As soon as it starts to warm up in late spring I keep an eye out for the inevitable explosion of pests that want to rob me of my hard earned veggies. Without fail each year one of the most aggressive culprits attacks – the Two Spotted Mite (play Jaws music here). I expect them to appear around October or November, as the temperature starts to climb.
The Two Spotted Mite so small you can hardly see them, but you can see what they do to your plants.
Which of my veggies do they attack:
Cucumbers, Zucchini, Pumpkin, Watermelon, Rockmelon, Strawberries, Beans, and Soya Beans (Edamame). I am sure that they are not too fussy, and attack other plants also.
What to look out for:
The plants may start to slow in growth and lose vigour for no apparent reason. There also will likely be a discolouring of the leaves similar to what you would expect if your plants were experiencing a lack of nutrition in the leaves.
So when it is a hot day, I turn the leaves over and look for little black spots that are about the size of a pinhead on the underside. If you look very closely you may see them moving around slowly.
Some Options on what to do:
1. Use pesticides and spray – Not my preferred option because of the other insects around the garden that I am quite fond of. Not to mention the frogs, lizards, birds, and all manner of animals. Also you could cause an imbalance and breed chemical resistant ones so your problem will be compounded.
2. Keep the garden humid – A better option, the Mite enjoys living in dry habitats, so keeping it moist will reduce the chance of an infestation. You will not stop them though. I have a moist garden and they move in every year without fail.
3. Use a biological control – The way to go I reckon. The first year these little buggers attacked my patch it took me some time to find out how to control them. What I wanted was a garden friendly way to control them and the best solution was to catch another little animal to predate on them. I found that hard to do because I didn’t know what to look for so I bought 2000 predators that feed on two spotted mites. They are called Persimilis or in plain English, the Three Spotted Mite – your new best friend.
I order my new friends on the internet and a couple of days later they arrive in the post and I formally introduce them to the Two Spotted Mite. The relationship becomes quite one sided, which is unfortunate for the Two Spotted Mite, but is good for me. Basically, the three Spotted Mite brings an appetite to the relationship and the Two Spotted Mite contributes the food.
It takes a couple of weeks to have your veggie patch ecosystem balance itself. Have no fear, your veggie plants will bounce back. It has worked well for me for three years now. All summer I will be able to find both populations of Mite on my veggie plants, but it is not a problem. There is a balance that works.
It gets too cold in winter and the Three Spotted Mites die out. So I recruit a new batch of willing Three Spotted Mites every year and all is well in my Veggie patch over summer.
If you are interested in where I get them from here is a link, Bugs for Bugs. You get what you ask for – bugs!. $50 will have them delivered to your door. I’ll let you know when my new employees arrive.
If you want to see more detail on Two Spotted Mites, the Royal Botanic Gardens Fact Sheet is pretty good.
Go check your garden. I dare you, go on. I would be interested to see if you can find them.