17 Ways To Tell Spider Mites From Aphids (With Pictures)

by | Aphids, Insects, Mites

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With so many small creatures that attack plants, it can be difficult to identify which pest you’re fighting off. If you’re here, then it’s probably because you need to tell the difference between spider mites and aphids.

Spider mites are smaller than aphids and it’s very difficult to see single mites with the naked eye. Both come in different colors, like green, white, brown, or red. Spider mites make webs on plants, while aphids drop a sticky substance called honeydew that attracts ants.

Luckily, there are many ways to tell the difference between spider mites and aphids, which can damage or even kill your plants. It’s important to know which one you’re dealing with because you need to use different methods and products to kill each.

Differences between spider mites and aphids

Picture showing a spider mite next to an aphid for comparison

The table below gives a list of all the differences between spider mites and aphids, so you can tell which one is invading your plants.

SPIDER MITESAPHIDS
Tiny at 1/50th of an inch long – difficult to see one spider mite alone with the naked eyeSmall at 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch, but can see single aphids with the naked eye
Red, brown, orange, white, or greenGreen, white, black, brown, yellow, gray, pink, or red
Not an insect but an arachnid (cousin of spiders, ticks, and scorpions)Insect
8 legs6 legs
No antennae2 antennae
Oval-shaped, with a wide midsectionPear- or teardrop-shaped, with the head and midsection narrower than the abdomen
No tail or tubes on abdomenA tail-like extension and 2 tubes called cornicles at the end of the abdomen
Found mostly under leavesFound often under leaves, but also on new shoots, flower buds, and soft stems
Colonies make webs across leaves, flowers and the stems of plantsAphids drop a sweet sticky substance called honeydew
Ants do not seek out or care for spider mitesAnts farm aphids and are often seen nearby to eat the honeydew
Lay eggs on the underside of leaves, on bark, or in webbingLay eggs in clusters or rows on leaves, stems, and in the soil (root aphids)
Larvae that hatch from eggs are colorless and have 6 legs (2 less than adult spider mites)Nymphs hatch from eggs and are smaller versions of adult aphids
No wings, but spider mites do float on the wind from plant to plantWhen the seasons change or a plant gets overcrowded, winged aphids are born. They can fly or float on the wind to move around
Bite leaves on the underside, causing white spots on the tops of leaves and holes where they bite through. Eventually, leaves turn yellow and fall offSuck the sap out of tender parts of plants, causing stunted growth, leaves to yellow and wilt, and flowers to become deformed and fall off. Eventually the plant dies
Prefer hot and dry conditions, with some wind. Most active in late summer when temperatures are between 48 and 111 °F (9 – 44 °C)Most active in late spring when it’s warm but not too hot at around 65 – 80°F (18 – 27 °C)
Don’t bite humans or petsThere have been reports of aphids biting people
Killed with miticideKilled with insecticide
© Backyard Pests

If you want even more info, click here for the full post with 13 ways to identify aphids in your yard or indoor plants.

Pictures of the differences between spider mites and aphids

Below are many pictures that will make it even easier for you to tell the difference between spider mites and aphids.

Pictures of the different bodies of spider mites and aphids

Photo of a single spider mite with labels showing the mouthparts and 8 legs

Photo of a single aphid with labels showing the narrow head and mid-section and the wider abdomen

Pictures showing what young spider mites and aphids (nymphs) look like

Photo of hatched spider mite larvae with labels to show colorless larvae with 6 legs

Photo of a green female pea aphid with labels to her long legs and tail-like projections

Pictures of the signs of damage caused by spider mites and aphids

Photos of leaves showing spider mite damage, including white spots and holes in leaves

Closeup photo showing deformed green ash leaves from an aphid infestation
Source: Adapted, with thanks, from the original photo taken by Steven Katovich, Bugwood.org

Photo of black sooty mold growing on healthy leaves

Pictures showing a spider mite web and an ant farming aphids

Photo of a spider mite web around a rose's flower, leaves and stem

Black ant drinking honeydew from an aphid

How to get rid of spider mites

If you’ve found some spider mites on your plants or started to see signs of damage and you want to try eco-friendly and effective natural control methods, here are my top recommended tips and products from Amazon to get the spider mites under control quickly:

  • Keep watering your plants well so they don’t experience dehydration and stress – spider mites attack plants that are stressed and weak. Make sure you also water down the plants’ leaves, to keep them moist and clean. Spider mites love hot and dry conditions as well as dust, so watering plants down regularly can help to prevent spider mites.
  • As soon as you spot some spider mites, release live ladybugs or predatory mites into your yard. These beneficial bugs and mites eat spider mites, and will move on when all the spider mites are gone.
  • Keep the area on the ground around your plants clean and free from leaves and debris. Mites and insects love laying eggs in debris like this and you could end up with more than one infestation.
  • Use this insecticidal soap spray to kill the mites on contact, which means you must spray it directly onto the mites for it to work. This spray works best for indoor plants or when spider mites first appear. It isn’t very effective on major spider mite infestations, which we’ll talk about next.

For a major spider mite infestation with plant damage, you’ll need to use products designed to combat this problem and apply these products once a week over the course of several weeks. Spider mites reproduce quickly, and your first application might kill the adults but the larvae and eggs are still alive and ready to attack again. Several regular applications will ensure that you kill all the generations in the colony.

Spider mites quickly build up a resistance to pesticides, so it’s best to get two or three different products with different active ingredients. Alternate the product you use each week for the best results. Whatever you choose, spray it when the sun starts setting so you don’t kill bees and other beneficial insects.

Below are the top four products from Amazon that I recommend you alternate for the best results:

  • Mite-X is a great natural spray that has the following active ingredients: botanical cottonseed, clove, and garlic extracts. It works for major spider mite infestations on indoor and outdoor plants, if you don’t need to cover a large outside area.
  • Captain Jack’s brew gives you dead bugs – dead spider mites that is. The active ingredient is a natural bacteria called Spinosad and it’s approved for organic gardening. This product makes a great addition to your spider mite attack.
  • This Malathion concentrate is very effective for a major spider mite infestation outside. It soaks into the plants’ leaves and kills spider mites and anything else that eats the leaves for the next 7 days. It doesn’t soak into the flowers, so beneficial insects and pollinators like bees and butterflies are not killed by this product.
  • Neem oil is a great spider mite egg killer and is a good option to alternate with two of the other sprays above. If you want to add products with neem oil as their active ingredient, try this ready-to-use Bonide neem spray or this Rose RX spray (which isn’t just for roses).

Best products to get rid of aphids

If your backyard or houseplants are plagued by aphids, here are the top recommended products from Amazon to get rid of these pesky insects:

  • Bonide Ready-to-Use Insecticidal Soap Spray: This is an option for indoor and outdoor plants, including houseplants, citrus, ornamentals, fruit trees, and vegetables. The spray must make contact with the aphids to kill them.
  • Bonide Rose Spray: Don’t let the name fool you – this spray isn’t just for roses. It kills all life stages of aphids on roses, flowers, potted plants, indoor plants, ornamentals, shrubs, fruits and vegetables, and more. It also kills sooty mold and prevents fungal attacks.
  • Houseplant Insect Control Granules: These granules can be used on houseplants, flowers and roses, but not on any edibles like fruits and vegetables. The granules are highly recommended for potted plants or plants in containers and raised beds.
  • Food-Grade diatomaceous earth: Sprinkle this all-natural, organic product on your aphid-infested plant and around the bottom of the plant or tree. When aphids walk over the diatomaceous earth, it cuts them and kills them, yet this is not harmful to humans. Be sure to use this earth when it is dry, and sprinkle more after it has rained.

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MONIQUE

Monique loves gardening and spending time in her backyard, where she grows flowers, succulents, herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

Monique spends a lot of time researching how to protect her backyard from harmful pests and trying to attract beneficial insects and animals.

She shares everything that she learns and tests here at Backyard Pests.