So, your houseplants are infested with soil mites. And you need to get rid of them. Fast.
These little buggers can scare you, especially if it’s your first time seeing them.
They can show up in numerous numbers as they shift around on the soil and dig under it to hide.
What are they eating? Where are they hiding? And why are here in your plants?
Some can also jump, or float far distances in the air by wind currents!
(Perhaps that’s how they got inside your house in the first place?)
You’re afraid that they could be damaging the roots.
Or eating up your leaves.
Maybe even your stems or flowers.
But don’t worry!
While soil mites may appear in huge numbers, they’re actually quite easy to get rid of- without dangerous chemicals or compounds.
Did you know that they’re actually beneficial for your plant soil?
So even if you can’t fully eliminate them, you can just have a few to help out your nutrient profile. Or just let them be in the first place!
In this guide, you’ll learn about:
- Why you have soil mites
- What they’re eating
- The different types of soil mites and how to identify them
- Where soil mites hide
- If soil mites can harm your plants
- How to get rid of them naturally using DIY home remedies
- How to keep soil mites off your houseplants or garden plants
- And more
This guide is quite a read because it goes into detail about everything you need to know, so bookmark it so you can easily refer back to it later.
By the end of this article, you should have a good understanding of soil mites and how to control, manage, and eradicate them.
If you have any questions, you can always contact me directly or drop a comment at the end of this guide. I’ll try to help you out, as usual =].
Sounds good? Let’s send those mites back to the outdoors!
What’s a soil mite?
A soil mite is that tiny little bug you see crawling on your plant soil.
They can be found both indoors and outdoors around the base of the plant.
But most people usually hate them the most when they find them indoors running around the soil.
Yes, they’re not pleasant to look at. And yes, they can freak you out when you first see them.
They hang out on the planter, soil surface, and usually burrow just a few inches under the soil surface.
Soil mites are small, quick, and can be white, red, brown, or any combo.
They like high humidity soils with low light environments so they secretly munch on the soil without environmental disturbances.
Soil mites are also known as the following aliases:
- Moss mites
- Seed mites
- Beetle mites
- Flat mites
- Oribatid mites
- Box mites
- Bin mites
- Worm mites
- Armored mites
- Spider mites
- Brown soil mites
- Black soil mites
- Red soil mites
- White soil mites
It’s obvious there there are lots of common names for soil mites. With over 12k species, it’s to be expected for the local homeowner to create new nicknames.
Soil mites aren’t just one single type of mite.
The term is an umbrella phrase for a whole family of mites that are commonly found in potting mix. That’s why there’s no single way to identify them.
Pretty much, if you see something moving around in your soil, it can be considered a soil mite.
They can be found on your indoor houseplant soil, outdoors in your garden soil, or even in a new bag of soil that you just brought back.
If you look closely at the soil, you may be able to spot the common form of what’s considered a soil mite. It helps to use a magnifying glass.
Get a scoop of soil and place it on a piece of white paper (or black paper, depending on the mite). Break the soil apart and look closely.
You may see tiny white bugs that are crawling around on the soil surface.
Sometimes, they’re also found on stems, roots, leaves, etc.
They can also be found crawling around on the planter you’re using, often on the rim or inside edge of it. Darker potters are easier to spot mites.
Pro tip: Use the zoom function on your phone’s camera to get a good view of the soil mites easily.
Identification – What do soil mites look like?
If you’re wondering what soil mites look like so you can identify them, it’s pretty simple.
The hardest part is that they’re so tiny so they can be difficult to spot with the naked eye. This is why I suggest using something like blowing them up.
Soil mites are tiny and usually brown, white, or black. They crawl quickly across the soil surface of your plants and often show up in huge numbers. They tend to infest plants that are in darker corners of you don’t they don’t like light.
If you have them indoors, you’re likely dealing with oribatid. Outdoor plants are usually infected with mesostigmata or prostigama.
There are three major groups of soil mites:
Soil mites vs. root aphids
Root aphids look very similar to soil mites, but the aphids have a rear abdomen (rounded rear body).
Root aphids, as the name implies, always hang out at the root of your plants.
The soil mites will go around the soil line, occasionally digging to the root.
Soil mites are slow growers.
They have low fecundity rates, which means most of their eggs don’t hatch. It starts with a male/female pair mating. The female gives rise to young by laying eggs.
Each egg hatches with low success rates. The larvae consume microscopic organisms in the soil. They take up to 2 years to fully develop into adults.
This is why you may see a bunch of them at once, but they’ve taken a lot of time to establish that population. The larvae will go through various instars until they’re grown.
During this time, they’ll feed on fungi, lichens, plant material, and other organic matter.
They require specific habitats and don’t tolerate a wide range of them. So it depends on what your plants’ habitats are like. The right mite will inhabit it.
Once you change something drastic, it can wipe their population. A simple soil swap can make the difference.
Types of soil mites
There are a few different types of soil mites you may encounter in the home.
Here are some common ones:
There are over 12,000 identified species in total. There are estimated to be over 120,000 total species.
So you can tell that you’re dealing with a small piece of the pie.
What mites live in soil?
Soil mites do!
Oribatid is the most common type that you find in your household plants. They can be red, brown, or even white. If you see something moving quickly on your soil, they’re likely to soil mites.
You can find everything from spider mites to beetle mites to worm mites. It’s a surprise every time.
Different mites will inhabit different soil conditions, so it really depends on your plant setup.
Can you feel them crawling?
Soil mites come in all sorts of different sizes, shapes, and weights.
If you have some crawling on your skin after tending to your plant, it’s very possible you’ll feel them crawling across your skin.
Although they’re harmless themselves to people, you should still wash your arms, hands, and other body parts that came into contact with them.
They can transmit pathogens and parasites from the rotting food they eat.
Do they move very quickly?
Soil mites move in short bursts of speed.
They’re quick so they can be hard to see. If you see a flash of white, brown, or black fuzz on your soil surface, it’s likely a soil mite!
Should you kill soil mites?
In general, soil mites are harmless to both plants and to humans.
They don’t infest your hair, skin, or body. They also don’t infest your home, unless you have soil everywhere for some reason. Soil mites stay near the host plant and will offer beneficial properties to the plant they “infest.”
If you really hate seeing them crawling all over your plants, then you can take steps to get rid of them naturally. Soil mites should be left alone as they’re very difficult to completely eliminate.
So it’s generally a lot of work for very little results because they deposit eggs in the soil which can be hard to get rid of.
Plus, if they’re not bad for your plants, why go through the trouble?
Soil mites don’t harm plants, whether indoors or outdoors. They solely eat the compost from the soil and don’t feed on the plant. But these bugs prove to be quite an annoyance to us, so we like to get rid of them.
Seeing bugs crawling all over your soil, planter, and leaves isn’t exactly PRETTY.
Are they bad?
No, they’re good to have. Soil mites are harmless to houseplants and are actually beneficial since they help exchange nutrients within the dirt.
But they can be pretty scary since there are a ton of little mites crawling around on your plant. If you can tolerate it, just leave them alone.
Be sure to wash your hands whenever you touch your plants because of possible pathogen transmission.
Are they dangerous? Can they live on humans?
While most soil mites are completely harmless, they are known to be carriers of parasites.
Since they spend their time eating soil, they can pick up various bacteria or viruses on their legs or body.
They can then transfer them to you or your plants. Remember that soil mites like to eat decaying organic materials, which can include things like feces, waste, or litter.
These materials may naturally have tons of pathogens.
If the mite crawls around in it and then touches you, it’s possible to transmit pathogens to humans. They’re known carriers of parasites, especially their eggs. Think worms.
Can they bite?
Mites can bite. But soil mites can’t. So it’s easy to get them confused.
How many people do you think to know the difference between a “normal” mite and a soil mite?
(They’re actually part of the genus known as Oribatida.)
They’re tiny so they don’t have the mouth to damage human skin.
Since they’re so small, you won’t notice them on your skin. They also don’t have piercing mouthparts to draw blood. So biting is nothing to be worried about.
But pathogens? Yes.
Soil mites are known parasite carriers and are responsible for transmitting parasites, worms, plant vectors, etc.
They are predatory, so they actively scavenge for food to eat. If you see those tiny bugs in your soil that move quickly, they’re likely these mites, but they’re common and generally nothing to worry about.
Can they jump?
Yes, some soil mites can jump.
Springtails are a soil mite that only measure about 1/16 of an inch in length, but can jump several inches in height- up to 12 inches!
That’s like if you could jump 12 times your own height- at least! Remember that soil mites encompass a bunch of different types of pests. Depending on which species you have, some can jump.
What do they eat?
Soil mites eat everything. Indoor or outdoor plants.
They tend to prefer plants like succulents, fruits, or veggies that have plenty of rich organic wet soil.
They stay away from dryer soils or ones that have a lower humidity percentage.
Soil mites tend to naturally steer clear of dry soils with lower humidity points. So overwatering, overfeeding, or having poor draining soil can all encourage these mites to infest it.
Sometimes, reducing watering or just changing the soil to one that drains well is all you need to get rid of them- or at least reduce their population. The soil choice is the key.
Soil mites are opportunistic scavengers, which basically means they eat whatever is available to them. They don’t actively hunt for food nor do they lie in waiting for their food to come.
They just graze the soil and eat what’s available.
Soil mites tend to gravitate towards extremely nutrient-dense soils. Rich soils with plenty of organic matter like moss, leaves, wood, or compost are good environments for them to infest.
Small fungi, algae, bark, chips, wood, cedar, and rotten roots are all delicious meals for mites.
Where do they hide?
Soil mites, as the name implies, hide in the soil. Some may be found on the leaves, stems, roots of your plants.
If you scoop up the top few inches of topsoil, you’ll find most of the mites, nymphs, eggs, etc.
They hide there during their inactive hours to shield themselves from predators or extreme temperatures. If you look with a microscope closely at this layer, you’ll find them crawling around.
You don’t need some special equipment to identify soil mites though. You can see them crawling on your planters or soil surface if you’re careful with the naked eye.
This is usually what freaks people out when they first discover these tiny little white or black bugs rummaging through their soil. They hide in the space between the soil and compost line.
Where do they come from?
Soil mites can enter the home in a variety of different ways.
Some of the most common methods of entry are:
- Through newly purchased soil that’s already infested
- Through infested houseplants
- Windows or doors
- Recently harvested fruits or veggies
- On furniture, materials, or other items that were brought inside from the outside
They’re tiny so this allows them to travel freely into your house. Any kind of crevices, nooks, or cranny provides these mites a way to get inside your property.
You may already have a ton of them outside in your yard but you don’t know it yet.
They just need some medium to get inside to infest your plants. Transferring soils or plants is another common point of entry.
How to get rid of soil mites naturally
Here’s the meat of the guide.
\We’ll cover various DIY home remedies to get rid of the soil mites for good using natural techniques.
I suggest trying out multiple techniques at the same time to see what works for you.
Then take that one and scale it up! If you have multiple plants around the house or in the yard that are infested with these mites, the same method may not work for all of them.
Use natural remedies first before using synthetic compounds!
Each species is different, so you may have to try a few of them out to see what works for that specific plant.
If you have any questions, just post a comment at the end of this page.
Replace the top layer of your soil
The soil mites tend to spend their time on the top few inches of substrate, so that’s good if you want to remove them.
Get a soil scoop and scoop out the top 3-4 inches of soil.
Dump it into a secure bag and tie it up, then dispose of it.
Do NOT reuse it as compost, unless you don’t mind the mites getting into it.
They’ll thrive in a compost bin since it’s full of their favorite food- organic matter that’ll feed them for generations.
Replace the top layer of soil that was removed with new, quarantined soil. This should get rid of the majority of soil mites.
Wasn’t that easy?
When you’re working in the new soil, check for any mites under the top few inches.
Sometimes they burrow so you want to get a bit more of the soil removed so you get them all at once.
Note that they tend to hang out on the leaves, stems, roots, and more.
So this is only a temporary solution.
However, it eradicates a lot of the population. Plus their mite eggs are in the soil. Thus, you greatly reduce their numbers with this technique.
Use garlic spray
Garlic spray is easy to make and is an effective natural mite repellent.
Get a few garlic cloves and add them to a gallon of water.
Dice the garlic to make it dissolve quicker. Leave it there for a few days until the water smells garlicky. Pour it into a spray bottle.
Lightly mist your soil. It should harm your plants unless they’re extremely sensitive to garlic.
Strain your soil
Running your soil through a strainer is said to disturb their world.
Since most mites are specific to their environment, a simple disturbance can be enough to make them leave.
If you have a strainer, run your soil through it. It’ll catch a lot of organic matter that they eat and remove it.
Rubbing alcohol will kill everything from mites to spiders to cockroaches in seconds.
If you can spray them directly, that is. Rubbing alcohol will dissipate quickly and evaporate if it doesn’t hit the target.
Get a spray bottle and pour in some 70% isopropyl alcohol.
Spray your soil when the mites are visible, or around the edges of your planter. Don’t spray the plant- only the substrate.
Similar to rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide can be used in the same manner.
3% peroxide diluted with 50% water should be enough to kill mites in the soil.
Use it quickly because hydrogen peroxide degrades quickly in water.
Don’t make a whole bunch of it for later use because it’ll dilute to just pure water. Then you’re literally just watering your plants. Avoid spraying the leaves- only point at the soil.
Additionally, if your pot uses sensitive paints or ceramics, rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide can ruin the finish.
Diatomaceous earth is natural, dry, crystalline powder.
It has the power to pierce the exoskeleton of soil mites and dehydrate them over time. Obviously, this will kill them. It’s also safe for plants, humans, and most pets. There are two types of DE. Pool-grade and food-grade diatomaceous earth.
Get the food-grade one. It’s sold as a supplement and eaten for nutritional benefits. This is how you know it’s safe for humans!
You can buy food-grade, organic diatomaceous earth (Amazon) for cheap in bulk. One package goes a long way. Plus you can eat some yourself!
Sprinkle some diatomaceous earth on the soil surface.
Put some on the rim of the planter as well. This will help eliminate the mites that come across it. Use as directed.
Be sure you’re not using the one for pools, friend!
Cinnamon is awesome. You can mix some powdered cinnamon in a cup of water. Then gently stir.
Spray it on the rim of your planter and the scent of spicy cinnamon helps keep mites away.
If you don’t use sprays, you can just sprinkle powdered cinnamon on the soil surface or on the rim of the planter. Additionally, cinnamon sticks can be “stuck” into the soil like stakes.
Cinnamon is one of the most popular DIY home remedies for soil mites that’s completely natural.
Similar to rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, dish soap can be a good solution if you don’t have any of those handy. Dish soap is considered legendary IMO when it comes to pest control.
You just need a few drops of dish detergent into a cup of water, then stir until it suds.
Spray it on bugs directly that you come across. It also disinfects so you can wipe them off.
Avoid spraying directly on your plants, as sensitive ones may become wilted.
However, you can spray on the soil if you do it in light spritzes. If you notice that your plants are reacting to the soap, stop usage.
Dawn dish soap seems to be the popular choice, but any dish detergent works fine.
Bake your soil
As a last resort, baking the soil will kill everything in it, including beneficial bacteria.
But if the soil mites are out of control, you can put the soil in the oven to completely eliminate them.
Gently remove your plants and lay the soil out on an oven-safe baking pan. Line it with foil or whatever other baking materials you have. Don’t let the soil clump or else it’ll reduce the effect of this technique.
Break down any clumps and try to make the soil as smooth as possible.
In the meantime, you can put your uprooted plants on their side somewhere safe. They shouldn’t be harmed if you act quickly, but sensitive plants that hate being uprooted can be damaged by this procedure.
So do your research on your specific plant species first.
After you’ve prepped the soil for baking in the oven, go ahead and start it up. Preheat to 180F and leave it in there for 30 minutes.
Note that this will make your kitchen stink like manure. If the soil is new or has a lot of organic compounds, the stench will stay in your home for days. So just be ready for that!
If you have an exhaust system, turn it on.
When it’s done, let it cool to room temperature (important). Then fill up your planter with the sterilized soil. There should be absolutely no more bugs of any kind, nor their eggs.
Do NOT let the soil sit outside while it cools or somewhere that bugs can get at it. This is just asking for another mite infestation.
Put the soil back into their respective planters. Replant your houseplants. You’re Done!
Pyrethrin is a synthetic compound that’s commonly used in insecticides. It can kill mites and other insects instantly. It’s extremely effective, however, not all sprays can be used indoors.
I suggest sticking with the natural, organic DIY home remedies rather than using some synthetic sprays. Note that pyrethrin is considered organic and safe for organic use.
But you should still consider using alternative remedies first before you use the commercial solutions.
If none of the other solutions are working out for you, then look for a spray that contains pyrethrin, is natural, and is safe for use indoors.
Read the labels before use. Use as directed. You can find a bunch of different pyrethrin sprays on Amazon.
Also, this may be obvious.
But make sure it’s formulated for soil mites. It should be listed in the list of insects that it kills. If it has some generic label like “kills over 200 insects!” then you should be wary.
Do some research. Read reviews. Contact the maker before you buy so you can make sure it works on those pests. Get one with a good return policy.
Preventing soil mites in the future
While there’s no way to get rid of soil mites for good, you CAN reduce the possibility of future infestations.
Here are some things you can do to help stop them permanently from infesting your plants inside your house.
Quarantine your plants
Even though you may have a different understanding of the word now, you should still quarantine new plants, soil, planter, or anything you buy from the nursery.
This is because they may come infested from the farm or packing house that they come from.
There have been people who’ve opened a bag of new potting soil only to find it infested with worms, maggots, flies, and other hidden surprises that are just waiting for you!
Like this guy:
You never know when there might be mites hiding in the center of the soil. Or eggs that are yet to hatch.
This is why you always quarantine new soil by letting it sit somewhere out of reach for two weeks or so.
Don’t just cut the bag open and put it in your garden. This is asking for bugs to come and infest your NEW soil. Put the soil somewhere safe, but let you inspect it once in a while.
It’s super simple to quarantine new plants, and you should do it for anything you buy from the nursery that could be infested.
This can be a shed, outhouse, etc. The place should be safe from bugs getting into it.
Check on it once in a while. Grab a flashlight for a closer look.
If you see no bugs, then you’re good to go. If you do, return it! Do the same thing for plants.
Clean your soil
Regularly clean, mulch, rotate, and till your soil.
This can help prevent future infestations from pests because it’s being purged so the bugs can’t establish a huge presence.
Soil can also be cleaned by using diluted vinegar, dish soap, or cinnamon spray.
Newly purchased soil needs to be quarantined, then inspected before use. Infested soil can be baked in the oven to kill bugs.
There are a TON of different repellents you can use to keep bugs out.
Everything from natural herbs, essential oils, onions, garlic, cinnamon, spices, vinegar, apple cider vinegar, etc.
There are so many different choices that it’s staggering to choose from.
You can even combine them for some good conclusions. For instance, combine vinegar as a bait with dish soap to get the mites into it.
Once they’re in, they can’t get out. So they drown.
Depending on what your setup is, you can pick out some repellents to help keep mites out of your plants.
Or just let them be
Or, you can just leave them alone.
Remember how soil mites are beneficial for your soil’s nutrient profile so it’s a good thing?
Even if they have a very small possibility to transmit parasites.
Even if they’re ugly to see.
The pros still outweigh the cons.
They help keep some plant fungal issues off your plant roots by feeding on them. They also break down older organic materials in your substrate.
The only con is that they’re pretty nasty to look at. And they can carry tapeworm which can be transmitted to humans.
Whether you decide to leave them in your soil or not, it’s hard to keep soil completely free of mites. So don’t fret if you can’t get to that level.
Here are some additional references you may find helpful to eliminate these mites:
- Soil mites? – Houzz
- Soil mites? Mold mites? What are these?!? – Reddit
- THEYRE SOIL MITES! does anybody have advice – Reddit
Did you get rid of the soil mites?
Now that you know the basics of soil mite treatment plans, you can effectively get rid of them from your plants!
While they may be persistent and difficult to completely eliminate, you can reduce their numbers with the above DIY solutions. Again, soil mites aren’t bad to have as they help benefit the nutrient profile of your house plants.
So you can always just leave them be and let them do their thing.
But if they bug you (since they’re bugs), you can utilize the methods outlined above to control, manage, and eliminate them from your greens.
Do you have any questions or a specific pest problem? Drop a comment and let me know in the section below.
Otherwise, if you found this guide somewhat helpful, please let me know as well.
Consider telling a friend or community online that may get some use out of it! It helps out =].
Thanks for reading.
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.