If you’ve noticed tiny white bugs in soil around your lawn, flowers and shrubs, then you have soil mites! Here’s everything you need to know about these insects, including how to get rid and prevent them.
How to Get Rid of Tiny White Bugs in Soil
Gardening is one of the most hand-on hobbies and you need to stay constantly vigilant over the health of your plants, lawn and even your soil.
If you’ve noticed tiny white bugs in soil that you have dug into or disturbed, then it’s time to take action! Here’s what to do about an infestation.
What are These Little White Bugs in Soil?
These are soil mites! They are difficult to see with the naked eye but if you look closely, you can see they are about the size of a pinhead and look a bit like very small ticks or spiders.
There are many different types of soil mites, but none are harmful to people or animals. In fact, they are thought to be beneficial to the soil, helping to break down organic matter and supplying useful nutrients to plants through their feces.
The most common type of soil mite is the oribatid mite, which is commonly found in wooded areas and are drawn to decaying wood, leaves and compost.
What Causes Soil Mites?
Soil mites will appear wherever there is a god food source for them, and they can also arrive in compost, potting soil, and topsoil.
If they bother you, then you need to remove their food source and they will go away. This means clearing away any compost or decaying organic matter.
What is the Difference Between Soil Mites and Spider Mites?
Soil mites are very different from spider mites. While soil mites are generally considered beneficial and only eat decaying plant matter, spider mites are sap-drinkers that feed off live plants.
You can spot a spider mite by looking at the leaves of your plant. You can wipe the leaves of your orchid with a white paper towel. If red-brown streaks are on the paper, you have an infestation.
Soil mites will only live in the soil, while spider mites are found on the leaves and stalks of plants. They appear as tiny white or yellowish insects and leave behind a distinctive soft, silken webbing on the plant leaf.
The plant will also start to wither and die, so it is essential that you treat a spider mite infestation quickly with a general-purpose insecticide for about 64 days to kill the adults and eggs.
Are Soil Mites Harmful to Plants?
Generally speaking, these are not a garden pest – instead, there are known to be a beneficial insect. They only eat decaying organic matter, so they don’t harm plants at all.
However, they can reproduce very quickly and if they are infesting a houseplant or specific area of your garden, you may want to get rid of them.
Do Soil Mites Bite?
There has been no study showing that soil mites can bite or that they are harmful to humans or animals.
Although they look like tiny spiders or ticks, they only eat decaying insects and plant matter.
How to Control Infestations of Tiny White Bugs in Soil
A garden or yard is an eco-system and keeping it in balance is key to preventing and controlling infestations of soil mites or any other types of insect or pest. Some tips include:
Maintaining your lawn
A regularly mown and aerated lawn helps prevent the soil below from getting too much shade and moisture or holding decaying plant matter, making it a less appealing space for soil mites. We have a great guide to maintaining your lawn!
Clearing and Cleaning Your Garden
The best way to prevent or get rid of soil mites is to keep your backyard clear of old organic matter.
This is the primary food source for these mites, so clearing away leaves, old clippings, branches and dead plants will help keep them away.
Remember to clear your gutters as well!
Using a Compost Bin
If you home compost, then you will likely have soil mites. However, having a dedicated, closed compost bin will help control the soil mite population and prevent it from invading your entire garden.
Look at our best 2023 compost bin reviews
Do Not Overwater
Overwatering your lawn and garden causes waterlogged soil that kills plants and increases the volume of decaying plant matter in your garden.
Water only when the top layer of your soil is dry and try help your garden drain better by aerating the lawn, decreasing the clay content of your flower beds, or adding a rain garden.
An all-purpose insecticide can be used to kill soil mites and get rid of tiny white bugs in soil, but this should be a last resort as insecticides kill indiscriminately and are very harmful to the environment.
A more eco-friendly solution is to make a mix of 5 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid to 1 gallon of water. Spray this onto the soil and affected plants every day until the soil mites are gone.
Getting Rid of Tiny White Bugs in Houseplant Soil
Soil mites can be unpleasant visitors when they get into indoor and outdoor potted plants. Here’s what to do about these small white bugs in soil.
Remove old potting soil
White soil mites live in the top layer of soil, so you don’t have to completely re-pot the affected plant. Remove the top 2 inches of soil completely and discard.
Remove all dead leaves and decaying organic matter, being thorough but gentle with your plant’s root system.
Repot your plant with fresh soil
Always use new, fresh potting mix when repotting a plant, as this will be free of soil mites.
Soil mites can easily get into open bags of potting soil and lay lots of eggs, so if you use this you may end up infesting your plants yourself.
Spray your plant
These mites are tiny, and their eggs are invisible so there is always a chance that you missed some! We’ve put a few eco-friendly insecticide spray recipes in this article for you to try.
3 Eco-Friendly, Plant-Friendly Insecticide Spray Recipes
These sprays are easy to make at home and are safe for the environment, people and pets!
Mix 5 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid to 1 gallon of water and add to a spray bottle. You can spray this onto the soil around your plant daily until the mites are gone.
Take about 4-5 cloves of garlic, crush lightly and leave in 1 gallon of water for 72 hours. Spray this onto the soil until the soil mites are gone. Not recommended for indoor use unless you love the smell of garlic!
Mix 1 teaspoon of cinnamon with 4 cups of water. Leave for about 24 hours and then pour it onto the soil of the affected plant 2 times a week. You can also use cinnamon oil.
Does Cinnamon Kill Soil Mites?
Cinnamon is a great organic insecticide that will kill soil mites and their eggs. Apply a spray of 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder (or a few drops of cinnamon oil) in 4 cups of water and apply to the soil twice a week.
Now You Know What to Do About Those Tiny White Bugs in Soil!
I hope this article helped you better understand what soil mites are, their role in the environment and what you can do about an infestation.
Using a compost bin as well as maintaining and clearing your garden and gutters is the best way to keep soil mites under control.
Remember, these are harmless and beneficial insects that feed off dead plant matter and compost, and if they get out of control there are plenty of effective and eco-friendly ways of getting rid of tiny white bugs in soil!