Sometimes, you may notice a sudden cloud of minuscule, white insects in the soil around you outdoors. These creatures are not harmful to humans, like mosquitoes. In fact, these are harmless creatures, they do not sting you. And in fact, they have a really useful role to play in a healthy garden.
Read on to discover more about their purpose in your garden. And also how you can shift them to a place, where you two don’t have to meet in person.
Little white bugs in soil may indicate a problem with pests such as whiteflies, thrips, or aphids. To get rid of them, consider using insecticidal soap, neem oil, or horticultural oil. Another option is to introduce beneficial insects, such as ladybugs or green lacewings, that feed on pests.
What are the tiny, white bugs in my soil?
These harmless creatures are called Soil Mites and they do not harm you, humanity, your pets, or anything, apart from tiny almost microscopic life in your soil which they gobble up.
Think of them as a rescue party like the soil’s vacuum cleaners, eating up leftover waste products in soil.
However, you may not like them buzzing about you in your idyllic outdoor space. So, here are some tips about what they love and ways to tempt them into a less populated part of your garden.
Different types of soil mites and how to get rid of them
Some gardeners confuse harmless soil mites with red spider mites, aphids, and fruit flies. There is a massive difference! The most common soil mites called Oribatei, are often known as turtle mites.
If you see them up close, their shell-like body explains why! Close up, soil mites resemble small, white spiders with lots of legs and if you look carefully, you will notice them in soil, on vegetables, and flowers.
To differentiate them from the real garden pests, read on.
- Real pests like Red spider mites really do damage your plants, usually in the greenhouse.
- Aphids leave messy, sticky mildew on your plant’s leaves and sap goodness from your plant’s leaves but soil mites are the goodies!
- Fruit flies may drive you mad indoors if they sniff even an overripe banana there. Suddenly clouds of black insects fill your kitchen buzzing madly. These are annoying and long-lived indoors. Keep a netting on your kitchen door in summer to prevent them from getting in, in the first place.
Soil mites do nothing harmful to us humans or our pets.
In fact, they gobble up our dead plants, moss, leaves, and fungi and if they are attracted to your patio, it usually acts as a warning signal of damp or it means there is something you can clean up.
By removing anything they feed on, these mites will simply move on! Their favorite food could be anything from old, decaying leaves to rotting fruit or even the smell of food from a compost heap.
How can I get rid of soil mites?
Clean up anything decaying which they are feeding on! This is the main thing that attracts soil mites into your garden.
It may be a rotting piece of wood or some apples or pears that have fallen. Check corners where some leftover or discarded food may be lurking from a party or family celebration.
Gather up all your fallen autumn leaves to lure them away and make leaf mold from them, to fertilize your garden next year. See how to do this in the tips below.
Usually, it is the smell of something decomposing that attracts these mites to your garden. So make sure to close the lid firmly down on your compost bin after you fill it with the material.
Remove any obvious sources of moisture. Obviously, if you have an outdoor water feature or pond, this may be where the soil mites congregate. You can easily empty standing pots or jars which collect water though. This makes your garden a lot less attractive to soil mites.
Use dish soap. The mixture of dish soap and water kills red spider mites, aphids, and soil mites but remember that soil mites adore moisture too so don’t leave pools of water lying around for them to access.
Hot boiling water is dangerous for most living things so if there is an infestation of soil mites and you really want to get rid of them, this can work as a last resort. Simply our a kettle of hot water over them and they will be eliminated. There are also chemical pesticides available from plant centers too but try to remember that this insect is actually beneficial for your soil.
If you see white mites on your indoor plants, then take the plant outdoors. Then, let the plant to rest on a spot, far away from your door to allow them to leave politely. Ensure you have taken away the top inch of soil, any dead leaves, etc. Add a new top dressing of compost and carefully check the plant before you replace it inside.
Should I get rid of soil mites?
Remember that these are your free soil cleaners and do not treat them too harshly! If they annoy you by flying around your face, then try to move them to another part of your garden. Treat them as a call to tidy up any areas with rotting debris in your garden and then remove them. They should exit soon after.
Are they dangerous?
Nope. If these tiny insects really annoy you, you may associate them with insects like mosquitoes. These are worlds apart – soil mites are actually the angel of the garden, which cause you no harm and clean up any waste left lying around. Mosquitoes sting you and suck your blood and can transmit disease. Soil mites clean up your soil.
What attracts them to an area of my garden?
Moisture is often a reason – you may spot clouds of them close to a pond for example. Any decaying matter will lure in these insects too, so you will need to remove it all.
If it is decaying leaves, use them to make leaf mold – details below. If the soil mites are living on small pieces of rotting wood, these bits can go straight into your compost bin.
Do they harm my plants?
No, soil mites do not harm your plants at all. In fact, they are making nutrients available for plants to feed on.
Making free leaf mold:
- Gather up any fallen leaves or rotting material, to which soil mites are attracted. Put these in an old, plastic bag like an empty grow bag or compost bag.
- Make some holes to aerate it, then cram in as many leaves as you can and just leave them for a season.
- By spring, the leaves will have settled into a brown, crumbly mixture which will add humus to your soil or any pots in need of extra organic matter to retain moisture.
- If you place this bag far away from where you normally sit, the soil mites will find that and tend to stay in that area.
Unwelcome indoors soil mites:
Although they are beneficial insects, if they decide to visit your pot plants indoors, you won’t be too pleased. They often sneak in on a plant that you take indoors over winter.
So check carefully for any creatures before you take plants in for the winter. Change their compost completely if need be. Remember that they like moisture and decaying leaves so remove old leaves and do not let your indoors plant rest in a saucer of water.