As a gardener, when growing and maintaining plants you may come across many different groups of organisms in your soil, one of them being soil mites. Soil mites are common in house plant soil or gardens and can become a problem for gardener’s when they are in large quantities.
To gain a better understanding, we have outlined what soil mites are, what causes soil mites to appear, how to identify them and how to get rid of mites in soil if they become a problem.
What are Soil Mites?
Soil mites are tiny arthropods that either live on the surface of plant soil or are burrowed a few inches below. They can vary in size, typically measuring between 0.2 and 1.5mm and come in a range of colours, so they are normally quite difficult to spot with the naked eye. You may find your mites are white and transparent, or they may be a darker colour of red, brown or black. They are found both indoors and outdoors, most commonly using small fungi, algae, organic matter and rotten roots as a food source.
Despite their insect-like appearance and tendencies, soil mites do not cause any damage to your plants and can be beneficial in the decomposition process. Once all the decaying organic matter is broken down, the mites transform this into beneficial nutrients and energy which can be used for the growth of plants within the soil. Also, some types of soil mites consume bacteria, fungi and harmful pathogens which can help protect plants
What Causes Soil Mites?
The ideal habitat for a soil mite is one in dark or damp conditions, so can be more frequent in house plants that prefer shade or need lots of watering. If you are looking for plants that don’t typically attract soil mites, we would recommend buying a succulent, cacti or an orchid. Alternatively, making sure your plant is clear of dead leaves or petals will discourage soil mites as they have nothing to feed off.
Soil mites are often present in soils or compost before being transferred onto the plant during the potting or repotting process. If you want to prevent soil mites in your plants, we recommend using potting soil.
How to Identify Soil Mites
Due to their small size and the fact that they don’t leave any damage or travel footprint, it isn’t always easy to identify if they are present in the soil you are using. However, soil mites will never harm your plants, they will reside in the soil only and feed on the decaying matter. You could see tiny white or brown specs moving across your soil and may be able to guess what type of mite they are based on the location of your plant.
To specifically identify the type of soil mite on your plant, you would need to use a microscope. Because soil mites don’t cause harm to your plant and you should only look to remove them if you don’t want to see them on your soil, a microscope is not necessary unless you have a specific interest.
How to Get Rid of Mites in Soil
If you don’t want to have mites on your soil, there are many steps you can take to get these removed. One of the easiest removal techniques to get rid of soil mites is by repotting your plant with new or refreshed soil. You would use a sift to separate the mites from the dirt, then use this to pot your plant again. If you replace the soil, make sure to put the old soil in a compost bin.
Another technique to remove soil mites includes neem oil. You would make a solution by combining neem oil with some warm water and soap then covering the plant with it. Using this on a weekly basis should remove the soil mites from your plant.
Similar to neem oil, you could use a combination of water and hydrogen peroxide. Mix these together in a container and cover your soil to begin the soil mite removal process. By using this regularly, you should begin to see mite-free soil.