Here are some snapshots of hydroponic basil growing in Thailand. Within a week I've had some pest, it looks like some tiny dark-red arachnids, spinning web on young leaves and crawling mostly on the underside of leaves. Their size is perhaps 1/4 mm.

Can you help me identify these? And how can I remove them in a health and environment friendly manner?

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Most likely a form of red spider mite, although these prefer hot, dry conditions, and you say you're growing hydroponically; this often means moist air, although not necessarily. Assuming it is spider mite, neem oil in a spray should do the trick, but it would be best to spray only one plant, or a few leaves, to see how the plant responds to the treatment. Neem oil spray can sometimes cause a problem for plants, especially if temperatures are high. It can also be used as a soil drench, but you're growing in water, and I'm not at all sure how the plants would respond if you added it to their nutrient solution.

UPDATED ANSWER: What spider mites do is pierce individual cells in the leaf surface to feed on the contents - this causes a brown speckled effect, and if penetrated often enough, the leaf yellows, curls and falls off. Given you're growing Basil, where you want to use the leaves, it's not particularly desirable to leave the mites alone. You can certainly try keeping the air damp and humid because they hate that, and a few spider mites won't kill an entire plant - the trouble is, they overwinter off the plants anywhere they can find, such as cracks in brickwork, etc, and come back with renewed vigour the following year; they are a real pest in greenhouses.

  • 2
    I agree, red spider mites. It's often a problem indoors, as the humidity is generally lower. Misting the foliage every day can help also, as long as there aren't plants nearby with fungal leaf diseases. :)
    – J. Musser
    Nov 1 '14 at 15:57
  • Are red spider mites doing any harm to the plant? Nov 3 '14 at 2:49
  • 1
    @Benjamin - see updated answer
    – Bamboo
    Nov 3 '14 at 15:42
  • Hi, I used neem oil and it seems that the plant itself was damaged by the oil (it got burned). May 23 '15 at 10:50
  • Definitively spider mites: The webbing on the yellow leaf in the middle of the first photo is clearly visible, once enlarged a bit.
    – Stephie
    Mar 22 '17 at 7:12

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