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Spider mites

Spider mite

Spint (red spider mite): an annoying and almost invisible pest.

Certainly among garden lovers, the 'spint plague' is an ever-recurring annoyance. Prevention is an effective weapon against what in Dutch are called spint, a handier name than the English red spider mite (so we’ll use them interchangeably here). Anyway, check regularly to prevent this minuscule pest from getting a foothold on your plants.

Recognising spint

Spint are plant parasites that are usually between 0.2 and 0.5 mm in size. There are many species of mite, and unlike insects they have eight legs, which are pointed conspicuously to the front and back. They have a pear-shaped, yellowy-green, brownish or red body. Spint mites thrive in warm, dry conditions and particularly pick on plants that are under stress and weakened from drying out. They pierce the cell walls of buds, flowers and fruit and suck them dry. Thanks to this the cells are no longer able to take up sufficient nutrients, with inevitable results.

Symptoms of spint

Spider mite specklesSpint mites multiply rapidly in warm, dry weather. In a single year up to nine generations are possible and each female can lay 80 or so eggs. The parasites survive the winter as eggs, as adults hidden in the soil or in the crevices in bark. Usually you’ll be able to observe the symptoms before the actual infestation itself. The first signs are tiny: silverish or yellow speckles on the upper side of the leaves. With a serious infestation their webs can cover an entire plant.

Spint prevention

Prevention is the best cure. So for a start keep your plants and their environment a little moist. If you discover an infestation, remove the infested parts as quickly as possible. Methylated spirits + soapbudsThen rinse the plant thoroughly with a solution of methylated spirits and soapsuds. Repeat this treatment a few times a week.

If you still have the infestation after a few weeks, then your best option is to apply a substance based on natural pyrethrum. However, be careful with these agents because they’re also harmful to humans if you ingest them or let them come into contact with an open wound. Here we must also bear in mind that thanks to the rapid succession of generations, these spint mites can quickly develop resistance. That’s to say that after a number of applications of a particular substance and failing to eradicate them, only using a different one is likely to help. What’s more, most insecticides have no effect on the eggs.

We can also choose to use a biological enemy against them, such as various predatory mites and bugs, ladybirds, and lacewings.

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