One of the few all-natural treatments that can kill spider mites is neem oil, but the improper application can compromise or even eliminate any effectiveness. In this article, you will find safe and effective ways to kill spider mites.
The following techniques are primarily intended for indoor plants, though they can be modified for use outside as well.
Table of Contents
What’s Neem Oil?
Neem tree seeds are the source of neem oil, as I mentioned above. Neem trees (Azadirachta indica) are distant, fast-growing cousins of mahogany trees, and although they originated in They are now widespread in Asia, Africa, and South America, having originated in India and Southeast Asia.
The edible fruit from these trees grows in clusters resembling grapes, and when the fruit’s seeds are harvested, dried, and pressed, they yield an oil that is well-known for having both medicinal and insecticidal properties.
If you’re interested in what this process actually looks like, check out this quick, step-by-step overview:
What Makes Neem Oil Useful?
Neem oil is an effective insecticide for two primary reasons:
First, azadirachtin, a naturally occurring chemical compound, is produced by neem trees and found in the seeds they produce. Azadirachtin is biodegradable and almost harmless to people and animals (as long as they don’t ingest it), but it interferes with many different insect species’ hormonal cycles and prevents them from finishing their life cycles.
Secondly, insects are literally covered in a thin oily film that impairs their ability to function after being sprayed with neem oil. That kills a variety of soft-bodied pests (aphids, cucumber beetles, thrips, white flies, etc.), depending on how hardy they are.). Additionally, when pests like squash bugs and leaf-footed bugs are in their nymph stages and don’t yet have their adult exoskeletons, it will kill them.
(Neem oil appears to be largely ineffective when used on adult leaf-footed and squash bugs, according to my tests. As a result, if you’re battling larger pests, a neem oil spray might not be very effective.)
Neem oil has fungicidal properties, which makes spraying it on plants with spider mite infestations advantageous. It degrades rapidly in sunlight and can harm plant foliage if applied in the morning or early afternoon when temperatures are higher, but some research indicates that it may benefit plants when fighting off fungi like powdery mildew, blight, and other fungi.
How To Use And Mix Neem Oil To Kill Spider Mites
Neem oil must be mixed and applied correctly to produce the best results, as previously mentioned.
Because spider mites reproduce quickly, isolating an infected plant from any neighbors and using a variety of methods to treat it is typically the best course of action.
How Neem Soil Soak Affects Spider Mites
Neem soil drenches or soaks are extremely effective against spider mites because they use 100% cold-pressed raw neem oil, which has the highest concentration of azadirachtin.
Azadirachtin becomes a systemic insecticide after being absorbed by the plant through the soak.
Azadirachtin is a natural chemical found in the neem plant (Azadirachta indica) that closely resembles the hormones in insects that regulate growth and reproduction.
When a spider mite nymph consumes azadirachtin, it may lose interest in feeding and experience difficulties or even stop growing.
In the interim, an adult may stop producing eggs or develop infertility.
While neem soil soaks won’t directly kill most spider mites, they will stop them from growing or reproducing, which will cause the infestation to disappear without harming good bugs or pollinators.
How To Make And Use Neem Soil Soaks
Making your own soil soak is simple, and you probably already have two of the three ingredients on hand.
- A tablespoon of Dawn dish soap or pure castile soap should be gently incorporated into a gallon of water in order to emulsify the water. This lowers the surface tension, allowing the oil and water to mix.
- Two tablespoons of raw neem oil should then be added. Neem oil should only be purchased as raw, cold-pressed oil because heat can degrade the oil’s effectiveness.
- Pour 2 to 4 cups of the soil soak solution into the soil of your plant instead of watering it normally to use it.
Find out more about blending neem oil for your plants and garden.
A single dose can be used once and last for up to 22 days. It can be reapplied every three weeks to combat active infestations or monthly as a preventative measure.
How Foliar Neem Oil Sprays Affect Spider Mites
When Azadirachtin is removed from raw neem oil, clarified hydrophobic neem oil, which is used in foliar sprays, is produced.
The effect of this version, which is used as a contact poison, is very different but it still contains a number of active ingredients.
Clarified neem oil enters an insect’s airways and chokes it, killing it instead of stunting its growth.
Learn How Neem Works on Plant Pests
You can select the strength of clarified neem oil that best suits your needs from a range of.5 to 3% potency levels.
The foliar spray should not be applied outside when beneficial insects are active because it is topical.
Although it can be used indoors at any time of day, it will completely evaporate after 45 to an hour without leaving any traces.
How Can I Make A Neem Oil Spray?
It’s the same as following a recipe for your preferred meal when making your own neem oil spray. Depending on the recipe you use, there are a number of essential ingredients, but there are also countless variations and takes.
The three main components of an efficient neem oil spray are water, neem oil concentrate, and an emulsifying agent. These ingredients, when properly combined, yield a powerful but all-natural pesticide that eliminates a range of indoor and outdoor bugs.
Here’s what you need to know about each ingredient:
- Neem Oil Concentrate: 16-ounce bottles of this product are the standard packaging. It is a thick, dark-colored liquid that shouldn’t be applied to plants unless it has been greatly diluted. Foliage damage is probably what will happen if you apply the concentrate directly to plants. Additionally, it is wasteful because the diluted form of neem will last a lot longer and cover a lot more ground.
- Emulsifier: Water and oil do not mix well, as most people are aware. A simple definition of emulsion is that you add something to water and oil to enable them to mix. However, emulsion is actually a complicated chemical process. Neem oil will separate from the water if neem oil and water are added to a sprayer without an emulsifying agent, resulting in an ineffective spray.
- Water: There is no need to use filtered water when making a neem oil spray. That will work just fine if you simply fill a 16-ounce spray bottle or a 1- or 2-gallon sprayer with water from your faucet.
There are many secondary ingredients that people like to add to their recipes in addition to these essential ones, including garlic, mint, molasses, hot peppers, and even seaweed. This garlic-mint recipe is one that I enjoy, especially if you want to keep spider mites away from indoor houseplants.
My personal preference, however, is for a neem oil spray that is both a) very easy to make and b) very effective. Because I want to make and use my spray as quickly as possible so that I can spend my extra time doing things I love—both in my garden and with my family—I’m not interested in boiling, cooking, or blending different secondary ingredients.
Due to this, I enjoy my recipe. Neem oil spray can be prepared in just five minutes, after which I can get to work.
Before I go into more detail about each step of the process, here’s a quick step-by-step overview of what it takes to make the perfect neem oil spray, with a recipe below for both 16-ounce bottles and 1- and 2-gallon sprayers:
- You’ll need a lot less spray if you’re only treating a few indoor house plants than if you’re treating many garden beds, so gauge the size of your issue.
- Pick an applicator: I suggest using a 16-ounce bottle for indoor houseplants. For lighter applications, you can either purchase pre-made neem oil sprays like Captain Jack’s or Natria, or you can make your own using the recipe I’ve provided below, which I’d strongly suggest because it’s much more affordable. You should buy a 1- or 2-gallon spray bottle like those offered by Chapin or Vivosun for outdoor applications because you’ll need more coverage.
- Choose your neem oil: There are numerous products available. Verdana Neem Oil and Bliss Neem Oil are products I’ve used.
- Choose your emulsifying agent: Mrs., I favor Dr. Bonner’s. Almost any mild soap will work, such as Meyer’s or Safer Brand. There are better, natural alternatives available; if at all possible, stay away from dish soaps like Dawn.
- Fill your sprayer with neem oil, then add water: The emulsifier should not be added before the water. If you do, as you fill the sprayer with water, a lot of soapy foam will be produced, and you may end up with a mess on your hands or need to wait a little while for the foam bubbles to stop.
- Add the emulsifying agent, then mix thoroughly: You can shake the bottle as much as you like to thoroughly mix the ingredients after they have been added and the bottle has been sealed.
A few words about applicators: You can buy a 16-ounce spray bottle or just reuse one that you already have at home. Whenever you reuse spray bottles, just be cautious. The bottle must have undergone a thorough cleaning. I only reuse bottles that originally contained organic cleaning solutions after thoroughly washing and re-washing them several times to make sure they are clean.
A 1- or 2-gallon sprayer (or both) is much better to purchase for outdoor plants. If you’ve never used them, they might seem a little intimidating, but I can assure you that they’re incredibly easy to use.
(I recently bought a number of inexpensive Scotts sprayers, but I don’t really like them. The 1- and 2-gallon markings on the side of the bottles are so faint that I had to go over them with a sharpie. The wands don’t stay attached to the bottles very well.)
The sprayers listed below are the ones I favor. You’ll spend $5 to $10 more per bottle than the cheap ones you’ll find at the big box stores, but you’re going to be using these spray bottles for years, so you might as well get one that won’t cause future headaches:
- Chapin 1-Gallon Sprayer
- Chapin 2-Gallon Sprayer
- Vivosun 1.35-Gallon Sprayer
- Vivosun 2-Gallon Sprayer
I have several spray bottles because I prefer to combine the same ingredients in one sprayer—whether it’s for neem oil sprays, insecticidal soap sprays, or organic fungicide sprays—rather than continuously combining various substances in a single sprayer.
Whatever sprayer you prefer, here’s my simple recipe for three popular sizes:
My preferred neem oil concentrate, Verdana Neem Oil, is not particularly unique. Although I’ve used other brands in the past, including Neem Bliss and Captain Jack’s, I still buy Verdana because it has great concentration and is frequently one of the more affordable options available.
However, as long as you buy a high-quality neem oil concentrate and use my recipe, you’ll be fine.
When it comes to emulsifying agents, you’ve got plenty of options, but I’ll list my top three:
- a castile soap such as Dr. Bonner’s
- a dish soap such as Mrs. Meyers
- an insect-killing soap such as Safer Brand
To be honest, I favor Dr. Castile soap with mint from Bonner’s. It is a powerful emulsifier in addition to that. It also contains mentha arventis, an essential oil that has been shown by researchers to have certain larvicidal and mosquito-repellent qualities.
Many people mention mixing dish soaps, such as Dawn, into their insecticidal sprays. Dawn will certainly function, but I don’t advise using it because, first, there are more effective, less expensive options available, and second, because Dawn contains certain ingredients (ethylene oxide, sodium lauryl sulfate, and others).) that In my garden, I don’t want you.
The items I’ve listed above are only marginally more expensive than Dawn, and they’ll ensure that your neem oil spray is as secure and all-natural as it can be. Why not use them?
How Often Should I Use Neem Oil?
When, how, and how frequently you spray neem oil on your plants must all be done with great care and consideration.
Neem oil should be applied in the late afternoon or early evening, usually between the hours of 6:00 PM and 8:00 PM. The oil will harm the plant’s foliage if applied too early in the day. Late application will result in reduced visibility, which will raise the possibility of incorrect use.
I like to apply neem oil to my plants as late in the day as I can while still enjoying full visibility, so I can’t give a specific time because the sun will set at different times depending on the season and your location.
But figuring this out on your own is simple. Set an alarm for 30 minutes before the sun sets to remind you to go outside and spray your plants before it gets too dark. All you need to do is keep track of when the sun sets.
Don’t undervalue the value of an alarm, particularly if you’re dealing with a spider mite infestation. Missing an application merely gives the spider mites more chances to procreate and continue eating your plants.
How Should I Use Neem Oil?
The neem oil spray for spider mites only functions when it comes into direct contact with the pests. To disrupt their hormonal and biological systems, you must cover them in the spray, in other words.
Neem oil will dry within a few hours, unlike diatomaceous earth, which will remain on the plant until it is washed off and may hurt insects that happen to fly over or land on it; this is why it will take several applications to control spider mite infestations. This is another reason why it’s crucial to use it in the late afternoon or evening. So that the plant won’t suffer damage when temperatures rise the next day, you let the spray dry overnight. This only applies to plants that are exposed to direct sunlight, so it is not really a problem for indoor houseplants.
Make sure your sprayer nozzle is set to a cone or mist setting before you start applying. Neem oil spray can be shot, but it will only reach some parts of the plant while missing others, so you don’t want to do that. The foliage of the plant should be completely and evenly covered.
Spider mites are notorious for adhering to the undersides of foliage and in the folds of curled leaves, so you must spray both the tops and bottoms of all leaves to prevent this. If you don’t spray all of the surface areas of your plants, there’s a good chance that spider mites will survive the spray, survive, and continue reproducing, as I’ve mentioned in other posts on this blog about what spider mites look like and how they spread between plants.
Now let’s be clear: Unless your problem is with a single small plant, you will not be able to achieve 100% coverage across all affected plants in a single day. Instead, you’ll need to plan regular, thorough applications of your neem oil spray in order to catch any spider mites that evaded earlier applications at some point over the course of a week or two.
How Frequently Should I Saturate My Plants?
Check out my article Can Plants Recover From Spider Mites for a thorough overview of the strategies I’ve created to stop spider mite infestations. What You Should Know
But here’s a simple sketch of my approach:
- I spray my plants with insecticidal soap (up to 6 days) and neem oil (for one day) every day for four to seven days if there is a light infestation.
- Because they can quickly get out of hand, I become more aggressive with moderate infestations. I spray my plants for 10 days straight, alternating between insecticidal soap sprays (8 days) and neem oil sprays (2 days).
- For more severe infestations, I trim all dead foliage, and spray my plants for 16 straight days, again alternating between insecticidal soap (12 days) and neem oil (4 days) sprays. Some people might find this a bit extreme, but if you have an advanced infestation, your garden likely contains thousands or even tens of thousands of spider mites. To stop their spread, you’ll have to become more aggressive.
Neem oil spraying for several days in a row has been suggested, but I don’t follow that advice. Every four days, I usually spray neem oil. I’ve found that using a combination of neem oil and soap sprays in addition to an aggressive application strategy has produced the best results when I’ve battled spider mite infestations.
What Is The Price Of Neem Oil?
Whether you decide to make your own spray from scratch or purchase a pre-made one will have no bearing on how much you ultimately pay.
Pre-made sprays usually cost $10 for 24- to 32-ounce bottles, which equates to between $.31 and $.42 per ounce. Two of the more popular, available sprays are:
- Captain Jack’s Neem Oil Spray
- Natria Neem Oil Spray
- Safer Neem Oil Ready to Use
However, you can save a significant amount of money if you’re willing to spend a short amount of time making your own neem oil spray. A 16-ounce neem oil concentrate will cost $18 to $20, but it’ll make approximately 16 gallons of neem oil spray (yes, gallons!). You will only pay $.009 to $.01 per ounce for this product, which is about 40 times less expensive than the pre-made sprays.
In other words, unless convenience is your top priority, avoid purchasing pre-made items. You can make a spray that works just as well as any pre-made product for a lot less money if you follow my recipe and spend five minutes combining the ingredients for your preferred sprayer (16-ounce, 1-gallon, or 2-gallon).
Now that you know how to make your own neem oil spray, read the information below to find out more about spider mites.
What Bugs Does Neem Oil Kill?
Neem oil generally has a killing effect on a wide range of insects, so you should spray your plants in the early evening when pollinators aren’t as active as they are during the day.
Sprays made from neem oil are most effective against pests with soft bodies, including aphids, cucumber beetles, gnats, grubs, mealybugs, thrips, white flies, and nymphs of all kinds.
It usually doesn’t kill bees, but it can harm other beneficial pollinators like butterflies and moths. Neem oil sprays have been advertised as having the ability to kill squash bugs, stink bugs, and even leaf-footed bugs, but in my experience, this is generally only true of these insects when they are in their nymphal stages.