If you have potted plants, you’re going to discover soil mites at some point. I wanted to learn more about how to get rid of potting soil mites, so I did a bit of research. In the process, I learned a lot of important information you need to know.
How to Get Rid of Soil Mites from Potting Soil
Soil mites are tiny creatures that live within the soil. They’re microscopic little bugs that most gardeners never notice.
In the garden, they’re virtually invisible unless you get up close and personal. But if you keep pots indoors, their presence may become more noticeable.
So how you get rid of them?
The most obvious solution is to use pesticides. Commercial pesticide products contain a bevy of chemical ingredients. The chemicals typically kill the bugs by damaging their nerves.
As a result, many pesticides work on even tiny bugs like the soil mite!
You can also opt to use organic pesticides. If your pot holds a vegetable or fruit plant, organic is the way to go.
These pesticides have natural substances that won’t harm you or your plant.
Whatever you use, apply it sparingly. It doesn’t take much to kill soil mites. Apply a fine mist, focusing on the soil.
Use Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a fantastic alternative to chemical pesticides. It can kill most insects as well as their eggs.
Using hydrogen peroxide solution is simple. Just use a 3-percent solution to apply a fine mist over the soil. Stick to a 3-percent solution. Anything higher than that without proper dilution will just burn your plants.
If you’re worried about the effects of hydrogen peroxide on your plants, don’t fret. The chemical compound breaks down into water and oxygen, which your plant can use.
Use Natural Deterrents
If you want to take a natural route, you can use food-based deterrents. Many garden pests, soil mites included, do not long strong smells.
They abhor things like garlic and cinnamon.
Use those ingredients to make a liquid cocktail. Or, just place the ingredients on the soil directly. That should be enough to drive them out!
Keep Your Pots Clean
Soil mites seek out the rotting organic matter.
They feed off of things like dead leaves, moss, and anything else that’s slowly decomposing.
The best way to eliminate and prevent soil mites is to keep your pots free of debris. Pick up any fallen leaves or sticks.
Sift Out Decaying Matter
To take things a step further, you can sift out the soil completely.
If you see mites on the surface of the soil, there’s a good chance that a whole lot more are living underneath it. These pests are scavengers and will dig to find any rotting matter they can find.
Carefully remove your plant. Give it a good shake to get rid of any soil. You can then rinse the roots off and set it aside as you work.
Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift out any chunks of organic matter. You might find some pieces of leaves, rotted roots, and more. Work the soil through the sieve multiple times. Then, replant your pot.
Move Your Plant to Fresh Potting Mix
If you’re still dealing with soil mites, you might as well just start fresh.
Now, there’s no guarantee that a new bag of potting mix won’t have mites in it. In fact, there’s a good chance that it does!
To avoid mites, stick with sterile potting mix. It goes through a treatment process to kill any pathogens and bugs. You can also attempt to sterilize soil yourself, but it’s much easier to just use a bag you find at the local garden center!
How Can You Identify Soil Mites?
Take a walk out to your backyard and see if you can spot any mites. Chances are, you won’t see any. That’s because these insects are microscopic!
They’re so tiny that just 100 grams of soil can contain as much as 500 mites in them. But you would never know because they’re so difficult to the naked eye.
So, how do you identify them?
About Soil Mites
Soil mites are anthropods. They belong to the same family as spiders and ant. Like those insects, soil mites have multiple legs. The difference is, obviously, size.
Mites in your soil barely get to be a millimeter in size. You might be able to see if you look closely. Most live under the surface of the soil. However, they occasionally move to the surface if new plant matter starts to decay. This is especially true in a compost heap.
Typically, they look like tiny slow-moving white dots.
But to truly appreciate their appearance, you’ll need to use a microscope.
Types of Soil Mites
There are over 20,000 identified species of soil mites. Scientists believe that upwards of 80,000 could exist in the world.
The most common type of soil mite you’re going to encounter is the Oribatei. In addition to dead plants, Oribatei feeds on fungi, microscopic worms, and dead insects.
These mites get to be about a millimeter long and have a large shell. Because of their shell, many call them “Turtle Mites.”
Chances are, there are several other types of mites in your soil, too. However, Oribatei is, by far, the most prevalent.
What Causes Soil Mites?
Soil mites are simple creatures. Their whole purpose in life is to eat.
If your soil has its primary food source, rotting organic matter, then expect the mites to come.
The mites typically live outside in the ground. Even in pristine lawns, there’s bound to be some organic matter lying around. However, the mites can also migrate to get closer to food.
Mites are very common in compost. A compost pile’s sole purpose is to promote decomposition. It’s the perfect food source for soil mites.
If you’re using your finished compost in your potted plants, there’s a good chance that some stragglers are going to join. The finished compost doesn’t contain any rotting matter.
The decomposition process is complete, so most mites will move on to another food source.
But some leftover mites may exist and continue to feed on organic matter in your pot. As your plants grow, it may shed leaves or release diseased branches.
The mites will survive on that matter. They’ll do so for a surprisingly long time, too. Soil mites can live for three to four years. In the meantime, they’ll lay eggs and create even more mites!
Once you get rid of the mites, the best way to prevent reinfestation of your soil is to keep rotting material out. Remove their food source and the mites will have no reason to invade your pots.
Are Soil Mites Harmful to Potted Plants?
It’s perfectly normal to not want bugs in your potted plants! If you have plants inside your home, the thought of having mites can make anyone’s skin crawl.
But before you try to eradicate them, let’s take a look at the effect they have on plants.
Soil mites are virtually harmless to your plants. In fact, they may actually help them.
The Benefits of Soil Mites
When a soil mite eats rotting plant matter, it’s speeding up the decomposition process. These tiny insects eat organic matter and leave behind tiny little waste pellets.
These pellets make nutrients more available to plants.
Not only that, but they can get rid of the potentially harmful stuff in your soil.
Your soil might seem simple. But, it’s a living ecosystem filled with all kinds of life. There’s bacteria, protozoa, and tons of other microorganisms.
Most of that life actively works to improve the quality of the soil. This includes the soil mites.
However, some harmful organisms could be lurking in the dirt, too. Disease-causing bacteria and fungi could eventually harm your plants as they grow.
Soil mites often attack those unwanted organisms. The anthropods are opportunistic and will eat anything they can get hold of. So instead of attacking your plant, those organisms get consumed, processed, and used by your plant for good.
Who knew that mites could be so helpful.
All in all, soil mites do a lot to improve potting soil.
Biodiversity is important for plant growth. While you can’t see them, all the living things in your potting mix is creating the perfect environment for plants to absorb nutrients.
They can enhance the structure of the soil, break down organic matter, and even suppress diseases.
For this reason, most gardeners pay the mites no mind. You could get rid of the mites from your soil. But, doing so could take away one of your plant’s most important supporters.
Can Soil Mites Cause Any Harm to People?
So if soil mites do so much good for potted plants, why try to get rid of them in the first place?
Well, the mites do have one caveat. They could potentially harm humans.
Soil mites are far too small to small to do any real damage to humans in terms of biting. But, they can carry disease.
Herein lies the problem with having soil mites in indoor potted plants. The mites can quickly spread and invade other areas of your home. Common soil mites typically stay where their food supply is most prevalent.
But you could have a food source inside your home that you didn’t know was there. Mites eat all types of rotting organic matter. That includes rotting wood or food.
The insects can migrate to rotted wood behind your walls or in your furniture. They may also gravitate towards any stray pieces of food lying on your floor. From there, they can spread to other areas of the home where humans frequent.
Soil mites carry a wide range of diseases. Despite their small size, mites can carry parasites, too. The most common is tapeworms.
Tapeworms are surprisingly easy to spread. They typically lay eggs inside the host’s intestinal tract. The parasite lays upwards of 80,000 eggs at once. Hosts can be cats, dogs, pigs, and pretty much any other animal.
When that animal produces waste, the eggs spread to the soil. There, soil mites consume them and the process continues.
If mites are in your home, there’s always a chance that you can catch diseases from them. This is rare, but not impossible.
Some mite species can also carry viruses that lead to serious illness. The mites’ constant consumption of bacteria and fungi can also be problematic.
Don’t let the microscopic size of the soil mite fool you. It’s perfectly capable of spreading disease and parasites all the same. For this reason alone, wanting to get rid of them is justifiable. It’s especially important if they’re already inside.
What is the Difference Between Soil Mites and Spider Mites?
It’s easy to mistake spider mites and soil mites. Both pests are anthropods that are microscopic in size. The two insects also affect plants.
Similarities aside, spider mites and soil mites are two totally different pests. They act differently and have unique effects on your plants.
What are Spider Mites?
Spider mites are a particularly destructive pest.
For the most part, soil mites do not harm plants and stay within the soil of your pots. However, spider mites will invade the plant itself!
They feed on the chlorophyll within your plant. Chlorophyll is compound within plant cells that create the signature green color.
When spider mites invade a plant, they will often climb up the stem to create a home. Then, they’ll puncture individual plant cells with their mouths and suck out any material.
As the mites start working their way through the plant, it will become discolored. You might see it turn yellow or bronze-colored. There might even be tiny spots as the plant decays from the feeding point.
How Can You Tell If You Have Spider Mites?
Beyond damage to the plant, there are a few ways to diagnose a spider mite infestation.
Overall, the plant will start to grow unhealthy. Those tiny bites don’t just affect the immediate area. The mites deprive the plant of essential nutrients. As a result, every part of the plant will suffer.
The stem will start to shrivel up. As that’s happening, you might see the leaves brown and curl.
If you look closely, you could see the mites’ home. Oftentimes, the pests will create a small colony under a leaf.
Spider mites are closely related to larger spiders. Not only do they have eight legs, but they can also spin webs. The mites will spin very fine webs between stems and leaves.
Find them living underneath plant leaves. The leaf might look dusty. But when you look closer, the dust is actually moving! Those are the spider mites in action!
You can get rid of spider mites using some of the same methods you would for dealing with soil mites. Natural pesticides, chemical pesticides, and deterrents all work wonders.
It’s also important to keep your plants well-hydrated and clean. Spider mites usually gravitate to dusty plants with water stress. Keeping your plants in good shape will help you avoid them.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.
Kevin is the founder of Gardening Mentor, a website that aims to teach people to grow their own food in a limited space. As a self-taught gardener, Kevin has spent several years growing plants and creating gardening content on the website. He is certified in Home Horticulture and Organic Gardening by expert gardeners from Oregon State University.