a real PITA...catching them before the webbing appears helps alot. Expect to loose some leaves, as they will drop off at the slightest perturbance, but your plants should make a full comeback, depending...

Oh yeah, DO NOT feel the urge to over do it with the oil in the mix. Anything over 6%-8% tends to burn the plant leaves...So keep the total oils under 5%...

I will run out and get the oils now. I just need to figure out how those percentages work out in measurements that I can actually use. If I am making a 16 oz solution, how many teaspoons of oil and soap. Good thing I studied math in school.

Spider mites are the single biggest pest I have ever fought, and I still fight them. My advice is to pick an arsenal of weapons that work for you, and then alternate through those weapons in a twice per week war. They are easy to kill, virtually impossible to decimate. SM prefer hot, dry conditions. Powder mold, also ever present, prefers cool moist conditions. If you adjust your climate to the middle of the two extremes, both will thrive. Experience talking there. So, don't worry about RH and Temp, IMO.

Weapons with high personal success:

1- oil spray
Vlad's recipe and dosage are spot on. Others work too, like plain old cooking oil and a drop of soap. I use a brand called Organocide from HomeD or most anywhere. A $14 bottle if concentrate will last you forever. It is made from soluble fish oil, smells like fish, and fight a huge number of pests AND molds. Mist ALL surfaces of plants. Mites are everywhere, you will not get them all, but try anyways. Start with the undersides of leaves, tops get wet from mist settling. I don't recommend this more often than once every 2 weeks. Oil plugs plant stoma, and plants will suffer more than mites if overused.
2- neem oil
NOT safe for fish, but if you're careful and clever, you can pull it off. Apply same as #1.
3- worm casting tea
Totally safe for plants and fish, foliar feed while you kill mites! High benificial bacteria count in fresh tea also discourages mold.

Weapons with moderate success
1-other homemade sprays, using various recipes of garlic, cayenne peppers, sugar, lemon juice, and or soap
2-water
Straight old water kills and removes a good number of mites, especially if your plant is mobile and you can take it outside and give it a proper shower. Rainstorms are best, followed by a cold wet chilled night outdoors.
3-DE
DE is also great prevention to a host if baddies, though I can tell you it will not destroy all mites. I have heavily dusted test plants with only DE for weeks, and then inspected the leaves with a glass. Many where shriveled and dead, and plant health was fair, but some mites (20-30%) lived on.
4- burned sulfur
Doesn't kill them; but slows them down, jury still out for how it affects the fish. I have burned sulfur a few times during the winter when PM starts to threat, or heaven forbid, botryitis. No fish issues for me, though I hate to use my experience as a guide for sulfur toxicity
5- high CO2
Apparently, over 10,000 ppm will kill every living creature in a sealed room. If you have this resource and a sealed room with no fish or pets or people, try it. It's the safest of all poisons, IMO, and bugs can't build up a tolerance to it. I intend to do this once my rocket heater is ducted and tested. I figure a heavy pumping of outside air into fish tanks should keep them alive. Cross my fingers

Weapons of low success:
1- Sprays of alcohol, or H2O2.
2- sacrificial plants
I have read many reports of adding spidermite favorites to a greenhouse, with the idea that the mites will attack the candy and leave the rest alone. BS!
3- climate control, increasing humidity and decreasing temp
If you have mites in aquaponics then you already have high humidity. If you go to the extreme, then mold awaits you.
4- beneficial predators
I hate to include these here on the low list, and to be fair I have only tried lady bugs and lace wings. If someone has any evidence to the contrary, please show it. I really want to trust in predators, but here is the problem. Greenhouses aren't natural. All the natural checks to control mites outdoors are short lived in a greenhouse. First off, they are expensive. Second, all the above controls kill predators too. In order for predators to explode in population to knock out the mites, mites must already be infested, and then you have to painfully wait while damage continues, hoping for the best. The predators I'm convinced are the most effective will turn on each other once spidermites are eliminated, which means when their job is done, they're gone too. The only way I can see that they might be worth it is too quarantine the worst of the SM plants, and place your predators with it to build population while your battling the SM in the main room. Then, let the predators go in the main room to seek and destroy any you may have missed. Then treat the room like a lab, to prevent relapse. Screened vents, no pets, and a quick shower for all visitors, and no starter plants or unsterilized media allowed in the room. Takes the fun out of it.

There. That's my $.02. Whatever you decide to do, alternate treatments twice a week for at least two weeks, 3-4 if you can. Then a worm tea soaking once or twice per month should keep the evil at bay

Predators are certainly not going to eliminate your problem overnight but used in the right way they can prevent mites and control an existing infestation. ladybugs are probablythe most useless of all predators agianst mites, they will eat anything but not quickly and you would need literally thousands of them. i have no experience using lacewings. but when you release 25,000 predatory mites into a enclosed area in the right conditions they do work. and its easy to do. they will establish a breeding polpulation and providing there is food and reasonable conditions they will keep working for you.

 if you have had experience of mites in the past but think you have a handle on it then they are really quite good, you can get slow rlease sachets, a mixture of live and eggs, and they hatch over a period of 4 weeks so they are there ready if your spidermites return. prevention is always better than the cure and i find it works best if you have a planned pest prevention programme involving constant restocking of predators and treatment of stock plants before entering the main systems/beds etc.

 

Thanks for the reply, Ian. I really want to put faith in predators, and it sounds like your experienced. So, mind if I ask a few questions? Good, thanks. Suppose I have a have 2k' GH, with various crops, and I have it under control with some sprays, DE, etc.; but if left unchecked I would have problems with spider mites, aphids, ants, and white fly and some caterpillars. How much of what kind of predators do you recommend? Approx cost? How many re-stocks per year? How do HID lights affect them? Strong oscillating fans? Now, if they're are doing there job, everything's all good, and you get some powder mildew, can you spray any fungicide without nukings the predators? Worm tea?

Sorry to trouble you, it's just that I haven't had the chance to ask a first-hand user of predators, nematodes, etc. Thanks
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The day before yesterday while spot checking some pepper leaves (I do this at least twice a weak) I spotted the dreaded things. It was only on one plant, and I only managed to see 5 or 6 of them. Needless to say I sprayed every plant with the oil mix, then with plain water today. And will keep this up for the next couple of weeks. I believe that I caught them early enough as this seems to be key. The earlier you catch them, the 'easier' you can kill them all, in my experience. Noticing you have spider mites only when you notice the webbing is generally pretty bad/hopeless (or breaking out the big guns toxic time)...

These sprays and what not, are OK, if you only have a couple dozen plants, but I have no intention of hand spraying in a 2k+ sq.ft GH come this year, so I too am interested in any ones experiences with any sort of predators. Stocking, re-stocking prevention program. Combinations of predators, when/how/how many to release would all be very helpful information and any shared experience would be greatly appreciated...

And some common sense precautions from TC...

Reply by TCLynx on December 8, 2011 at 7:58pm

 

The general rule is to keep oils and soaps away from your fish.

That said, there are people out there who have successfully used such mixtures on the plants in their AP systems.  I'm not endorsing this as I've never done it but, here are some precautions that might help if you decide you must use such sprays on your plants.

1-cover the fish tank to protect it from overspray.

2-a drop cloth of some sort to protect the grow beds from dripping.  (or in raft systems some people will remove the plants from the system and take them somewhere safe for spraying.)

3-think twice about using any heavy sprays if your system is out in the open and rain might wash the soap or oil into your system water later.

4-And most important, don't do the mixing near your system.  You might only be planning on using a drop of oil or soap in the spray but accidentally knocking a whole bottle of soap or oil over into your grow bed or fish tank is gonna be far worse than possible overspray.

This next one is the grandaddy of bug problem threads...good stuff in there to be sure...

http://community.theaquaponicsource.com/forum/topics/the-bug-battle...

Lots of good stuff there, Vlad!!

I've already copied and saved to Evernote!!

Steve

Hello Converse.  I know you're knowledgeable on the subject and in the business of worms too.  You've been very forthcoming and helpful with information on how to use castings.  How difficult would you say it is for someone with no experience to start and maintain a composting worm bin?  I'm interested in harvesting worms to supplement my fish food as well as producing castings.  Is this something I can do outdoors with temps sometimes going down below freezing during winter?  Will they eat coffee grounds?  I always have a lot of those.  Thank you.

Converse said:

Greetings Mark,

Yes, Freshly Brewed Worm Casting Tea DOES work for get rid of spider mites. It is not just my claim. It is also backed by research posted online by the Ohio State Univ. Soils Research Lab (world respected lab and sound research), where you can actually see the results.... I also have had many people locally actually use the stuff and reported their crops were saved.

The great thing about worm casting tea is that it is safe to use in conjunction with your AP system.
I hope this is encouraging to you. Follow the link you posted above for the directions. Let me know if you have any questions.
My best to you in your battle with these spider mites.

- Converse


Hi, I have only a few moments, and I am a slow typist, so I'll give you a brief answer...and detail later when I get back.

 

     Yes, anyone can do vermicomposting/vermiculture.  No expereince necessary.  Ther eis a 7 year old boy who has his own small biz raising redworms, so I know you can do it..

    Yes, outdoors works fine.  We do not 

baby' out redworms, but we do care for their needs.  They live outdoors year-round at the crest of the Cascade Mtns....The are under snow in the winter and in over 100 degree heat in the summer and eveerything in-between through out the year. And we do get fozen ground here.  I'll share how to deal with that later.

   Yes, they like coffee grounds.  We feed our redworms to our farm fowl and our fish.  You can do this too.

 

- Converse


George said:

Hello Converse.  I know you're knowledgeable on the subject and in the business of worms too.  You've been very forthcoming and helpful with information on how to use castings.  How difficult would you say it is for someone with no experience to start and maintain a composting worm bin?  I'm interested in harvesting worms to supplement my fish food as well as producing castings.  Is this something I can do outdoors with temps sometimes going down below freezing during winter?  Will they eat coffee grounds?  I always have a lot of those.  Thank you.

Converse said:

Greetings Mark,

 

  HI George,

       I'm back with the promised reply.  

       I'll be as brief as possible here, ans you can shoot me a private message if you need more detail, which I will gladly provide.

      Here is the quick and easy explanation of keeping a vermicomposting bin- the economical method.  You will need a plastic tote  ( any size from shoe box up to garbage can size or larger), a kitty litter bicket or garbage can or other container.  Put holes all over the container the size of a penicl eraser head.  The holes should cover the top sides and bottom of the container (yes, the worms will stay put), fpr necessary aeration and drainage.  Make sure you have some sort of tray to catch the drainiage which is properly called leachate (which should be very minimal after you first establish the vermicomposting container).

Putting the wormbin "together':

     Add bedding for your redworms:  The best bedding is shreded newpaper is the best start, but you can use a variety of many bedding materials from dried  dead leaves (avoid oak or other leaves with a source of tannic acid), to straw or peat moss/coco coir.  All bedding needs to be moistened to the point that when you squeeze it  in your hand  drips come out ( like a wrung out sponge). Place this bedding in the bin.  It needs to be a dpeth of 6 inches to begin with, to allow for proer burial of food matter to avoid a fruit fly/gnat infestation.

   Add the redworms.  You can unceremoniously dump them in...They will burrow into the bedding.  Or you can make a hole in the bin and place them there gently. Put the lid on.  Place the bin out of direct sunlight and away from anything that vibrates.

  It will take your redworms 1-3 weeks to acclimate to their new home.  Feed lightly during this time.  DO not ever dig around in the bin to see what is going on with the redworms.  They do not handle disturbances well.  Just put them in and trust them to do what they have been doing since the beginning of time.  When you add food matter, make a hole in the bedding and add the food.  Then cover it with atleast 2 inches of bedding.  It is important to keep food matter away from the edges of the bin so that it is always covered )top, side, and bottom) with bedding.  Entomologists have discovered that fruit fles/gnats will not penetrate a depth of 2 inches to get at food sources.  Also be sure that food matter you add has not been available for these insects to land on prior to you adding the food to the bin.

   At the next feeding time, add the food in a different spot so you do not disturb the redworms working on the food you have aready added.

     Pretty simple.  Add moist bedding, add redworms, add food.  Let the redworms do their job.

   You can do this indoors or outdoors.  If you choose to have this outdoors in a bin, you will need to protect the bin from freezing clear through. YOu can surround the bin with straw bales, or in a pile of leaves for insulation.  Others have made an insulation box to set over the bin out of that "board' insulation.  You can also dig a hole in the ground and set the bin down in it and place a board or other top over the bin for easy access.

   You can do vermicomposting in a pile on the ground outdoors too.  Nothing fancy.  The redworms do not care what it looks like as long as they have enough moisture and food. Of course, you can add nice looking sides for an attractive raised-bed appearance if you wish. 

 

Time to go...I'll finish the answer later...  Sorry.  I am a slow typist

- Converse

   
  
George said:

Hello Converse.  I know you're knowledgeable on the subject and in the business of worms too.  You've been very forthcoming and helpful with information on how to use castings.  How difficult would you say it is for someone with no experience to start and maintain a composting worm bin?  I'm interested in harvesting worms to supplement my fish food as well as producing castings.  Is this something I can do outdoors with temps sometimes going down below freezing during winter?  Will they eat coffee grounds?  I always have a lot of those.  Thank you.

Converse said:

 


  I am back....now to continue:

       Yes, redworms will eat coffee grounds.  It is like "candy" for them.  You can feed them almost anything you can compost. 

There are a few things avoid:  In a bin situation avoid feeding citrus, onion and garlic which will create an acidic environment for the redworms.  This can be added in a large wormbed outdoors though where the acids will leach out and the redworms can avoid the area untit the food matter is ready for them.  Avoid adding dairy, oils or meats in a bin also.  Redworms can consume 1/2 their weight in food matter a day.  So 1 pound of redworms can consume 1/2 pound of food in 24 hours. 

    Red worms cannot live in a concentration of their own castings.  When the bin looks like it is full of fine coffee grounds (the castings) it is time to harvest the castings.  If you want details on how to accomplish this, it has been described by me in several places on this forum, which you should be able to find in a search...but I can send you the info. via e-mail too.  It is pretty easy...But this answer to your question is getting pretty long here.  After you separate the redworms from the castings, place new bedding in the bin along with the redworms you have separated, and start the process over.

    YOu can get redworms out of the bin to feed your fish any time.

 

'Hope this is encouraging and helpful.

 

- Converse

      


 George said:

Hello Converse.  I know you're knowledgeable on the subject and in the business of worms too.  You've been very forthcoming and helpful with information on how to use castings.  How difficult would you say it is for someone with no experience to start and maintain a composting worm bin?  I'm interested in harvesting worms to supplement my fish food as well as producing castings.  Is this something I can do outdoors with temps sometimes going down below freezing during winter?  Will they eat coffee grounds?  I always have a lot of those.  Thank you.
 

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