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How Spider Mites Ruined My Sex Life!
by John Harmon
February 23, 2003

With winter weather returning to the north it can create just the right environment in your house to encourage an outbreak of spider mites. With the heat turned up the house dries out and warm temperatures along with dry air is just what these little pests like the best. It's great for their sex life and they can reproduce faster but those same conditions can be bad for us humans.

I didn't really notice how dry it was in my house until the disaster. My life was moving along nicely. No major problems and with the mild weather I was even getting out of the house more than during a normal winter. It started out when I attempted an innocent little kiss with my wife. Not a "rolling around naked in the bed" kind of kiss but just a friendly "hi, how are you" type with subtle "can I interest you in more" overtones. I had the technique down pat, approached cautiously, slowly moved my lips forward and just before contact closed my eyes.

That was when all hell broke loose. There was a blue/white flash and an audible crackle as a huge bolt of static electricity jumped the last inch between our lips. We stumbled back away from each other in shock with tiny wisps of smoke rising from our lips and a definite aversion to any more physical contact! Once the recriminations started (as all husbands know) it was determined to be my fault. There'll be no more physical contact until after break-up.

The same conditions that ruined my sex life will however cause spider mites to breed faster than proverbial rabbits. The spider mite is related to spiders and ticks with four pairs of legs. Their life cycle is from ten to fourteen days with a number of nymph cycles when the temperature is above 75 F. At lower temperatures it can be up to two months. Mites will kill plants very quickly in hot dry conditions.

First try to avoid the little pests by keeping conditions for your plants that spider mites don't like. Mites dislike high humidity and temperatures below 75 F. Misting your plants often will discourage them. Keeping the temperature below 75 F will also help. Watch for the first signs of them with a magnifying glass or pocket microscope. Check the underside of the leaves from where the stem starts out to the leaf tip. Mites have little oval red bodies with a pointy-head and four legs facing forward with the other four facing back. They look pretty much the same in all their stages from the smaller nymph to the adult. They have a spot on each side of their bodies towards the pointy end. With the pocket scope or a magnifying glass you will also see their eggs scattered about the leaf surface looking like little clear round beads.

Spider mites suck plant juices causing a yellowing of the leaves starting as tiny scattered spots of yellow which coalesce to affect the whole leaf. Once mites reach the point where little webs appear on the leaves it means they have been there for a few generations and there are lots of them. Getting rid of them at this point is very difficult.

Monitor your plants weekly and at the first sighting of a mite or eggs move the affected plant away from all the other plants if possible. Mist it with Safers Soap following the directions. Put the plant in a place where the temperature will remain below 75 F. Mist it with water to keep the humidity high. First stage larva will only have six legs and are the easiest to kill so it's important to catch them early. For heavy infestations where webs are present you will have to resort to spraying with something more potent.

I use Schultz Expert Gardener Houseplants and Gardens Insect Spray. This is an all organic insect spray made from chrysanthemum flowers. It has no residual effect so to be effective it has to touch the mites. Mist your plant first with water and then spray the underside of the leaves liberally with the Schultz insect spray. Spray once a week for at least four weeks.

Spider mites are tough to get rid of because they will leave the plants to escape treatment and hide in the wood of benches or in fabric or dirt and come back to the plants when it's safe. So monitor your plants weekly even after a full course of treatment.

If the affected plant is one that is suitable cut the leaves and stems off that have mites or eggs. Cut away as much of the plant as you can without killing the plant. I even replace the dirt and pot. Even after removing as much plant material as you can you will have to go through the four weeks of treatment to be sure you get any of the little nasties on what's left of the plant.

By keeping your house a little cooler and the humidity higher you will help prevent spider mites from getting a foothold and ruin their sex life while maybe even saving your own.

John Harmon owns and operates Tropicals North. Write to John at The Real Dirt, c\o 211 Wood St., Whitehorse, YT., Y1A 2E4

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