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Spruce spider mite: the Christmas tree killer

The name spider mite might make you think of some tiny mite that lives on a spider but not so! They are destructive little pests that can destroy spruce, arborvitae, juniper, hemlock, pine and Douglas fir trees. These little Grinch-like pests will drain all the holiday magic from your trees before you have the chance to say “Happy Holidays!”

If you have noticed damage from these sap-suckers on the trees surrounding your property, let Ehrlich pest control professional address the issue at hand. Our experts are trained to effectively remove mites without causing harm to the trees themselves. Ehrlich is here to answer all your spider spruce mite questions. Contact us today at 888 984 0186.

Spruce spider mite on plant
Photo credit: USDA Forest Service – Northeastern Area , USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Spruce spider mite appearance

Adult mites are usually about 0.5 mm in length and like a spider, have eight legs. They are oval in shape and thin tiny hairs line the tops of their bodies. Their eggs range from round and tan during the active season to red during the overwintering phase. When they are young, spruce spider mites are a dark greenish color and as they mature turn an even darker shade of green. Their small size and color are what make them very difficult to spot on spruce trees.

Spruce spider mite life cycle

These little masters of destruction will over-winter with their tiny eggs tucked tightly around the bud scales at the base of the needles. When the warm weather of spring arrives, they hatch, usually before the new growth starts on the tree. There are 7 to 10 generations produced annually so their numbers can rise quickly!  

When are spruce mites active?

Spruce mites are active during the cooler months, usually early in the year or in the later fall season. In the warmer months, they survive as eggs. Springtime into the summer is when the damage done during the cold season will start to appear on the trees.

What does a spruce spider mite eat? 

Spruce mites feed on all varieties of conifers but some of their favorites are the Colorado blue spruce, Black Hills spruce, dwarf Alberta spruce and arborvitae. The spruce spider mite uses its piercing mouthpart to puncture the plant tissue and suck the fluid from the needles. This leaves the tree looking speckled and yellowish in color when infested. Their feeding normally begins at the bottom of the older needles of the tree and works upward.

At first, the damage will show up as a pattern of light-colored spots, sometimes turning the needles a bronze color. As the mites progress in their feeding, the leaves will start to turn red or yellow, eventually falling off.

Spruce spider mite webbing

Spruce spider mites may sometimes produce a sticky webbing that covers a tree’s needles. The sap-covered needles can collect dirt and debris, making the tree appear dirty. 

Mites on plant

How to identify spruce spider mite damage 

Spruce spider mites are so small that it is oftentimes difficult to see them while on the tree, but there is a little trick – all you need is a piece of plain white paper. Holding the paper under the tree in several different locations, gently shake the tree. If spider mites are present, some should fall off the tree and onto the paper. If you do find spruce spider mites, you must be careful when using DIY insecticides around your gardens and plants as some of them may actually help increase the spider mite populations.

Plant damage by spruce spider mite

How to treat spider mites on spruce trees

Periodic water hosings on smaller trees and shrubs are able to reduce mild mite populations.  Use a garden hose to apply a strong stream of water to dislodge mites from an infested tree or plant.  Repeat the hosing for 3 or 4 consecutive days. Make sure to keep the plants moist and mulched to promote health and stamina and to minimize the impact of mite feeding.

Spruce spider mite control

When in doubt, a qualified pest management company like Ehrlich is just a phone call away and we are willing to help educate our communities. If the problem is larger than you are able to take care of on your own, we have qualified, experienced specialists available to do an inspection and develop a custom plan to take care of your unique needs. We are all stewards of our communities and chances are, if you are having an infestation, your neighbor may have similar problems or possibly be next on the pest destination list. If you are experiencing a spruce mite infestation on your property, contact us today.

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