The Ford County Fair is under way, through July 24, so you know it is going to be HOT! With these hot summer temperatures, homeowners and gardeners need to be on the lookout for a potential problem — spider mite!
Spider mites are little pests that tend to attack plants that are facing the stresses of heat and drought. Spider mite populations, under the right conditions, can multiple rather quickly and be somewhat difficult to control. Spider mite infested plants will take on a burnt appearance and rapidly decline.
These little pests are relatively easy to detect. The foliage of a plant will appear pale. Heavily infested leaves take on a toppled appearance. Eventually the leaves will appear bronzed and burnt as they die. The hint of identifying spider mites also comes with the fine webbing present on the underside of leaves. Take a white piece of paper to the plant in question; shake the foliage over the paper. Small, black specking should appear. When smashed, the small mites will also leave a red smear on the piece of paper.
There are several control options available for those dealing with these plant eating pests. Horticultural soaps and oils work well. In fact with small populations, especially on edible garden crops these would be the treatment of choice. There are also several miticidal products available that are effective in controlling spider mite populations. Kelthane is a very popular product, but is only labeled for certain vegetable, fruit and nut crops. Ortho’s Rose and Flower Insect Killer is also effective (can NOT be used on edible crops). Spectracide Triazicide is labeled for a wide range of ornamentals as well as the brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, ect.) Be sure to read and follow the label directions. Most of the products will recommend applying two treatments. High pressure is the key for effective control. Regardless of which product you choose, the infested plants must be thoroughly applied to provide adequate plant coverage and effective control. Sufficient water should be used to ensure adequate coverage. The lower leaf surface is also the target where mites tend to congregate.
A follow-up treatment 2 to 3 days after the initial treatment is also very important. The first application will kill the active stages, but the unhatched eggs will remain. By spraying again 2 to 3 days later, the eggs will have hatched and the now-active stages will be killed before they reach adulthood.
Be sure to brave the heat this weekend and join us at the Ford County Fair! There will be a watermelon feed will be on Saturday from 2-4 p.m. and Farm Bureau is sponsoring an ice cream social on Sunday, beginning at 2;30 p.m. Visit www.fordcountyfairassn.org for more fair information. For more information on spider mites and their control, visit us online at www.ford.ksu.edu.
Andrea Renee Burns is the Ford County extension agent.