Q. I have a Chinese fan
palm and it has tiny red bugs on the underside of the leaves and what
looks like spider webs in the same areas. What are they and how do I
get rid of them?
A. What you are describing on your house
plant sounds like spider mites. Spider mites are tiny, almost
microscopic, pests of house plants as well as garden plants. You
almost don't know they are there until you see their telltale webbing
that you mentioned. Other signs that spider mites are present on a
plant include stippled or yellowed leaves. Leaves often dry out and
drop off. A way to check for spider mites is to hold a piece of white
paper under the affected leaf and tap the leaf. The spider mites will
drop onto the paper and begin to crawl around. They are easy to see
against the white paper.
Spider mites damage plants by sucking sap from the undersides of the
leaves. If left untreated, spider mites can kill a plant. Spider
mites can multiply rapidly, especially during dry weather. With the
heat on indoors during winter, the air is pretty dry, providing the
ideal environment for spider mite populations to become a serious
infestation quite quickly.
As serious as spider mites are, they can be controlled. I have found
what works best for getting rid of spider mites is Neem
Oil. The formulation I use is an excellent miticide, killing
existing adult mites and preventing other stages from developing into
adults. The oil component of Neem Oil
smothers the eggs. Spray the entire plant, making sure to coat the
undersides of the leaves where they are feeding. Spray every seven to
10 days to control successive generations.
To prevent future infestations of spider mites or other insects or
diseases on existing house plants, quarantine any newly-purchased
house plant for a couple of weeks and treat it with Neem
Oil to kill any pest or disease that may be hiding on the plant.
Click here to read more about Neem
Oil and order it
from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.