Mint Pests: Identification and Removal
Mint. It's the garden herb that's practically a pest itself. With the ability to thrive in less-than-desirable conditions, mint is best known for its ability to establish quickly and spread fast. If left uncontrolled, mint will take over garden beds and suppress the growth of competing plants.
With growth as speedy and as strong as mint, it may come as a surprise to hear that there are several pests that can really set it back. So, if your mint is growing slow or less than exuberant, it might be that a pest is behind the problem. This article will cover the proper identification and natural removal of common mint pests.
Signs of Mint Pests
Luckily, if you're cultivating mint and something goes wrong, the signs of pests are quite clear and distinct.
- Leaves Speckled with Yellow Spots & Thin Webbing—Spider Mites
- Small Winged & Wingless Insects on Leaves—Aphids
- Missing or Large Holes in Foliage—Loopers
- Clusters of Small Holes in Foliage—Flea Beetles
Identification and Removal
Below you'll find descriptions and techniques for elimination of the pests commonly associated with mint damage.
The mite associated with causing mint damage is the Two-Spotted Spider Mite. These small (~3-4 mm), translucent-colored pests live on the undersides of mint leaves and generally cluster towards the tops of new growth. Thriving in hot and arid conditions, spider mites cause damage by piercing tiny holes in leaf cells. They'll make their presence known by causing speckled discoloration on leaves and leaving behind a thin webbing that is much like a spider's.
Removal: Spider mites can be tricky to remove due to their small size, but there are several processes that can be done to disperse and eliminate populations. The first step is to create an unfavorable environment. For small populations, soak the foliage thoroughly with plain water. This can be done daily until the mites are gone. For more serious infestations, the use of a Garlic Water or Hydrogen Peroxide treatment is highly beneficial.
Both the Alfalfa and Cabbage Looper are pests of the mint plant, with the latter being the more common of the two. Loopers are foliage-consuming caterpillars that reach 1–2 inches in length and are normally varying shades of green. They cause significant damage by consuming large portions of leaves and stems. Instead of being called a caterpillar or worm, loopers get their name from their unique 'curling' or 'looping' movement.
Removal: Since loopers are a larger insect, the best means for elimination is to hand pick them. If a large population of loopers exist, it may take up to a week to pick all of them. Just be patient.
Mint plants suffering from flea beetles are easily spotted, as the beetles will jump from the plant's leaves when disturbed. These small (~1.5 cm) beetles are a shiny black/bronze color. They cause damage by chewing small holes through the leaves. These holes will often show up in clusters.
Removal: If a mint plant is already infested with flea beetles, the most effective means for control is neem oil. Neem can be readily purchased at a variety of garden stores already mixed as a foliage spray. To control the further infestation of flea beetles, surround the mint plants with diatomaceous earth. Since seedlings are most effected by flea beetles, it is wise to cover them until they have established.
Of all the possible pests to feed off of mint, spider mites are the most serious. If a mint plant is infected with spider mites, a quick course of action should be followed. Loopers and flea beetles are really only an issue for seedlings and young mint plants. Thank you for reading my article on mint pests. Please leave any comments, questions, or suggestions that you may have.