Imagine entering your well-cared-for backyard, filled with thriving cannabis plants you’ve nurtured, only to find them pale and wilted. The culprits? Spider mites. Although these pests are a significant concern for farmers across the globe, have you ever asked yourself do ladybugs eat spider mites? Luckily, they do, and ladybugs are a natural solution to tackle this escalating problem without using synthetic chemicals.
As natural predators, ladybugs eat spider mites, effectively controlling spider mite populations, provided that the spider mite infestation has not completely overrun your garden. Ladybugs can quickly prey on these pests, which tend to congregate around the stems of your cannabis plant or the undersides of the leaves.
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Ladybugs, also referred to as lady beetles or ladybird beetles, are tiny, vibrant insects frequently found in many grassy fields and backyard gardens. Distinguished by their vivid red hue and distinct black markings, these bugs provide fantastic benefits and excellent pest control for your horticultural area.
In this article, you’ll learn the best ways to incorporate lady beetles into your lawn to help restore balance in your garden.
- Discover how ladybugs can save you loads of effort in the garden so you can spend more time growing your crops and harvesting your plants.
- Save money by learning how to perfectly set up your garden space to attract ladybugs so you can let Mother Nature work on your behalf.
- Discover why using synthetic pesticides may be the number one thing KEEPING spider mites in your garden and discover better alternatives so you can keep your plants strong and healthy.
What Are Spider Mites
The two-spotted spider mites (Tetranychus urticae) are tiny, multi-colored arachnids (not insects) with eight legs from tetranychidae family, closely related to spiders as the name suggests. Measuring about 0.5mm or smaller, these pests are difficult to see with the naked eye. With piercing mouthparts, they suck sap from plant leaves, posing a serious threat to your garden. If not controlled, spider mites can spread and destroy multiple cannabis plants, killing each successively and potentially decimating your garden. 1
You can spot a spider mite problem in your planting by the fine webbing around stems and leaves, and the appearance of yellow and dark spots on leaves, known as “stippling.” Stippling occurs when spider mites feed on leaf juice, causing withering, stunted growth, and diminishing the plants’ aesthetic appeal.
How Spider Mites Damage Plants
Spider mites harm many plants species by feeding on their cellular fluids, causing discoloration, necrotic spots, and leaf loss. Severe infestations can result in plant defoliation and plant death.
Spiders mites not only harm plants but can also spread diseases as they feed on plant cells, worsening the damage to infested and neighboring vegetation.
How Long Does It Take Ladybugs To Eat Spider Mites
Ladybugs are voracious eaters. A single ladybug can eat nearly 100 spider mites and larvae within 24 hours.
Wild ladybugs have big appetites and will be more likely to stay in your backyard if provided with an excellent food source. How many ladybugs you require in your yard depends on the severity of the spider mite colonization. 3
To attract and keep these bugs in your yard, provide a food source that ladybugs love to eat such as aphids and spider mites. Avoid releasing ladybugs in advance to prevent pest infestation, as they will move on to more favorable environments. Therefore, you’ll need to have a spider mite problem before deploying ladybugs among your crops.
Will Ladybugs Eat Spider Mites’ Eggs And Larvae?
Spider mites thrive in hot and dry environmental conditions, facilitating their rapid reproduction. Females lay dozens of eggs daily, leading to infestations with twenty or more generations within a single growing season. Once firmly established, these pests become challenging to eradicate completely.
Good thing, ladybugs also eat mite larvae and eggs, interrupting their life cycle and curbing their destructive behavior. 4
The below video is a great resource that demonstrates how ladybugs work as pest control for plants inside and outside your home.
Remember, depending on the size of your mites and aphid infestation, other predators and additional treatments may need to “mop up” what the ladybugs couldn’t get.
Can You Use Ladybugs For Spider Mites Indoors
Using ladybugs for indoor spider mite control in small areas is possible but not recommended, as these bugs may die due to insufficient food. If releasing ladybugs indoors, create a similar outdoor environment to help them thrive longer, as they have shorter lifespans indoors.
Additionally, these bugs struggle to move in dusty indoor environments, hindering their effectiveness against mites. Excessive debris and poor conditions limit their mobility. 5
However, by improving air circulation, maintaining a watering schedule, and using indoor LED lighting to simulate sunlight, you can create a more suitable environment for ladybugs to control mites in your indoor garden.
Luring Ladybugs To Control Spider Mite Infestation
Ladybugs are generalist predators, which means they have a wide diet and can eat many pests of various species. Although they prefer to eat aphids, ladybugs will stay and assist in controlling mites and other pests if the invasion is substantial. Thankfully, you can take several easily effective and inexpensive measures to help attract and keep ladybugs in your garden. 6
Release ladybugs in the early morning, late afternoon or evening when temperatures are cooler. This timing allows them to assess the plot overnight and decide if it’s suitable for them to stay.
Ladybugs are ineffective against spider mites and other pests in high humidity and hot weather. However, they can be helpful in preventing problems during spring.
Grow Flowering Plants
One of the most effective ways in luring ladybugs into your backyard is to give them the environment that makes them happiest. Flowering plants are excellent at enticing lady beetles into your growing area, as they love the flower nectar and pollen this plant provides.
Similarly, specific herbs help your backyard stand out and help guide extra wild ladybugs your way.
If you want to learn how to grow flowering plants, here’s an article on how to be a good gardener to get you started.
Some common and popular varieties of inviting herbs and flowers are:
- Butterfly weed
- Coreopsis (tickseed)
- Queen Anne’s lace
- Sweet alyssum
- Wild carrot
- Yellow coneflower
Remember to trim, and deadhead expired flowers so your plants keep growing new ones. New flowers mean more available pollen, which encourages ladybugs to stick around.
Provide Shelter And A Viable Habitat
Ladybugs, aside from food, require resting spots in your yard to stay. Placing logs or rocks can attract them and provide suitable habitats, preventing mite buildup. Consider inexpensive ladybug houses or create makeshift shelters using the following:
- Bark chips
- Leaf litter
- Grass clippings
- Cardboard boxes or egg cartons
A few years ago, I purchased a small wooden box with hollow tubes and holes, filled it with raisins and small candies, luring ladybugs and other beneficial pollinating insects to my yard. It has significantly increased the presence of ladybugs and the overall biodiversity in my garden.
To attract ladybugs, place their habitat in a sunny spot, elevated off the ground, and away from bird feeders. Following these guidelines improves the likelihood of ladybugs making your yard their home.
Provide A Water Source
Another garden essential to enticing lady beetles is having an open and accessible water source. Placing water-filled shallow dishes around your garden is the easiest way to keep your new friends happy and hydrated.
Ensure each water dish has an escape route in case they get stuck within the small container. For example, you can add a few small stones or twigs that will offer a way out or add a bit of sand to the water so they won’t be in danger of drowning.
To attract and keep ladybugs in your plot, prioritize organic gardening methods. Avoid synthetic chemical sprays that not only get rid of spider mites but also beneficial insects like honey bees and ladybugs. By refraining from harsh pesticides and broad-spectrum insecticides, you protect these helpful insects working tirelessly for your garden’s benefit.
In some cases, when pest colonies become overwhelming, natural methods like ladybugs may need assistance. As a last resort, pesticides can be used to save the garden, but their application should be done at dusk to minimize harm to ladybugs and other insects.
Keep in mind that synthetic pesticides affect both pests and ladybugs, so you’ll need to do what you can to mitigate the damage.
Other Natural Ways To Control Spider Mites
Besides using ladybugs, you can use several methods to control spider mites in your yard.
The most common methods of controlling spider mites are:
- Using predatory mites
- Spraying organically approved Neem oil
- Applying insecticidal soaps
- Manually removing mites with water and a sponge or cloth
Each of the above methods effectively controls spider mites at different infestation levels. So let’s look at each and see the best options for your situation.
Using Predatory or Beneficial Mites
Besides ladybirds, there are other predators that target and eliminate spider mites, These are predatory or beneficial that eat and kill spider mites. They are generally harmless to your plants. Four of the most common examples of predatory/beneficial mites that may help bring your garden back into balance are:
- Phytoseiulus persimilis
- Amblyseius andersonii
- Neoseiulus californicus
- Metaseiulus occidentalis
Beneficial mites eat spider mites, including their eggs and larvae, significantly reducing their population in a short period. They also eat pollen from flowering plants, similar to other beneficial insects. 7
A wonderful resource in helping you learn more about how predatory mites can benefit a garden and agricultural ecosystems through natural, biological controls is found here
Metaseiulus occidentalis predatory mites tend to have better success against invading spider mites on fruit trees and bushes. In comparison, Phytoseiulus persimilis predatory mites have better success helping vegetable plants and flowers.
Spraying Organically Approved Neem Oil
Vegetable and horticultural oil repel and kill garden pests, such as spider mites and their eggs, without harming vegetable plants. Neem oil, derived from Neem tree seeds, is a popular vegetable oil to kill spider mites.
Despite its odor, Neem oil s benefits in reducing pest infestations and preserving organic gardening practices outweigh the smell. This vegetable oil’s active ingredient, Azadirachtin, acts as a natural pesticide and disrupts small insects’ reproductive systems and life cycles. 8
Certain oils, such as rosemary and garlic, attract ladybugs to your garden. Dilute a few drops of oil in water and spray around your plants. On the other hand, scents like citrus, clove, and camphor menthol deter ladybugs. Avoid using these oils if you want to attract ladybirds to your plants.
Insecticidal soaps are less harmful than synthetic pesticides, but are not ideal for maintaining an organic environment. While affordable and effective at killing mites on contact, they have a minimal residual impact on plants, which benefits the insects like ladybirds. 9
While insecticidal soaps offer a viable option, they only kill the large quantities of spider mites they come into direct contact with. Thus, they are more effective for smaller spider mite populations however, requiring multiple applications for complete resolution.
As with any treatment, organic or synthetic, you’ll always want to use caution, follow the label’s directions, and wear proper protection. Wear suitable, non-latex gloves is always good standard practice when applying any sprays in your garden.
Spider mites are more prevalent within gardens where pesticides and broad-based insecticides are sprayed regularly. That’s because these chemicals also target beneficial insects – like the ones that prey on them.
With no natural predators and a robust immune system, spider mites can run rampant. Therefore, organic and other natural methods should always be your first-line defense.
Manually Removing Mites With Water And A Sponge Or Cloth
Manual removal of spider mites, while requiring some effort, is a simple and effective pest control method, although temporary. They can be easily dislodged from plants using a strong stream of water from a hose or spray bottle, a small indoor vacuum, or by wiping leaves using a damp cloth or sponge.
For larger gardens, long-term options like introducing ladybugs or beneficial mites are more effective. Manual removal is temporary and doesn’t address problems in the soil or garden, perpetuating the problem. 10
If you want a more permanent solution, hang on for a bit. I wrote a previous article discussing all the different treatment options for spider mites in your garden, from natural methods to synthetic applications, with plenty of resources to help take back control and rid of spider mites in your growing space.
Spider mites can cause significant damage to your greeneries if left unchecked and are one of the most formidable garden pests you may ever encounter.
Thankfully, there are various ways to combat these persistent pests. Prevention is key, but if spider mites start to infest your backyard already, introducing ladybugs works wonders.
When introduced into landscapes early enough in terms of recognition i.e when you’ve spotted only a relatively small, new colony before it swells up significantly in numbers, these vibrant little bugs become quite effective at controlling the population density and will be aiding in restoring ecological balance back into your ecosystem within no time.
Have you spread beneficial bugs like ladybirds in your garden to combat a pesky mite problem? Let me know in the comments below.