Every gardener from time to time comes to a situation where all his knowledge and experience just stop being relevant. After all my years of learning and dedicating to the art of gardening, for the first time I didn’t know what to do.
I’ve found some white bugs in my garden, and the Internet didn’t help me much to solve the problem. Therefore, here’s my guide. Learning how to get rid of little white bugs in soil is the subject of this article, so you don’t need to sit and read through dozens of web pages just to learn nothing.
Since the world of insects is so vast, I can’t tell you directly that you are dealing with mites, for example. Instead, I can offer you some guidelines on how to approximately identify the type of insects which are troubling you.
White bugs which are invading your garden might be springtails. You will recognize them as leaping tiny white spots. Their jumping feature is what separates them from the other pests, so keep a close eye.
Also, there are several types of mites and thrips which can be white. It is not necessary that these bugs will damage or attack and eat the plant, but they can cause misbalance in your garden. For example, increased number of those bugs can attract their natural enemies and the insects which are feeding on them. Those will attract birds, and so on.
How To Know Which Ones Are In The Garden?
As I said, springtails are recognized for their jumping ability. In fact, they have quite the reach; a human would have to jump over a 12-story building. Although impressive, they can represent a serious threat, since one acre of soil can be inhabited by one trillion of these critters. Enough for my skin to crawl. Although they are feeding on the decomposing material, such as mulch, they also enjoy eating the foliage of young plants and seedlings.
Thrips and mites are not jumping, luckily, but are more dangerous than the springtails. The first kind has a bit longer body, and that is how they are recognized. The second ones, however, are more oval and can look like ordinary mites, with the difference that these are calling the soil their home. There, they are eating the roots of the plant, causing damage.
There is also a third group, called gnats. Although they have wings, they are weak fliers, and can often be taken as earth type of pests, since they are seen running on the soil.
So, to summarize the recognition part:
In case that you spot unidentified bugs in your garden, don’t rush for insecticide and other ways of treatment. Not all of them are pests, and some species will eradicate fungi, for example. The best advice here is to wait and monitor the situation. If vegetables are showing signs of stunted growth, eaten leaves (always check the lower section of leaves as well) or any other changes, than you can act.
How To Tackle This Problem?
To make things easy, I will give you separate parts for dealing with each of these pests. Unfortunately, there is no universal solution. Not even pesticide applies to all three groups since some of them are resistant to almost everything. So, let’s see what can be done, shall we?
How To Eliminate Springtails?
What is pizza for humans, that is moist for springtails. They are incredibly attracted to water, and in cases of drought, they can even migrate to homes and to settle under the sink or in the bathroom, where there are some drops or steam.
That is the first line of defense against them. By reducing water intake, the area becomes inconvenient for them, and they will most likely migrate somewhere else. However, to avoid your plants to suffer, water them in smaller quantities, but often, and preferably by night. They are inactive in this period, and by the time they get up in the morning, the water will be long absorbed by your plants.
Also, springtails love decomposing material. Mulch is their best friend, since it is organic in origin, and contains moist. To cut them off from this source, reduce the amount of mulch. I usually keep it under 3”, but had to reduce it even further. Also, leaving it to dry is the equivalent of cold pizza for us. Looks edible, but it isn’t really.
If none of these two are showing the results, it is time for the heavy artillery. Take ¼ or ½ of a cup of non-toxic insecticidal soap and mix it in a gallon of water. If you have trouble with springtails indoors, use a bottle sprayer to soak the potting soil. In case of outdoor infestation, however, I recommend you to try either backpack sprayer or the ordinary garden sprayer. Both are effective and which you choose depends only on your preference. The soap will either suffocate or drown any springtail which it reaches, making it very efficient in this battle.
Of course, I was wearing protective glasses, mouth-cover, gloves and a long-sleeved shirt, to protect myself.
How To Eliminate Thrips?
Thrips are small, slender and elongated insects which are one of two most often pest bugs found in the garden (the other group are mites). They can be found on every continent and are not shy to attack whichever plant or vegetable they can see.
With mouth evolved just for this purpose thrips are punctuating the leaf or stem of the plant and feed on the juices of the target. That is why the plants, or their parts, are withering and dying out. Being resistant to most commercial insecticides, they are hard to eradicate, but luckily, there is a way.
When I was writing about the reasons why cucumber leaves are turning yellow, I mentioned that there are bugs with the best name ever! Pirate bugs are known to exterminate trips without remorse, and they are the first line of defense. However, since these thrips are living beneath the ground, subspecies of Pirate Bug is needed. Minute Pirate bug or Orius is a subgroup of a larger family of Pirate Bugs and feeds on thrips which are living underground. Be careful if you decide to use them; their bite is not venomous, but it hurts really bad.
In case of severe infestation, I can recommend you to try using neem oil or pyrethrin to thing them out, and then to release Pirate Bugs to finish the job. In any case, I have already written two articles about natural insecticides and organic pest control methods, so feel free to go through it once more, just to refresh your memory.
How To Eliminate Mites?
Besides thrips, mites are the second group which bothers gardeners all over the world the most. They are small, and can rapidly increase in numbers, and moreover, some of them are living underground, without showing themselves until it is already too late.
Although mites are similar to thrips, they are somewhat more susceptible to commercial insecticides. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should go on a shopping spree to buy one-year supply of poison when there is a better solution.
Since mites are also sucking the plant’s juices, they can grow in numbers rather fast. Because of that, the best approach is to thin their numbers with chrysanthemum oil or a mixture which includes cinnamon. These two will reduce their numbers, and after that, you can engage lacewings and ladybugs.
Are There Any General Pieces Of Advice?
Luckily, there are some preventive measures which can be taken to prevent these pesky little critters to swarm your garden. What’s the best about these methods is that they are merely rules of keeping your yard clean.
As I said, mulch consists of decomposing plants and similar residue. Reducing that will decrease the number of springtails, but also all other kinds of biowaste must be dealt with immediately. Fallen leaves, rotten fruits or plants must be removed from the garden quickly. These are representing the feast for a wide array of bugs, so if there is no food, they will not come, and it is simple as that.
Also, weeds are known to be suitable habitat for pests to lay eggs, so keeping your garden free of these will influence the number as well. Of course, the benefits of rooting out the weeds are numerous, so it is always a right thing to do.
In case that your pot plants are suffering from little white bugs, it is highly likely that repotting is in order. But, before using new soil, bake it in the oven at 350°F to sterilize the soil and kill off any eggs or potential larvae which might be there. Also, removing all of the soil from the plant and then spraying it with pyrethrin will help you to postpone the invasion.
Although pests are just a part of the natural order, it doesn’t mean that we have to suffer because of that. Knowing how to get rid of little white bugs in the soil will help you to have a great harvest, and to keep your garden free. Some of those pests are carrying different kinds of virus which can obliterate the whole garden in a matter of days.
As always, if you have any advice, comment or opinion, feel free to leave it in the comment section below.