If you love to maintain a garden, you must have seen soil mites. They are extremely tiny, just millimeters long, and live in the ground. Soil mites are arthropods with no internal bones and just legs coming from the body segments.
In a garden, soil mites are everywhere, though it’s difficult to spot them due to their tininess. Therefore, you should know how to find these and worry about removing them? Let’s explore how you can identify soil mites, their types, and whether you should keep or get rid of them.
What Are Soil Mites?
Soil mites are tiny arthropods that are actually beneficial for your plants. Related to spiders and ticks, they carry out the crucial task of assisting with breaking down the organic matter. These include algae, leaf litter, and other naturally appearing substances in the soil.
Currently, we have identified around 20 thousand different soil mite types. Many others believed to remain undiscovered. Some of these are predatory arthropods that devour harmful fauna living in the soil, such as nematodes and bacteria.
Soil mites are completely harmless to both indoor and outdoor plants. They feed only off the compost’s properties and do not affect the plant’s healthy tissues. However, these might appear on the soil in the form of a thin white line and mar the appearance of your plants. Therefore, indoor gardeners prefer to get rid of them to restore their plant’s looks.
Identifying Soil Mites
Before discussing whether to retain or remove them, let’s first talk about soil mites identification. To start with, an arthropod has six legs. However, do not confuse them with arachnids that have eight legs.
Soil mites set up their dwelling in pot soils. Hence, it should be the first place to look for their presence. Furthermore, they are very small and hard to notice. However, arthropods might appear in a thin white line passing through the dirt or along the plant’s pot.
To distinguish different soil mites, you need a microscope. Moreover, some soil mites may reside in the ground, depending on the location. If you live in a place with harmful fauna, predatory soil mites, such as Gasamid, would populate the land. Contrarily, the soil might have the Astigmata type in a locality with high nitrogen levels.
Types of Soil Mites
Now that we know how to identify soil mites, the next thing is recognizing their types. Scientists, so far, have discovered about 80,000 different kinds of soil mites and divided them into four major groups.
Also called turtle mites due to their shell-like bodies, Oribatei is the most common type of the four. They like to feed on matters, like tiny worms and dead insects, dead plants, fungi, and algae. Moreover, they love wood, so keep a close lookout around your decks and patios.
Moss, mold, and leaves attract Oribatei, so they like to build their home around them. Begin your search from places with these matters if you want to find them.
Mesostigmata are free-living predators found in the soil and litter, and they like to feed on smaller animals.
Prostigmata consists of a large array of species. They include predator as well as fungal-feeding soil mites.
Astigmata are the least common soil mites. They exist in an environment with high nitrogen levels and organic matter.
Should You Keep Soil Mites?
Having understood comprehensively about soil mites, it’s time to answer the question – are soil mites harmful to plants? While many indoor gardeners consider these as pests, some believe they are excellent for plant’s health.
Keeping soil mites comes with numerous benefits. They are essential for maintaining your plant’s health. If you spot them on the soil or around your plant, it indicates good plant growth. Most importantly, beneficial soil mites help in the decaying of organic matter, which improves the soil’s health. Furthermore, by recuperating the soil, it enhances the roots’ ability to gather the nutrients more easily.
However, soil mites can bring danger to you and your plants. To begin with, many consider them pests and an infestation, causing a nuisance. They are also capable of carrying bacteria that instigate diseases and transfer them to humans. On top of that, they can transfer eggs of parasites such as tapeworms to humans.
Are Soil Mites Harmful to Outdoor Plants?
When it comes to outdoor plants, soil mites are more of a friend. They are completely harmless to the plant and soil. They play an active role in the topmost soil’s organic matter decomposition. Thus, making it easy for the plants to absorb the nutrients from the ground.
In outdoor gardens, soil mites assist in aerating the soil, making it effortless for water to seep into it. In turn, it ensures the ground has enough moisture, contributing to the plant’s good health. Therefore, do not worry if you see a thin line of white soil mites around your outdoor plants. They’re more of a good sign than danger.
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How to Get Rid of Soil Mites?
Now that we know about the dangers soil mites can pose, you might be thinking about how to get rid of them. Some of you might want to keep soil mites for the benefits they offer. But for many, the dangers outweigh the advantages.
Below we present you four effective ways of keeping soil mites away.
1-) Removing Old Dirt
Soil mites love decaying matter; hence, it’s the first thing you want to get rid of. Begin by checking the soil and identifying any old decaying matter.
An excellent way could be to replace the topmost portion with new and fresh soil. Throw away the dirt you’ve removed to avoid soil mites taking refuge in it.
Another effective method to keep soil mites away is re-potting. Start by removing all the soil from the pot and replacing it with the new one. While repotting, make sure to remove any yellow and decaying leaves immediately from the plant. It is because they provide the mites with a new home.
An excellent method to repel mites is to spray the soil and plant. You can buy insecticides containing pyrethrin for this purpose. However, don’t worry if you fail to find one – we’ll take you through how to make an organic spray of your own.
Homemade Organic Sprays
Below is a list of some easy-to-make organic sprays at home.
1-) Starch Solution: Mix water with 3-4 drops of dishwashing liquid and add 4-5 tablespoons of starch. Once ready, spray the solution on the soil and avoid any contact with the plant directly.
2-) Cinnamon Solution: Mix 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to 4 cups of water. Wait for the cinnamon to settle down. Once ready, pour the solution down into the soil to kill mites and other bugs.
3-) Garlic Spray: Place 3-4 garlic cloves in a gallon of water for up to 4 days. Spray this solution to the plant’s base and the soil once ready.
4-) Maintaining the Plants
Once you’ve taken measures to get rid of soil mites, it’s essential to maintain your plants to avoid their return. You can remove fallen plants to prevent mites from taking refuge in such matters again. Occasionally repot your plants to evade the decaying matter and spray the soil before putting it back into the pot.
For an outdoor garden, maintenance is even more crucial. Be on a constant lookout for any decaying material on the surface and remove it immediately. If you have a compost pile, ensure to keep it as far away from your garden as possible.
How to Avoid Soil Mites in the Future?
The last thing you’d want is to see mites in soil populate your garden after all the measures you’ve taken to remove them. Here are some tips to ensure they never return.
Before purchasing a plant, remember to inspect its soil. Like most infestations, soil mites double if there’s an already-infected plant in your collection.
Keep a close watch for these little pests on or around your plants. For your outdoor garden, it could be difficult, but it’s worth the time to prevent the mites from spreading again. As soon as you see plants with symptoms, immediately quarantine them and repeat the steps above.
Furthermore, keep the compost pile away from your garden. Tighten the compost bag and store it out of dry and damp areas. Also, don’t use the soil left outside for a considerable amount of time due to the risk of contamination.
Like many other animals attracted to plants, soil mites are tiny arthropods residing in the ground. They’re not completely harmful to your plants and carry out the task of decomposing the organic matter in the soil. It allows the land to remain healthy and the plant to take in the necessary nutrients. However, soil mites can carry disease-causing bacteria and eggs such as tapeworms that can transfer to humans.
Therefore, many gardeners prefer to avoid them by taking measures like repotting, spraying insecticides, and removing old matter from the soil.