Choosing a Miticide: Don’t Show Up to a Gun Fight with a Knife!!!

When you are taking a leisurely walk through your garden and notice the telltale yellow speckles on the topside of your leaves (a dead give-away of your arch nemesis the spider mite) what do you do?  Do you grab for the nearest bottle of Neem Oil and a sprayer? Quickly covering everything in reach with a fine mist of that “garlicky” smelling organic insecticide; only to realize that it is 10 am and the weather report is calling for a beautiful sunny day?  Your attempt to eradicate your foe has likely sealed the fate of your precious garden.  In a few hours your garden will be basking in bright sunlight, and covered in oil will likely be burned to a crisp.  Maybe we can rationally deal with this pests in another way.  

Remember that a single female mite can produce a population of over 1 million mites in 1 month.  This incredibly fast rate of multiplication allows them to quickly form resistance to chemicals, and that multiple applications are almost always necessary to eradicate them completely.  Read my other blog to learn more about the life cycle of the spider mite.

First: We need to know what kind of mite we are dealing with.  There are over 48,000 different types of mites out there but most are not garden pests.  As gardeners we are mostly concerned with spider mites, southern red mites, citrus mites, rust mites, gall mites, broad mites, cyclamen mites, Lewis mites, and the thread-footed mites.  By far the most common of the garden mites are the two-spotted and the red mite.  There is a  helpful websiteIf if you need help identifying a mite .

Second: Determine the severity of the infestation by closely examining all plants in your garden and any close by vegetation.  If there is only a few visible mites with little visible damage then you may choose to use an organic or mild miticide.  If the infestation is severe (having larger mite populations and webbing) you may choose to use stronger professional grade chemical miticides.  

Third: Differentiate between plants that are edible and/or consumable as opposed to ornamental.  When treating infestations on edible plants you are limited by the types of miticide that are safe to use.  Using Chemichals on ornamentals on the other hand generally poses less risk to people because there is no fear of humans or animals ingesting them.  

Fourth: With the above information choose your miticide or insecticide.  Consider your crop type; ornamental or consumable, any necessary application tools or safety gear, as well as any chemical rotation necessary to ensure that the mites do not become resistant. Also keep available the MSDS sheets (material safety data sheets) should they become necessary. 

Fifth: Read all instructions before applying insecticides.  Follow all instructions to ensure you and your crop remain safe.  Also note the REI (the restricted entry interval) this is how much time must pass between the application of the insecticide and safe reentry into your grow-room / greenhouse without any safety equipment. Also note the maximum applications per cropping cycle, as some heavy duty miticides can only be used once or twice per crop.  

See the table below for some helpful information regarding different pesticide / miticide choices.

Brand Name Active Ingredient REI Mode of Action Target species Target stage Food Safe Effectiveness
Avid abamectin 12 hours GABA Blocker Southern Red, Two Spotted, Broad, Cyclamen, Eriophyid, Spruce Nymphs & Adult NO Medium
Azamax azadirachtin none IGR, Antifeedant, Anti Ovulent Spider Mites & Mites Any Yes Medium
Beethoven TR etoxazole 12 hours Not Yet Understood Spider mites, Lewis, Pacific, Spruce, Citrus, Southern Red, European Red, Two Spotted, McDaniel Egg & Nymph NO High
Bifen I/T,   Attain bifenthrin 12 hours Sodium & Potassium Channel Disrupter Broad, Clover, European Red, Spider Mites Adults Varies by Crop Medium
FloraMite carboxamide 4 hours GABA Blocker Two Spotted, Southern Red, European Red, Spruce, Citrus Red Eggs & Adults YES High
Forbid spiromesifen 12 hours Inhibitor of Lipid Synthesis Two Spotted, Southern Red, Euonymus, Tumid, Lewis, Rust, Broad, Cyclamen, and False Spider Mites Eggs, Nymphs, & Adults NO High
Insecticidal Soaps potassium salts of fatty acids none Contact Dessicant Spider mites,  Two Spotted, European Red, Broad, Citrus, Rust, Russet Eggs, Nymphs, & Adults Yes Medium/low
Magus fenazaquin 12 hours Mitochondrial Electron Transport Inhibitor ALL Mites NOT Spider Mites Eggs, Nymphs, & Adults NO High
Neem Oil  neem oil none Suffocation Spider Mites Adults Yes Low
Organocide sesame oil none Suffocation Spider Mites Adults Yes Low
Pylon chlorfenapyr 12 hours Prevents Conversion of ADP & ATP  Two spotted, Broad, Rust, Cyclamen, & Citrus Mites Nymphs & Adult Yes High
Spider Mite Knock Out, Don’t Bug Me, Pyrethrum TR, Doctor Doom Fogger pyrethrum/ pyrethrins 12 Hours or less Sodium Channel  Modulator Spider Mites Adults Yes Medium

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