Spider mites fiddle leaf fig

An unexpectedly sweet use for fig leaves

In Dandelion & Quince, author Michelle McKenzie explores the uses of some non-standard herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Here, she tells The Splendid Table’s Noelle Carter about her tomatillo-inspired green fish stew and the unexpectedly sweet use she’s found for fig leaves.

Noelle Carter: In your book, you have an incredible chapter on fig leaves. I’m used to eating figs, but who knew you could actually use the leaves? Can you tell me a little bit about them?

Michelle McKenzie

Michelle McKenzie: Fig leaves are often used to wrap cheeses. Some people cook fish in them. If you rub a fig leaf between your fingers, you’ll get this amazing aroma of coconut, peat, vanilla, and green walnut. They impart that to the fish and the cheese.

A few years ago I started buying a lot of them and playing around with them, because I was addicted to this fragrance. I dried some and put them into spice blends. I tried smoking some, and I really loved how the smoke changed the quality. They kept some of that mint and sweetness and vanilla, but the smoke made them a little bit earthy. When I’m smoking fig leaves, I want to stand in my kitchen for hours until the smell dissipates. I have been grinding those smoked fig leaves up and powdering them with sugar, then making desserts out of them. They’re just phenomenal.

NC: Who would have thought of fig leaves and desserts?

MM: I know. I have a recipe for panna cotta in the book, plus one for smoked fig leaf cookies, which is my favorite shortbread recipe. It’s super easy to make, and those cookies stay good for a long time.

NC: I can imagine the fragrance of the cookies with the smoked fig leaves. One of the other ingredients that I’m finding in the markets right now is tomatillos. You have a whole section on tomatillos — using them raw, using them cooked. You also have this incredible recipe for green fish stew. How did you come up with it and what was the inspiration?

MM: When people think of green sauces, they think of a salsa verde or a pesto. Green sauces are also a great way to use up odds and ends of green onion tops and half a bunch of cilantro, and I had these tomatillos. I had made tomatillo jam and measured everything out for that recipe, but I had a few left over. I blanched them and blitzed them up in a blender like I was starting a salsa. Then I took it a step further and thought of a restaurant in San Francisco that has a green fish stew. I thought this sauce, thinned out with a bit of stock that’s been reduced, would be phenomenal with fish. It’s actually one of my favorite recipes in the book.

After the photo shoot, I had friends over and we all shared this massive pot of tomatillo stew with tortillas and a simple salad with radish, and it was wonderful.

NC: It looks so vibrant and colorful. The photos in the book are incredible, and the green fish stew is another one that I can’t wait to go home and try.

MM: It’s my favorite tomatillo recipe, by far.

Smoked Fig Leaf Cookies

Fresh FIGS & TASTY FIG LEAF TEA…and all its wonderful health benefits

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Fig Tree – Powerful Herbal Solution

by: Junji Takano

When I was a kid, I remember that there were several fig trees surrounding our house. Yes, we had a big garden, and we planted hundreds of medicinal plants as a hobby. Our grandparents used to dry leaves, barks and ripe fig fruits. Our family enjoyed eating sweet figs the whole year-round. We also used the leaves as herbal medicines.

Today, we rarely see fig trees in big civilized cities

In the Bible, there are approximately 67 references to a fig tree. This reminds me that since 2000 years ago, figs were popular around the world, and has been used medically since the ancient times.

I kept planting a few sticks of figs in my farm for the purpose of my old memories to inherit to my children and for generations to come.

What Are Figs?

  • It is a Mediterranean tree that is widely cultivated for its fleshy pear-shaped edible fruit.
  • It bears a fruit without flower.
  • It has a sweet taste and aromatic smell.
  • It is easy to harvest, eat and digest.
  • A ripe fig can be eaten fresh, dried, or preserved, and can be consumed as a juice or in syrup form.

Figs are considered the fruit of longevity because of its nutritious and medicinal leaves and fruits.

Figs for Preventing Cancer

Fig fruits contain the phytochemical “benzaldehyde”, which the Japanese were able to identify as an active ingredient found through the extraction of its juice, and is shown to have cancer-fighting capabilities. It is also shown to have an effect on the removal of “polyp”, a small vascular growth on the surface of a mucous membrane.

Figs for a Healthy Blood and Blood Pressure

Figs contain some carbohydrates that were proven effective in protecting the blood from bacteria, parasites, and many other viruses that cause blood diseases such as Hepatitis C.

Its potassium contents also help control blood pressure.

Figs as a Laxative

Consuming two fresh ripe fig fruits per day is effective for chronic constipation, diarrhea, and hemorrhoids. This is because figs contain laxative, particularly its sap. Figs also contain a special digestive enzyme called “Ficin” and carbohydrate “Pectin”, which help increase the viscosity and volume of stool.

Figs for Gout and Arthritis

Figs are beneficial in treating gout and arthritis because of its ability to dissolve uric acid salts resulting from too much consumption of red meat, which causes gout.

Figs for Skin Problems

Figs are also the largest source of “psoralen”. It is a compound useful for the treatment of skin disorders like psoriasis, vitiligo, and eczema.

Figs for Warts, Wounds and Ulcers

Figs contain germicides, and antiviral and antibacterial properties that help in removing warts on the body, including the healing of wounds and ulcers. It is also useful against tapeworm. This is done by applying the fig’s sap, which contains milky latex, to the affected area and covering it with gauze. Treating time is one to two weeks with everyday application.

Figs for Atherosclerosis

Fig works in preventing the oxidation of fatty acids. Thereby it helps suppress the generation of reactive oxygen species, and helps prevent atherosclerosis.

Other Health Benefits of Figs

  • Figs also contain substances that promote lactation.
  • It is helpful against inflammations of the respiratory tract, menstrual disturbances, convulsion, mouth ulcers, gum inflammations, tonsils and sore throat.

Use Only Ripe Fig Fruit

An unripe fig fruit is not only ineffective but it can be toxic and allergic reactions may occur. Also, if the figs are taken from the tree prematurely, the white milky fluid that discharges from the stem can transfer to a person’s hands, eyes or mouth. This fluid can be very irritating and should be washed away as soon as possible.

Grow Your Own Fig Tree Now…

A Fig Fruit is composed of…

  • 18.5% fibers
  • 53% carbohydrates
  • 3.6% protein
  • high percentage of water
  • several minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, iron, sulfur, zinc, chlorine, and sodium
  • many vitamins, acids, enzymes, gelatinous matters, and disinfectants

Interesting Trivia

  1. Fig trees were among the world’s first cultivated tree since the ancient times and are believed to be as old as mankind.
  2. Adam and Eve made the fig widely known after using the fig leaves to cover their nakedness.
  3. Plato documented that in Greece, Spartan athletes were said to eat figs to improve and increase their strength.
  4. Hezekiah, a Jewish King during 715 and 686 BC, was cured of a deadly plague by applying figs to the affected area.
  5. During the ancient times, cooked figs were used as sweeteners because of its high sugar contents (over 50%) and still being practiced today in many third world countries in Asia Minor.

About the Author:

Junji Takano is a Japanese health researcher involved in investigating the cause of many dreadful diseases. In 1968, he invented PYRO-ENERGEN, the first and only electrostatic therapy machine that effectively eradicates viral diseases, cancer, and diseases of unknown cause.
Click here to find out more: https://www.pyroenergen.com/
Free health newsletter: https://www.pyroenergen.com/newsletter.htm

How do I kill a fig tree?

The easiest way to kill any tree is to understand the botany of the tree. So please read below.
If you cut the plant off at the stem and look at it from the top you will see different layers of the plant. I’m about to explain to you what each layer is and how it plays a part in the growing of a plant.
Looking at the top of the plant on the outside is the bark. This is approximately 2mm(1/8 inch) thick. The bark is the protection for the plant, like the skin on a human being. Inside the bark about another 2mm(1/8 inch) thick there is a light green film called a cambium (Cortex)layer. This layer stores all the food and nutrients for the plant, like our fat cells (although I’ve never seen a fat plant). Under the cambium layer, we have the xylem and phloem. These are the feeding veins of the plant. The Phloem takes the nutrients up from the soil to nurture the plant and the Xylem take the nutrients and liquid (sugar) from the leaves (called photosynthesis).
Then all we have is dead wood (Pith). This is the centre of the plant which helps stabilise the plant but does not help with the plants growth. Often you will see old Oak Trees or Eucalypts with hollow centres where the dead wood has rotted away but the plant continues to live happily.
So to kill your tree you must with a sharp knife scrape away the bark approximately 2inches wide. It will go light green then white. Once it is white instantaneously paint glyphosate or a poison onto the area. You have to do it straight away as a wound forms over it like when we cut ourselves (not proven but in theory). Within a month you will see the tree looking sick.
Do this in a couple of places to get a good result

Fig is perhaps recognized as the oldest cultivated fruit in the world and is recognized to live longer 200 years. The fig tree is endemic to Mediterranean and south west Asia region and grows in theform of small trees and tall shrubs reaching a height of 10m along with robust and twisting branches extension. Fig tree survives more specifically in moderate humidity and higher altitudes in a chilled environment with low rainfall.

The fig tree is basically grown for the underlying purpose of shade and embellishment while its fruit is a rich source of minerals and vitamins and is used in confections as well as beverages and fig leaves serve as aherb fed for grazing animals. Fig tree roots damage and dislodge the native plants and choke them by forming thick clusters around.

Moreover, livestock owners also face difficulties due to deep root invasions as grazing animals find mature fig tree too tentalizing to eat. Invasive fig tree roots limit the litter ( fallen leaves fragments) from the ground surface area resulting in abandoned and bare soil. Aquatic animals are at a high risk of drastic water loss due to more evapotranspiration of fig tree roots as compared to other herbaceous plant species, causing soil erosion.

How deep are fig tree roots?

Fig trees possess shallow fibrous root system which later on provides anchorage and nutrition to the fig tree trunk. But regrettably,fig roots are highly invasive and extend beyond the limitations and covering of a tree laterally and vertically and trough the concrete in this way.Fig tree roots near house are robust enough to destroy the water infrastructure i.e, pipelines and foundations of house owners by growing and prevailing the roots beneath the soil and lifting the infrastructure upward. Fig tree roots are shallow in depth

How to get rid of Fig tree roots

To get rid of fig tree roots, killing the fig roots and using various herbicides for controlling their growth. Fig trees may also be planted in pots to keep the growth of roots structured and non-invasive. More effective and modernized way of controlling fig tree roots is to construct root barrier system between tree and cement so that roots can be guided away from infrastructure and cracking and lifting can be prevented. Root barriers are available in various sizes and shapes and are synthesized with recycled polymers.

High density verticle ribs root barriers are available in the various depths to cope with different situations and are specialized at carrying the fig tree roots away from infrastructure. Moreover, linear root barriers possess enriched thickened walls to protect infrastructure from root invasion. Verticle ribs can be modified and embellished with promising features such as tapered sides to prevent fig root damages towards infrstructure.Root barriers can also be used in combination with irrigation canals. Concerns regarding the installment of these root barriers are important to acknowledge as the success of the alleviating fig root disasters is highly dependent on the simplicity and selectivity of these root barriers.

image 1: Max Mossler; image 2: Wikimedia Commons; image 3: Gary Leavens

Figs in the Home Garden

Many gardeners successfully grow figs (Ficus carica) in New Jersey for many years. However, since fig trees are evergreen plants in warmer climates, some type of low temperature protection is needed. Figs thrive in areas where winter temperatures do not drop below 15° F. Young trees can be damaged by early fall frosts when the temperature is 25-27° F. In New Jersey, fig trees will lose their leaves at this time and must be prepared for the dormant season’s low temperatures to survive and flourish. One problem in New Jersey is that a fall frost often kills the second or late season figs before they fully mature. In the late winter, fig trees will begin their regrowth early and need continued protection until the temperatures moderate and danger of spring frosts has passed.

The fig is sometimes called a “fruit without a flower.” It does have flowers, however, that are borne on the inside of the fruit. Most fig varieties yield two distinct crops of fruit each year. The first crop or what is called the breba crop is produced on the previous year’s shoot growth; the second crop is borne in the leaf axils (where the leaf attaches to the stem) of the current season’s growth. This breba crop is generally not as high in quality but the fruit are large and for some New Jersey gardeners may be the only crop if the growing season is shortened by early fall low-temperature injury.

There are four types of figs: Caprifigs, Smyrna, San Pedro and Common. In New Jersey, the first 3 types are not planted or suggested because of poor quality or difficulties in pollination of flowers, setting of fruit and fruit drop. Peculiarities of varieties of these types will not be discussed in this publication. The Common type figs are recommended. There are over 600 varieties of Common type figs that can set and mature one or two crops of figs without pollination. First crop (breba) are generally few in number, but larger in size than figs of the second crop. Only a few of these more common varieties are described.

The varieties listed on the following page do not require pollination to produce fruit. However, fruit set and yield will be influenced by the methods in which they are grown, the time of year when conditions are safe to bring them out of a protected environment or uncovered, and other factors. Therefore, some varieties listed as two crop varieties may not produce two crops each year. Genetically the Mission, Kadota, and Alma varieties can yield both first and second-crop figs. Other varieties, such as Brown Turkey and Adriatic, produce mainly second-crop figs. The amount of pruning can affect the quantity of the fruit, whether first- or second-crop figs. For example, severe pruning often practiced on Kadota figs, grown primarily for canning, drastically reduces the amount of the first crop. Pruning plants combined with low temperature exposure will greatly influence cropping.

Adriatic Green with red to amber pulp Two crops – First crop light Medium Good quality, used for drying
Alma Greenish brown Two crops Small Good
Brown Turkey Light with large, purple figs.
Second-crop figs, greenish to purple with pink pulp.
Heavy producer Large Excellent tree ripened quality
Celeste Brown to violet with pink pulp One crop Small pear-shaped with long stock Widely grown in south. Good quality.
Green Ischia Bright green Medium Good but with objectionable seeds
Hardy Chicago Darkish red to violet black with red pulp Two crops Quite tasty at full maturity Did well in Chicago with its harsh winters but not as productive as varieties like Celeste
Kathleen’s Black Fig Dark violet to black with red pulp Two crops Slightly larger than Mission Rich, sweet taste;
May be the same Noire de Caromb
Marseilles Green with white pulp Two crops are similar Medium size Sometimes known as White Smyrna.
Large prominent seeds
Mission Both crops have purplish black with pink crop. Two crops Medium to large size Reliable producer
Excellent quality
Panache Green and yellow striped fruit to yellow when mature with pink pulp Two crops Medium size Good garden variety but only fair quality

Even with protection varieties vary in their ability to withstand low temperatures which affects their level of fruitfulness. Mature trees of Brown Turkey, Celeste, and Hardy Chicago (if properly protected outside) will survive winters when temperatures drop to 0° F. Planting on a wind-sheltered site is desirable if soil and weather conditions are such that leaves are held into early winter. However, the wood of even the most cold resistant varieties may be killed back to the ground by early winter temperatures of 15° F.

Trees should be insulated to prevent winter kill. There are many ways to protect these trees from severe cold. Trees should be planted close to a house or a backyard wall to insulate them from drying winds as well as extremely cold temperatures. Wrapping the trees in burlap or tar paper can also provide protection. Another method is to build a ‘cage’ around the tree with chicken wire and then fill the space in the cage with either hay or composted mulch. Some gardeners will grow these varieties in large pots and when the chance of low temperatures occur, move them to an environmentally controlled structure like a green house, or if dormant into a cool indoor structure like a garage. When trees are in pots the roots can be killed if subjected to freezing temperatures.



At the time of planting outside in the soil, cut off the tree to a height of 2 to 3 feet above the ground. During the first growing season, the new shoot growth that arises near the point of topping forms the structural or main branches. During the first dormant season, select three or four main branches that are evenly distributed around the trunk. Completely remove all other branches that arise from the trunk. Cut off the tips of the scaffold limbs about 3 feet from the trunk to encourage secondary branching, especially on varieties that tend to grow more vertically.

Continue to train fig trees during the first 5 years while the trees are increasing in height and spread. The main objective of pruning is to maintain tree growth in an upward and outward pattern by thinning out interfering branches and removing flat, low-growing limbs.

Prune mature trees during the dormant season by thinning branches and by slightly heading back long shoots to maintain tree vigor, shape, and balance. Remember, breba crop figs are produced at the ends of the previous year’s shoot growth. If you desire first-crop figs, leave some full length branches when pruning.

Failure to prune a fig tree results in a bushy-type tree that lacks vigor, tends to be susceptible to limb sunburn, and produces small figs of inferior quality. Prune enough to stimulate at least 1 foot of new growth on most limbs each year.

If the trees need to be protected from winter cold, other cultural practices are recommended to ensure a crop of high-quality figs. Most growers cut back their fig trees before wrapping. This isn’t necessary for plant health, but it’s much easier to wrap figs that have been “skinned” and reduced in height down to about chest level. Because of this annual cutback, figs in the North typically grow only 8 to 12 feet tall. Over time, they end up wider than tall as the roots send out new shoots around the perimeter.


Since figs are subtropical in origin, they can tolerate drier soils than many fruit trees when established. Newly planted trees need to be watered or irrigated to establish the root systems.

Irrigate figs occasionally to obtain good crops. If trees are growing and producing satisfactorily in the lawn or garden, additional irrigation may not be needed. Fig trees like most fruit trees cannot be planted in poorly drained soils.

Soils and Fertilization

Fig trees grow in all types of well drained soil between a pH of 6-7.5. Before planting figs in the soil, a test kit should be purchased from the local county office of Rutgers Cooperative Extension to get a soil analysis of the pH and major soil elements. When the sample is submitted to the laboratory the labeling should indicate that it is for fig growing and a recommendation for fig fertilization will be made with the analysis.

Figs respond well to nitrogen fertilization. After the first season, apply fertilizer in early spring so it can work its way down to the roots. Using ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate, apply ½ cup of fertilizer in the first winter and increase the amount by ½ cup each year until trees are 4 years old. Make sure the fertilizer is spread evenly around the periphery of the tree and is 1 foot away from the trunk. Additional nitrogen applications can be made based on desired amount of growth. Organic forms of nitrogen can be substituted with the same growth considerations.

Be careful not to encourage excessive vegetative growth by nitrogen over-fertilization because this delays ripening and reduces fruit quality. If mature trees are producing more than 1 to 2 feet of new growth per year, reduce or eliminate nitrogen fertilizer.


Fig trees on their own root systems begin bearing fruit at 3 to 4 years of age. Depending on variety, the fruits ripen successively from around mid-September through frost. Fruits turn from green to purplish-brown when ripe and are shaped like mini-pears of 1 to 2 inches in diameter. For best quality the fruit should begin to soften while on the tree. Pickers may want to wear soft gloves to protect the fruit and to protect the picker from the milky liquid that exudes from the stem and twig scars. A fig usually requires a strong twisting action to loosen the fruit from the stem. Alternatively, pruning shears can be used to carefully cut the fruit from the branch. Figs must be handled carefully to avoid skin abrasions and fruit damage since some varieties may crack easily when fully ripe.


Figs are typically grown on their own roots. They are propagated by taking dormant and semi dormant hardwood cuttings. To collect cutting from a fig tree the basal cut should be made just below a node. Cuttings can be taken from 1, 2 or 3-year-old wood about 9 inches long and pencil to no larger than ¾ inch in thickness. Cuttings should be from straight vigorous wood.

The cuttings are planted with the bases buried in the soil or other media, and with the very tops exposed to air temperature. They can be planted directly outside in soil with the tops protected or can be planted in a container of a good, well-drained soil medium. Cuttings, can be individually planted or in bundles of ten or less. They must be kept moist but well-drained and should root readily in a few months during the dormant season. Once they leaf out, separate them if in bundles, plant and water like any other plant that is actively growing. Protect young plants from low temperature injury.

Fig Problems

  1. Fruit Drop – Premature fruit drop can be caused by cool weather, insufficient irrigation, weak trees as a result of no pruning, or too much nitrogen fertilizer. Late-season figs that develop near the end of the branches, and late in the season, often dry up or drop because of insufficient heat needed to mature the fruit.
  2. Length of Growing Season – Remember that figs are subtropical; in New Jersey most fig varieties do not produce well due to the relatively short season. There is just not enough heat over the frost-free season to produce acceptable crops of high quality figs.
  3. Low Temperature Damage – To help trees overwinter they must be insulated. Wrapping the trees with either burlap or tar paper is recommended. An alternative is to ‘cage’ the trees with chicken wire and fill the cage with hay or leaf compost. Planting trees in the most protected areas around the backyard can also help to prevent winter kill.
  4. Insects – Fig trees and their fruit can be damaged by beetles, borers, mealy bugs, scale and stink bugs. Sanitation practices like removing susceptible plants of other species, high weeds, or severely damaged fig plants and leaves can help. Labeled insecticides can also be used.
  5. Disease – Fig Rust is a common fungus disease in the Southern United States. It infects newly developed and young leaves causing them to drop prematurely. Injured trees are more susceptible to low temperature injury. Control includes sanitation like removing infected leaves. Labeled fungicides are also available.
  6. Birds – Birds love figs. Follow accepted management practices for bird control like netting of trees or scare devices.
  7. Deer – Deer love the young leaves and shoots of fig trees. Follow accepted management practices like cages, fencing or other accepted management practices.

December 2012

Copyright © 2020 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. All rights reserved.

For more information: njaes.rutgers.edu.

Cooperating Agencies: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and County Boards of Chosen Freeholders. Rutgers Cooperative Extension, a unit of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, is an equal opportunity program provider and employer.

How to Get Rid of Spider Mites on Your Fiddle Leaf Fig

Every fiddle leaf fig owner fears spider mites.

These tiny insects can wreak havoc on your poor fiddle!

With spider mites, you want to catch them early before the infestation spreads and takes a serious toll on your plant.

Spider mites aren’t actually spiders, but they are a type of arachnid similar to ticks. They suck the juices out of the leaves, which can cause discoloration and shriveling. They like to go after the new, tender leaves first. Many fiddle leaf fig owners mistake a spider mite infestation for edema, so make sure to look closely to see if the dots are moving! Not good!

Spider mites are also tiny. They often look like tiny brown, black, or red dots that could just be edema or a slight overwatering problem, until, upon closer inspection, you notice the dots are moving. Your plant can accumulate a ton of these pests before showing damage, but by then, the problem is much harder to get rid of.

They travel by air, using their webbing to catch breezes to other plants, so it’s important to keep infected plants away from your other houseplants. All it takes is a short breeze from an open door or fan for spider mites to spread from one plant to another.

Quarantine your affected plant to prevent spider mites from spreading to other plants. Closely inspect any new houseplants before letting them near your current houseplants (especially your fiddle!).

Signs of Spider Mites on Your Fiddle Leaf Fig:


Spider mites are spiders, after all, and they spin webs on your fiddle leaf fig’s leaves, stems, and trunks. They usually don’t leave webbing in the soil, however.

Examine your tree closely for soft, cottony webbing. Spider mites especially like the undersides of leaves, so check those leaves, top and bottom!

Small, Clustered Dots on the Leaves

One of the most tell-tale signs of spider mites are small, dark red or brown dots on the leaves. These are the insects themselves, so look closely with magnifying glass to see if the dots are moving.

This might also indicate where the spider mites have started to snack on your fiddle leaf fig’s leaves!

How to Get Rid of Spider Mites on your Fiddle Leaf Fig

So what happens if you do find spider mites on your precious fig?

How do you get rid of the little buggers?

Good news! As far as pests go, spider mites are actually pretty easy to get rid of. All you have to do is get them OFF the leaves, and they don’t attach themselves to leaves like scale or other insects.

Our favorite way to dislodge spider mites is with a jet of water. You can try a hose on spray mode if you have a lot of insects, but if you’ve managed to catch the infestation early, all you need is a kitchen syringe or something else that can spray a focused jet of water. Even a Super Soaker might work if your aim is good!

Take your fiddle outside or put it in the sink or bathtub and spray those little dark dots until they’re gone. Done!

If your infestation is severe, you may need to prune heavily affected leaves and carefully throw them away before they spread.

You can also use a Neem oil product or diluted neem oil on a cotton swab to kills eggs.

If you still have trouble with spider mites after trying the usual methods, try these suggestions from the University of Colorado.

Spider mites are a real problem, but they’re fairly simple to handle.

To ask questions and chat with other fiddle leaf fig owners, join our community on Facebook.

Spider mites look like tiny white spiders that create webs on houseplants, and they are extremely destructive pests. It can be difficult, but don’t worry, you can get rid of spider mites on indoor plants, and eliminate them FOR GOOD! Simply follow these natural spider mite treatment methods.

What Are Spider Mites?

Spider mites are tiny bugs that can attack many different types of plants, and can be a major problem on indoor plants. Often times they look like tiny white spiders on plants, but can also appear to be tan, red or black.

They create telltale spider webs on houseplants, which they use for protection and to crawl around on. Since they are so small, spider mites aren’t noticeable until their population explodes.

You’ll likely notice the spider webs on plants first, and then see the mites when you take a closer look. It will look like there are tiny spiders crawling all over your plant.

Spider mites thrive in warm, dry conditions and can become a major problem during the winter, when your dry house becomes the perfect breeding ground for them.

If you see small bugs crawling around in your houseplant soil rather than on the leaves, then you might have fungus gnats instead of spider mites. Here’s how to get rid of fungus gnats in houseplants soil.

Otherwise, if the bugs are crawling around on the plant leaves, and you see spider webs on houseplants, then keep reading…

Spider mites look like tiny white spiders on plants

Indoor Plant Mites Identification

Spider mites are easy to identify, and finding spider webs on plants is a dead giveaway. They tend to start their webs on the underside of leaves and at the leaf joints, so that’s why they usually go unnoticed for so long.

They are sneaky little suckers. Like I mentioned above, they are difficult to see, and usually by the time you discover them on a houseplant, it’s already been heavily damaged.

You might notice the whites spider web on plants first, or the plant leaves may just look dusty. From a distance, the houseplant might look like it isn’t getting enough water and the leaves are drying out.

If you notice any of these, take a closer look. Hold the plant up to the light and look under the leaves. It may take a minute, but you should be able to see the tiny mites moving around on the fine webbing.


Spider Mites Webbing and Bugs

Spider Mite Life Cycle

Spider mites multiply very quickly and, in the right conditions, can double their population every couple of weeks.

Spider mites become fully grown about a week after they hatch. It only takes a few weeks for an adult female to lay hundreds of eggs, and for those eggs to start to hatch, resulting in exponential population growth in a very short amount of time.


Since the eggs are invisible to the naked eye, and the adults are minuscule, most people don’t discover spider mites on their houseplants until after the population has exploded.

Webs and spider mites on houseplants

Where Do Spider Mites Come From

The tricky part about mites is that they can come from anywhere, and you’ll probably never know where they came from in the first place. But, here are several common places where spider mites can come from…

  • Buying a new plant that has mites
  • Repotting plants with unsterile potting soil
  • Moving your plants outside for the summer
  • Flowers and vegetables brought in from your yard and garden
  • Since spider mites are so small, the could easily come in through the screens of open doors and windows

Spider Mite Damage On Houseplants

Spider mites are one of the most destructive houseplant pests. They can heavily damage or even kill a houseplant in a very short period of time.

They suck the sap out of the leaves making them look discolored, speckled, curled under, dried or shriveled up. The infested leaves will shrivel up and die, and usually fall from the plant, which will ultimately kill the houseplant.

Spider mites can kill indoor plants pretty quickly, so it’s important to take fast action to get rid of them as fast as possible.

Spider webs on plants is a sign of spider mites

How To Get Rid Of Spider Mites On Houseplants

Once you discover the infestation, it’s super important to begin spider mite treatment immediately, before they spread to the rest of your collection.

The first thing you should do is to quarantine the infested plant and inspect all surrounding houseplants for mites. You want to contain the problem immediately.

There are chemical pesticides that are specifically designed for mites. But spider mites may develop resistance to them in a short time.

So, I don’t recommend them (plus these types of chemicals are toxic to humans and pets, so I wouldn’t recommend using them anyway).

It’s best to use safer pest control methods and products to get rid of mites on houseplants. You can learn more about natural pest control for your houseplants here.

Below you’ll find the best methods that will work for treating a spider mite infestation on your houseplants…

Spider mites on indoor plants

Spider Mite Treatment For Indoor Plants

The best way to avoid heavy spider mite damage to your houseplants is to start treating the plant as soon as you discover the pests.

As soon as I notice the spider webs on my plants, I bring the plant to the sink or bathtub and wash the leaves with my homemade spider mite insecticide soap. Then I rinse the plant well to wash away as many of the dead mites as I can.

After cleaning the leaves, I use a variety of home remedies for spider mites, and all of them are very effective for controlling plant mites indoors.

Keep in mind that pesticide sprays, even organic ones, can damage sensitive plants, so it’s best to test it on a few leaves before spraying the entire plant.

Also, be sure to focus your sprays on the undersides of the leaves, this is where spider mites lay their eggs.

Spider Mite Insecticide Soap

To kill mites on plants, use an organic insecticidal soap, or mix a solution of my homemade spider mite insecticide soap (recipe below).

My homemade spider mite insecticide soap recipe:

  • 1 tsp of mild liquid soap
  • 1 liter tepid water

Mix the ingredients in a spray bottle and then spray directly the leaves of your houseplant. This homemade spider mite killer is great for getting rid of the bugs right away.

Homemade spider mite insecticide spray

Use Neem Oil For Spider Mites

Neem oil is very effective to control spider mite infestations long term, and also works for pest prevention as well. I like to buy neem oil concentrate, and make my own spray for mites on plants using the recipe below.

While neem oil does kill bugs, it can take some time to get rid of spider mites, so I use it after washing the leaves and spraying the plant with insecticidal soap first. Neem oil is great for long-term spider mite control.

A pre-mixed horticultural oil or hot pepper wax spray also work very well for controlling spider mites on houseplants by repelling them.

My homemade neem oil spider mites spray recipe:

  • 1 1/2 tsp of pure neem oil concentrate
  • 1 tsp of mild liquid soap
  • 1 liter of tepid water

Use neem oil for controlling spider mites indoors

Keep Humidity Levels High

Since spider mites thrive in dry conditions, keeping the air around your plants humid is one of the best spider mite pest prevention methods. Ensuring your plants are properly watered is important to keep them well hydrated.

Misting houseplants regularly helps to prevent spider mites. You could also try leaving a container of water near the plant, or use a humidifier to help keep the humidity up around your plants.

If it’s really dry in your house, then I recommend getting an inexpensive indoor humidity monitor so you can be sure the air around your houseplants isn’t too dry.

Getting rid of mites on plants by misting them

In addition to washing and spraying the plant, you can trim off heavily infested leaves and throw them into the garbage to get rid of even more of the spider mites and eggs.

Be sure to throw the infested leaves into the garbage outside of your house! Don’t prune all of the leaves from your plant though.

How To Prevent Spider Mites From Ever Coming Back

Keeping your plants healthy, and maintaining adequate soil moisture are two of the best ways to prevent spider mites on indoor plants.

A soil moisture gauge is a great tool to use to figure out how moist the soil is, and ensure you’re watering your plants properly.

Here are a few other tips for getting rid of spider mites for good…

  • Mist sensitive houseplants regularly, and keep the humidity level high around the plant
  • Use neem oil as a preventative spray or as a leaf polish to keep your plants leaves clean
  • If you move your plants outdoors for the summer, be sure to debug all of your houseplants before bringing them back indoors

They key to getting rid of spider mites for good is good houseplant care habits, and keeping your houseplants healthy. Healthy houseplants are the best way to prevent recurring problems with spider mites and other houseplant pests. Also make sure you check your houseplants on a regular basis for any signs of problems.

If you’re sick of battling bugs on houseplants, then my Houseplant Pest Control eBook is for you! This eBook is jam-packed with information about how to get rid of bugs on indoor plants, using organic pest control methods. It shows you how to identify common pests, and how to prevent recurring infestations so you can debug your houseplants for good.

Recommended Products

More Information About Plant Pest Control

  • All Natural Pest Control Supplies
  • How To Use Neem Oil Insecticide On Plants
  • How To Get Rid Of Houseplant Bugs Naturally
  • Where Do Houseplant Pests Come From?
  • How To Get Rid Of Whiteflies On Indoor Plants, For Good!

Share your tips for how to get rid of spider mites indoors in the comments below.

Big on Figs

In Indonesia, one nutritious fruit is the wild fuel that runs the rain forest

  • Margaret Kinnaird
  • Jan 01, 2000

The sun has barely risen over the sea, but its hot rays are already bathing the steamy forests of Tangkoko Nature Reserve on Sulawesi Island in Indonesia. The morning is heralded by a cacophony of wild calls and screeches in the forest canopy above me. It seems every animal in this small reserve is converging on an enormous fig tree. I have been watching this tree for weeks, and now its entire burden of fruit­­ – between 400,000 and 600,000 figs – ­­is ripening all at once. The bounty attracts birds and mammals from all directions to partake in a feeding frenzy.
But why, in a forest that harbors hundreds of different types of fruiting trees, is this fig so irresistible to so many forest creatures? This is the question I came here to answer.
I have been fascinated with figs ever since my first encounter with them as a five-year-old dissecting Fig Newtons in my parents´ Kentucky kitchen. Back then I was delighted with the flavor of the gooey paste squeezed between soft pastry and intrigued by tiny seeds that peppered the dark brown fillings. Now, some three decades later, I´m still captivated by figs, but this time as an ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, studying the role of figs in rain forest ecosystems.
I knew that if I could figure out why figs are irresistible to the denizens of Sulawesi´s forests, I could shed some light on why so many other tropical animals around the globe also relish them. Figs are consumed by everything from tiny ants to 2-ton elephants. Our closest relatives, chimpanzees, crave them. Even a bear cuscus, a woolly marsupial found in Sulawesi´s forests and normally a leaf-eater, won´t turn down a succulent fig.
I wondered if this wide appeal is simply due to the abundance and diversity of fig trees. There are more than 600 species of figs in the Tropics, making them the second-largest group of woody plants in the world. Many of these are in the Indo-Malay region. Sulawesi (also known as Celebes), an island in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago, alone boasts more than 100 species. The island´s figs grow in locations as diverse as rocky shores, mountain tops and even the cracks in older buildings in the provincial capital of Manado.
Tangkoko Nature Reserve is the perfect place to study figs. In my 1,000-acre research area, there are about 37 species of fig trees with a density of about 5 trees per acre­­the highest fig density recorded in a Southeast Asian forest. Despite the profusion, it´s not difficult to tell the figs apart. Some species look like a typical tree, with a single trunk growing from earthbound roots. Others, known as strangling figs, look more like a confusing maze of roots and tendrils than a real tree.
The fruits span the spectrum from creamy white to blue black, and range in size from tiny pearls to golf balls. (Technically, these aren´t really fruits, but a collection of inverted flowers surrounded by a fleshy, bulbous structure with a tiny hole in the end.) Some sit on thin pedestals or dangle from the tips of twigs; others perch directly on branches, lined up like kernels on a corncob. Some even droop from branches in graceful clusters stretching more than 2 yards. My favorites protrude like cauliflower heads directly from trunks.
Strangling figs are the most abundant fig trees in Tangkoko and the easiest to differentiate from other trees. They have an upside-down approach to life, beginning as seeds deposited high in the canopy by a bird or monkey. The seeds germinate in nooks and crannies of other trees and send delicate root tendrils downward. Once the roots reach the ground, they develop into woody, ropelike structures that begin to surround the host, and slowly fuse and harden. As a strangling fig grows, it takes on the appearance of a coil of ropes, binding its host in a tight, and sometimes deadly, embrace. The host tree´s bark is often crushed and critical fluid supplies are cut off by the fig´s deadly hug. In time, some figs­­like the one I´m standing under­­become free-standing trees with an internal framework mirroring the form of the long-dead host.
Above my head the noise level escalates to that of a New York City intersection at rush hour. Scores of sleek, black mynas, an assortment of tubby, green fruit pigeons, a few tiny parrots hanging upside-down and a legion of stately red-knobbed hornbills pummel me with discarded bits of cherry red figs.
While these raucous animals busily gulp down the fruits, I begin my day´s work. Scanning the tree´s half acre of branches with my binoculars, I estimate about half the fruits are still green­­ – so the site promises to be even more chaotic in a few days when the entire canopy is ripe. I troop on to investigate the fruiting status of the other 155 fig trees that are part of my regular monthly round.

From my studies, I know that the presentation, color and size of fig fruits influence which animals feed on what, and when. Fruits displayed on the tips of branches are available primarily to small birds­­ – the flowerpeckers, mynas and delicate, hovering sunbirds that can feed on the wing. Heavy-bodied hornbills and monkeys can only feed on these figs if they can reach them from a safe seat in the canopy. Figs that grow on trunks tend to be snatched by large, dog-faced fruit bats that might have trouble negotiating the web of branches and twigs in the canopy. Fruits close to the ground are gobbled by babirusas (forest pigs), deer and other earth-bound animals.
Color seems to provide important clues to the ripeness of the fruit. I often see Sulawesi red-knobbed hornbills cocking their heads from side to side while scrutinizing a light orange fig, then hopping to another branch to select a deep red one. I also see hornbills pass up small-fruited figs that would draw doves and pigeons in by the hundreds. Because hornbills pluck fruits then toss their heads back to swallow each morsel, feeding can be time-consuming for small rewards­­ – especially since the birds´ aim is not always exact and they tend to drop the fruits. Big figs don´t seem to pose an obstacle to any animals – ­­the fruits are so soft that even the golf-ball-sized figs can be pecked, ripped and torn by small creatures.
As I approach my next fig tree, I recognize Rambo, the name that my coworkers and I have given to a group of Sulawesi crested black macaques that we have followed for several years. Three jet black juveniles are dangling by their back legs, their long top-knots falling forward as they reach to snap off branches laden with light pink figs the size of small beads.
One monkey swings back into sitting position, the ends of the branch grasped in both hands, and begins to gnaw on it like someone enjoying corn on the cob at a Sunday picnic. Stopwatch in hand, I count the number of fruits he gobbles down – ­­he clocks in at a record 140 fruits per minute! Meanwhile, several satiated females descend the tangled network of roots on this strangling fig and find a cozy spot to nap.
From my research in Tangkoko, I´ve learned how important figs are to Indonesia´s wildlife. It rarely takes the monkeys more than two days before they locate a fruiting fig. Then, if the tree is big enough and full of ripe snacks, the monkeys spend hours in its boughs. They casually munch fruits, stop to groom and nap, then wake and resume feeding. On average, about 20 percent of the monkeys´ diet is made up of figs. Red-knobbed hornbills are even more hooked on figs than macaques. Figs make up 85 percent of the fruits delivered by males to nesting females and chicks. To these animals, fig trees are like the McDonalds of the forest­­one on every corner and always open.
Other researchers have speculated that figs are important to rain forest animals because the trees tend to produce bountiful crops that ripen quickly, creating one- to two-week fruit bonanzas. Figs also tend to be available when there is little else to eat. This is because fig trees – ­­even those belonging to the same species­­ – follow individual schedules and rarely fruit at the same time. Unlike mangoes and other tropical fruits, a diverse community of fig trees provides food year-round.
But the volume of figs offered every month of the year did not explain why they were so highly preferred over other foods. Even when other trees provided temporary eating opportunities, Tangkoko´s fruit-loving birds and mammals still targeted figs. Perhaps figs contained some important nutrient? I knew from prior work in East Africa that figs are packed with carbohydrates, a major source of energy. But no one had looked into their nutritional value. So I contacted Ellen Dierenfeld, an expert in animal nutrition at the Bronx Zoo, and asked her for help. She agreed to analyze the nutritional and mineral content of Tangkoko´s fig and non-fig fruits. My task was to collect every fruit I could get my hands on.
For more than a year I gathered figs­­ – mostly those that had been dropped to the ground by messy birds and macaques. But sometimes I was forced to steel my nerves and climb into the canopy for a sample. As I searched under one fig that was bearing a full load and found no fruits on the ground, I realized that I´d have to climb.
I slipped between two telephone-pole-sized roots and entered a hollow chamber created by a long-lost host. The latticework formed by the strangler´s interweaving trunks provided a perfect ladder and I scurried up 130 feet to the top. From this lofty perch, I peered out at the patchwork of green treetops that blankets the slopes of Mt. Tangkoko and ends about a mile to the north in the sparkling Sulawesi Sea. Locking my feet between the roots and bracing my knees against a horizontal branch, I cautiously reached out, plucked 10 ripe figs and dropped them into plastic film canisters.
As I lingered in the cool breezes of the rain forest canopy, a slight movement in the shadows caught my eyes. Suddenly I realized I was staring into the gremlinlike face of a spectral tarsier. These primates are no bigger than a coffee mug but their enormous eyes, sensitive ears, large teeth and rotating heads create a devilish image that more than makes up for their small size.
Tarsiers don´t feed on figs, but the trees still play a crucial role in their lives, serving as bedrooms. Nearly every big strangler in Tangkoko is occupied by a family of tarsiers. The primates sleep in the branches by day and descend to the lower canopy to hunt insects by night. Mates give eerie, ear-piercing calls as they return to tuck into bed, and these demonic cries are, in part, why local villagers believe fig trees are haunted.
I descended the tree, my collection of fruits now complete. I sealed the various bottles, vials and canisters full of preserved figs and then shipped them off to the Bronx Zoo. Several months later, I received word that an important fax from Dr. Dierenfeld was waiting for me in Manado. I hopped into my battered Land Cruiser and began the four-hour journey around the mountain and across the tip of Sulawesi´s northern peninsula to the city.
The results were in­­ – and brought some surprises. Our tests revealed that figs are an important natural source of calcium, critical for strong bones and eggshells, blood clotting and numerous cell functions. Figs have, on average, nearly three times more calcium than nonfig fruits and contain calcium levels higher than minimum dietary requirements for growing primates. Several fig species contain enough calcium to support a hen laying 300 eggs a year. The results were so exciting that Ellen tested fruits from South America and Africa and found that Tangkoko was not unique­­ – the pattern held around the world.

At last, we had found the answer to the question that brought me to Tangkoko. I now knew that figs are irresistible to so many forest denizens not only because they are plentiful and provide enormous quantities of food year-round, but because these succulent fruits in all their various sizes, shapes and colors provide an essential nutrient.
On my way home I mused about how figs benefit from their relationship with fruit-eating birds and mammals, since few associations in nature are one-way. Fig-eating animals get a nutritious treat and, in return, figs get free transport for their seeds­­ – complete with fertilizer. I imagined the millions of fig seeds dispersed through the forest by big-tusked babirusas or dropped from the canopy by far-ranging hornbills and macaques.
In the larger scheme of things, fig-eating animals drive the cycle of rain forest regeneration, and even help construct all those beds for tarsiers. The web of interdependency in the forest, I realized, is as intricate as the roots of a strangler fig.
Margaret Kinnaird is a biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society. She lives in the Indonesian rain forest with her husband, biologist Tim O´Brien. Roving editor Tui De Roy and her partner, Mark Jones, spent two months with the author climbing fig trees and photographing the wildlife that depends on their fruit.
Of Wasps and Figs
One of the smallest rain forest residents to use the fig may actually be the most important. Tiny fig wasps spend most of their lives inside fig fruits and are solely responsible for fig pollination. The saga begins as female wasps wriggle into an unripe fig through a small hole at the end and lay eggs in developing flowers inside. As the females search for egg sites, they pollinate the flowers with pollen carried from the fig where they were born. Mission complete, the females die. Their young hatch just as the fleshy part of the fig begins to ripen. Within hours of hatching, mating begins. Then males bore out of the fig, only to die shortly thereafter. Females then exit and disperse, sometimes as far as 7 miles, to find another fruiting fig where they repeat the cycle.

Are figs really full of baby wasps?

Most commercially grown figs are pollinated by wasps. And yes, edible figs wind up with at least one dead female wasp inside. But it’s still not quite the childhood myth of fruits squirming with insect meat. It’s all part of the mutually beneficial relationship that exists between fig wasp and fig plant.

A few points worth remembering about the wasp content:


1. When a female wasp dies inside an edible fig, an enzyme in the fig

called ficin breaks down her carcass into protein. The fig basically digests the dead insect, making it a part of the resulting ripened fruit. The crunchy bits in figs are seeds, not anatomical parts of a wasp.

2. Fig farmers want to keep the number of wasps entering edible figs to an acceptable minimum. While the insect’s cooperation is mandatory for the fig to ripen, too many wasps entering will result in over-pollination. Then this fig might be filled with so many seeds that the fruit-like syconium bursts open. While this is good for the plant, it hurts the finished harvest for farmers. To prevent this, farmers separate male and female trees over great distances. Farmers also supply a controlled number of new wasps, often delivered in paper sacks, to dictate exactly how many females have access to a given plant. This means fewer wasps inside when the time comes to harvest.

3. It’s also important not to get too bent out of shape over the possibility of accidently eating the occasional insect. Even with the use of modern pest control, insects partially contaminate most agricultural products upon harvest and on the way to market. From canned corn to curry paste, from premium coffee to peanut butter, most foods contain insects. For example, when tomato ketchup qualifies for the highest USDA grade standard possible, it’s required to contain no more than 30 fruit fly eggs per every 100 grams (3.5 ounces) .

For some people, no amount of explaining is likely to suffice. Some vegetarians and vegans refuse to eat figs and fig products based on the possibility of insect content. The dead wasps in question, however, were just playing their vital ecological role. There are 900 species of fig wasp, and each is responsible for pollinating one or two species of fig plant. Without these tiny insects, there would be no figs — and vice versa.

For more information on figs, wasps and other fascinating plant and insect relationships, check out the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


Keeping Birds from Eating Figs


How can I keep the birds from eating the figs from my trees?

Hardiness Zone: 9a

CC from Texas


Covering your fig tree with bird netting is the only way to guarantee birds won’t fly off with your fig crop. Netting is widely available online and at garden centers and hardware stores.

Depending on how high your fig tree is you could also try erecting a teepee over your tree made out of monofilament line. Some studies suggest erecting a pole near the center trunk of your tree and running monofilament line (fishing line) from the top down to stakes on the ground is enough to give birds the impression that there is an impenetrable barrier around the tree. The line is run down from the top of the pole at two-foot increments all around the tree to create a sort of teepee effect. Personally, I think throwing a net over the top of the whole thing seems easier.


I’ve also seen a garlic spray advertised (www.garlicbarrier.com) that is supposed to be effective at repelling birds, insects and various small critters from fruit and nut trees. I have not personally tried it, but I think it looks interesting. Let me know if you decide to try it and it ends up working. If you can figure out the ratio of garlic to water perhaps you could make or own. Mylar streamers, CDs, eye balloons and cats are other short term measures effective at warding off birds.

If you don’t already feed them, I would suggest setting up some feeding and water stations for birds and squirrels in a part of your yard away from your tree-at least during the time your figs are ripening. This might be your best overall strategy. Animals and birds will almost always choose easy food and water over having to work for it, thereby leaving your trees alone.



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