Dang!! Red spider mites

Red spider mitesThis sucks!!! I found red spider mites (Panonychus ulmi, or rött spinn in Swedish) on a plant I received in a trade a while back. What really upsets me is that the plant arrived infected and I did not know what to look for. I have never had to deal with spider mites before, but the horror stories I have read… sigh.

I was told the plant was badly sunburned, and I never questioned that information. Not until the new shoot developed the same dark red/brown “burns” as well. I have looked at this plant many times feeling that something wasn’t right, but since I did not see any of the mites moving around out in the open I ignored my gut feeling.

That is – not until I began peeling back the paper like husk around the bulbs on the affected Cattleya and saw the hordes of red little spiders clinging to the bulbs there!! Disgusting!! The plant went head first into the trash… but now of course I am worried (who am I kidding – paranoid – horrified – close to panicked are better choices of words) about the rest 100 or so orchids I’ve kept in the same room.

Upon closely inspecting every single one under a magnifying glass – hell of a way to start the vacation – I found nothing. I realize this is good news, but since the other infestation eluded me so long I have a very difficult time believing it has not spread to any other plants. I must just not have found them yet… Dang, I am really losing sleep over this!! Never again will I not trust my gut feeling. And never again will I accept a plant in such a condition… I was just too trusting and did not want to be difficult, but I am really kicking myself now…

Ok. Enough whining. Live and learn. It is time to act! I hate using heavy duty poisons on my whole collection since I grow in such a small enclosed space – my home! So I am looking for other alternatives first. Since the killer nematodes did such a great job on the fungus gnat problem (Sciaridae) I had last winter, I decided to apply a tiny army of killer mites to go after the spider mites! I ordered the predatory mite Amblyseius californicus from Lindesro and applied them to the whole collection a few days ago. Now I am just trying to sit on my hands and let them do their thing. I hate waiting…

IF there are any more spider mites, these guys should get them. I hope.

By | 2017-10-13T11:26:11+02:00 July 21st, 2009|Categories: A day in the life of...|Tags: |4 Comments

About the Author:

Karma is a digital nomad graphic artist and writer, orchid nerd and long-distance hiker from Gothenburg, Sweden. Former editor-in-chief for the Swedish Orchid Society magazine, published internationally and held lectures on orchid culture.


  1. Marius July 21, 2009 at 20:18 - Reply

    Red mites are nasty little vermins! Really hope you disposed of the bastards with that one plant, they are no fun at all! I am not sure of this, but I know that ordinary grönsåpa, that is green soap, has given quite nice results when applied using a mistgun.
    Crossing all my fingers for ya!
    Go get the creeps!

  2. Karma July 22, 2009 at 09:44 - Reply

    Thanks Mario!! I know. I am hoping that they never left the one plant and I don’t have to worry… but somehow I think the chances are slim since I had the plant for a while. But one can always hope!! If I see any of them in a few weeks I will try poison. Provado is said to work somewhat, and like you said soapy water – it suffocates them. But before you can use it you need to find where they are!!! Well, hopefully there are none to be found. Besides the Amblyseius californicus are reputed to move very fast and I hope they will eradicate any potential evildoers… even if they are too cleaver and manages to hide from me. When in doubt bring in the heavy artillery.

  3. Jose Luiz August 1, 2009 at 17:50 - Reply

    Hi Karma!
    My personal organic recipe to help all those one with plagues in their orchid cultivation:

    Organic homemade recipe against plagues (insects etc) in Orchids and garden plants in general.

    1 liter of water,
    1/2 liter of alcohol,
    100 g* of tobacco (the best is that one sold in pieces, if not possible, use that one from cigarettes),
    100 g* of garlic 50 g of hot pepper (chilly).
    (* I don´t know the pounds weight – In Brazil our metric unit of weights is “kilogram”)
    How to prepare:
    – During 5 minutes boil 100 g of tobacco in 1 liter of water (it is necessary to prevent mosaic tobacco virus).
    – Once did that wait to the liquid be in normal temperature.
    – Cut the garlic and chilly in small pieces (as if you were using for cooking) and join them in the tobacco´s water, mixing also half a liter of alcohol (that one for domestic usage).
    – Save this organic mixture in a dark glass bottle (to use when necessary).
    – After 3 days, percolate and use it pure, spraying in the regions of the plant where the plagues are.
    – Just once is necessary to destroy all the insects etc.
    As it is organic, it doesn´t prejudice the plant or our health. A natural protection to our plants!
    Greetings from Brazil! José Luiz.

  4. Karma August 1, 2009 at 18:47 - Reply

    Hi Jose!
    Thanks a lot for the recipe for your home remedy. If I see any more bugs I will definitely give it a try. I prefer not using harsh toxins as you kill off everything, including any other beneficial little creatures living on the plants. I have been looking over my entire collecton with a magnifying glass several times since I released the predatory mites, but luckily I have not seen any more spider mites at all. Phew!

    Although I am not sure it really was the red variety I had on the Cattleya, they were so small and not very mobile… I think they might have been Tenuipalpus pacificus (falskt spinn in Swedish or Phalaenopsis mite). In either case, I am hoping I made it without any more problems. So far it is looking good.

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