Thrips or Spider Mites? How to tell the difference - Free the Tree (2023)

Thrips or Spider Mites? How to tell the difference - Free the Tree (1)Free the tree content

Thrips or Spider Mites? How to tell the difference - Free the Tree (2)

Are you dealing with spidermites or thrips?

The signs of thrips and spider mites are very similar, making it pretty difficult to see the difference between Thrips and spider mites. Since they both feed on the chlorophyll present in the leaves, they leave small white spots on them which is generally why they are confused.

Apart from that similarity they actually have nothing to do with one another, they’re not even in the same family! Thrips are insects and spider mites are part of the Arachnid family.

Spidermites vs Thrips - Table of content

Differences between Thrips and Spider Mites

Similarities between Spider Mites and Thrips

Which is worst?

What are the difference between Thrips and Spider Mites?

The main difference within the symptoms of spider mites is the way the white (or grayish) marks appear. With mites the white marks appear mainly along the main-rib and veins of the leaves whereas with Thrips it will be randomly distributed.

This is due to the fact that the mites live under the leaf and the thrips move around (or fly around) on the top of the leaves.
Let’s get into the differences in detail:

Impact of Mites and Thrips on your plants



  • White bite marks are randomly spread out on the leaf
  • Live on top of the leaves. By looking closely you can see them crawling around.
  • Spreading can occur randomly across the plants.
  • White bite marks are centered along the main rib and veins of the leaves
  • Live under the leaves.
    The best way to see them is placing a white paper under an infested leaf and tapping on it.
    If you have spidermites you’ll see things (eggs and mites) fall on the paper.
  • Spreading occurs by touching leaves or nearest plants.
LOCATION ON THE LEAVESAbove the leaves.Once Thrips are big enough by looking close enough you will be able to see them crawling around.Below the leaves– Spider mites live under, lay eggs and die under the leaves. It’s very hard to see individual mites but by looking under the leaf you can notice the black dots.
WEBBINGNo.Yes– Webbing will appear under the leaf at first. Once the colony is well developed it will spread to the buds.
Here’s a step by step evolution
INFESTATION METHODWhen they can fly they will do so from one part of the room to the next.
If they are not able to fly than they will crawl from leaf to leaf or by going down one plant and up to then next.
From leaf to leaf or by crawling down the plant and up the next.
FLIGHT POSSIBILITYSometimes– Depending on the specie thrips are able to live.
Generally the one’s that invade Marijuana cultures have the ability to fly.
This is the main reason why you’ll notice random spreading making you think “how the hell did they get there”.
No– Spider mites being a part of theArachnidfamily they cannot fly.

Thrips lay their eggs within the soft tissue of the plant.

This isn’t damaging to the plant itself but protects the eggs.

Mites lay their eggs within the webbing under the leaves or across the bugs, depending on the size of the colony
HATCHING PERIOD2 to 7 days, depending on the specie3 to 5 days, depending on the specie
LIFESPANDUp to 45 daysMost species live between 14 and 21 days
SIZEBetween 0.5 mm and 1.5 mmUnder 1.0 mm

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What are the similarities between Thrips and Spider Mites?

Thrips and Spider mites actually have a couple things in common, whether it’s where they feed or the environment they live in.

Similarities between mites and thrips

ENVIRONMENTThey both enjoy hot and dry environment. Over 25°C (77°F) and under 30% Humidity.
FEEDINGSpider mites and Thrips feed on the chlorophyll within the leaves of the plant.That is the reason why you can see the white spots
HIBERNATION PHASESThrips born in late summer will go into diapause until spring time where the specie can thrive again.Spider mites eggs on their end can stay in hibernation mode for months until they are waken up.On top of that eggs can develop resistance to treatment methods, producing some super un-killable spider mites.
TREATMENT METHODSAs long as your spider mite colony hasn’t developed an immunity, all mainstream organic or chemical pesticides are effective on both (ex: neem oil).

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(Video) Thrips: Identification and Killing! My Current Treatment for Thrips and Spider Mites

Spider Mites or Thrips – Which is worst?

If you’ve been following up on ourgrow journalyou’re aware that we’ve been battling an infestation; At first we thought it was spider mites but now we’re positive it’s Thrips(How to tell the difference? Here’s our guide).

The signs of both these little suckers are actually extremely similar, showing small white marks on your leaves, some more impacted than others. Luckily the actions to get rid of both are pretty much the same, but we’ve covered all that in our guide linked above.

EASY TO KILLNo– Depending on the type they can develop resistances, making them so hard to killYes– A repeated treatment will do the trick
IMMUNITYYes– Very strong capability to develop resistance to any treatment.
To know more aboutspider mites check out our in depth guide
No– Thrips are not known to immunize themselves.
Barely– Since they live under the leaves and measure
between 0.5 mm and 1 mm they are very hard to see
A little easier– You can spot them moving around above
the leaf or flying around. They get up to 1.5 mm and white or
black depending on the stage of life making them easier to see.
Strong –Spider mites are know to be very resistant
to most organic or chemical treatments.
On top of that as we said further up they will develop an
immunity very quickly.
Low –Thrips will die on the first time you spray them. This issue
lies with the eggs, that’s why it is important to respray every 3 day
at least 3 times.
Very High –Spider mites are one (if not the) of the most
feared Marijuana Pests and for good reason.
They eat away the chlorophyll of the leaves
Medium/High– The direct danger to the plant is actually about the same
since Thrips attack and finish by killing you leaves. Furthermore once
they’ve developed enough they actually fly around from plant to plant.What really reduces their danger is the fact that you can treat the
infestation fairly easily. Remember to spray every 3 day at least 3 time
after the first application.
High– In optimal conditions and without and treatment
in a month there can be over 800 000 individuals!
Prevention and Early Action is key.

Medium/High– Once thrips have matured and are able to fly they will invade you grow space quickly.

Once they’ve hatched in the soil they will develop themselves on that plant. Once they’re
able to they will fly to the next plant, feed on it and then lay eggs in that soil.

With that we’ll let you make you mind, but honestly with experience on both, much rather thrips than spidermites (although thrips can be a head ache also)

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Alright folks that’s it for this one ! Hope it was useful and you now are able to spot the differences between both pests

Until next time, be safe and grow easy

About the author

Thrips or Spider Mites? How to tell the difference - Free the Tree (5)


Plant Lover is Free the Tree's founder and a passionate grower of plants.Mostly from the city, I work on my computer all day so about 4 years ago, on my off time, I started growing to have some more green in my life.I never imagined I would fall in love with botany and discover so much about this plant. Since then I keep learning everyday, meeting new awesome people of our community and which keeps me growing constantlyYou can always get in touch with me on our Instagram!

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Thrips or Spider Mites? How to tell the difference - Free the Tree (6)


Thrips or Spider Mites? How to tell the difference - Free the Tree? ›

The difference is thrips do not build webs, but if spider mites are present, webbing is noticeable, especially on the underside of leaves where the leaf and stem meets (Photo 6). Thrips and spider mites are able to quickly reproduce or flare up, which leads to difficulties in their management.

What do mites look like on trees? ›

Signs and Symptoms of Mites

Foliage that is speckled. Leaf drop. Tiny web-like structures. Mottled or discolored needles on conifers like pine, spruce, and hemlock (Needle loss can occur in severe infestations)

How do I know if my plant has spider mites? ›

The first thing you're likely to notice is patterns of silvery dots or stippling on the leaves of your plant. Looking closer, you will see small, delicate webs in corners of stems or underneath leaves with what look like tiny white dots scattered throughout. Those are spider mites!

What do thrips look like on leaves? ›

Thrips appear to be tiny dark slivers on your plants. It is hard to see their bodies well without a magnifying glass, but up close, they look a bit like lobsters. Shake them onto a white background in order to see them well.

How can you tell the difference between spider mites and predatory mites? ›

Predatory mites look almost identical to and are about the same size as spider mites. You can tell predatory mites apart from spider mites by their shiny, unspotted, more pear-shaped body, and longer legs that enable them to move much faster than spider mites – but you'll need magnification to see this!

Can trees recover from spider mites? ›

Plants can recover from spider mite infestations if proper time and attention is paid to both treatment and prevention. Removing infested plant foliage while treating plants with insecticidal soap and oil sprays will reduce spider mite populations considerably, giving plants time to recover. So that's the good news.

What does a spider mite infestation look like? ›

Spider mites will look like tiny little specs usually clustered around the stem of the plant on the underside of the leaf. This is an example of an early stage of infestation. If you look closely, you'll see the spider mites suspending in webbing.

What kills spider mites instantly? ›

Rubbing alcohol: The rubbing alcohol you have around the house also can kill spider mites. Soak cotton balls in rubbing alcohol and wipe across the foliage of infested houseplants. Let either the dish soap or rubbing alcohol sit on the plants for a few hours, and then rinse the leaves thoroughly with water.

Should I throw away plant with spider mites? ›

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!

Can a plant recover from thrips? ›

It can take a few months to fully rid your plants of thrips, but it is possible. So let's get into it! Ok, your very first step is to cut off all super damaged leaves and throw them away (do not compost).

Where do thrips hide? ›

Thrips are experts at hide-and-seek - especially hiding. In winter, the insect hides away in sheltered spots, in crevices, on plant waste, or in the ground. Their pupae are also concealed in the soil.

Do thrips leave webbing? ›

The difference is thrips do not build webs, but if spider mites are present, webbing is noticeable, especially on the underside of leaves where the leaf and stem meets (Photo 6). Thrips and spider mites are able to quickly reproduce or flare up, which leads to difficulties in their management.

How do I know if I have spider mites or spiders? ›

Spiders Or Spidermites? - YouTube

What Colour are spider mites? ›

Spider mites are tiny - almost invisible to an untrained, naked eye. To see them, you'll want an eye magnifier. They're around 1mm and are cream, yellow or red in colour.

What kills spider mites on trees? ›

When you're sure you have spider mites, treat your outdoor plants with Ortho® BugClear™ Insect Killer for Lawns & Landscapes to control them. You can also use Ortho® Fruit Tree Spray.

Will rain wash away spider mites? ›

Although rainfall reduces risk of damaging spider mite populations, thunderstorms alone will not eliminate infestations, particularly when rain arrives after large mite populations are established and when rain is followed by dry, hot conditions.

How do you get rid of tree mites? ›

Spraying the leaves and branches of your trees with a nozzle on your garden hose will dislodge the mites and wash them to the ground. They are not good climbers and will likely die on the ground. This is a quick, organic way to remove spider mites from your trees this winter.

What are the signs of mites? ›

Key points about flea, mite, or chigger bites

Symptoms may include small, raised skin bumps and pain or itching. There may also be swelling or blistering. Call 911 if you have signs of a severe allergic reaction. These include trouble breathing, tightness in the chest or throat, or feeling faint or dizzy.

Can you get mites from trees? ›

If you have been bitten by the oak leaf itch mite, you most likely got the mites from a tree with insects that the mites feed on. Sitting, walking, hiking, etc. under such a tree could expose you to the mites. Sometimes, the mites will be blown off the host tree and land on you.

What are the symptoms of mites? ›

Exposure to mites can lead to patches of small, red bumps on the skin accompanied by the following respiratory symptoms:
  • nasal congestion and sneezing.
  • itchy, red, or watery eyes.
  • itchy nose, mouth, or throat.
  • a cough.
  • chest tightness.
  • difficulty breathing.
  • wheezing.
May 6, 2020


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