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Spider Mites on a milkweed leaf.
A closer view
Spider mites and webbing on tomato plants
Spider Mites with the
start of their webbing.
As they multiply,
they make more webbing.
A close view of stages of spider mites.

Spider Mites create a challenge for nearly any gardener. They create a special challenge for a butterfly gardener. Chemicals that effectively kill spider mites will often also kill caterpillars.

There IS one thing which spider mites hate with a passion - water.

The use of this two-step 'treatment' is almost always a totally effective means of eliminating them.
1. First, cut the infected plant and dispose of the leaves and cuttings in a sealed container.
2. Place a water sprinkler on the plant for two or three days.
Your problems should be over!

Be sure to dispose of all cut plant material properly if it has disease or pests. Place the cuttings, empty pots, and leaves in a plastic garbage bag, seal it totally (you can spray thoroughly inside the bag with insect spray if you wish), and place in the garbage.

Do not compost this material!

At our farm we do spray with a miticide when we need to take a step beyond cutting, disposing, and watering. In our tests, the miticide we use (Floramite) did not harm caterpillars as long as the plant was rinsed well before it was fed to caterpillars. We encourage you to ALWAYS test any chemical or non-chemical you use on your host plants before feeding the plants to your caterpillars. Test it by feeding the treated and rinsed leaves to just a few caterpillars. Be sure to wait until they become an adult before declaring the miticide a success.. Some sprays will affect them slowly, others will affect them when they pupate, and others when they become adults. We have discovered that at times, plant pests are more deadly to caterpillars than certain chemicals. We haven't learned why they are so deadly - are they not killed inside their digestive system quick enough and they bite through their intestinal walls allowing digestive juices to directly enter the blood? We're not sure.

We encourage use of soap or insecticidal soap for your first attempt to rid plants of any pests before using poisonous chemicals. Some chemicals won't harm your caterpillars or butterflies but WILL kill the beneficial insects and other insects in your garden.

TEST with just a few caterpillars before committing all your caterpillars to any method to eliminate spider mites (or any other plant pest or plant disease)!