If you’re familiar with soil mites, you already probably know what a damaging nuisance they often are to your lawn and the precious plants in your yard.
Thankfully, eradicating them quickly and effectively is relatively simple.
Soil mites are tiny scavenging arthropods that feed on organic matter such as living or dead fungi, roots, insects, crops, flowers, and trees. They thrive in moist environments but are easily eliminated by replacing infested soil and spraying it with specific solutions, both commercial and homemade.
Read on to learn more about these pesky tiny arachnids, why they’re so damaging to plants, and how to get rid of them with a few simple steps!
We’ll cover everything you need to know about soil mites and removing them from your yard.
Table of Contents
What Are Soil Mites?
Although soil mites are harmless to humans, they will feed on any potted plants, crops, and virtually all other organic matter in your garden.
Soil mites are scavenging arthropods and are very tiny and almost invisible to the naked eye unless present in large groups.
In large infestations, they are an unpleasant sight.
Even if you aren’t able to see a soil mite at a glance, you’ll notice their presence if they’ve managed to infest your garden.
On the one hand, they help break down decaying organic matter like leaf litter and dead insects and aerate the soil in small numbers.
However, large populations of soil mites left unchecked will quickly become damaging to your plants and be downright unattractive to look at.
Rather than attempt to balance between too many and too few soil mites, many homeowners prefer to simply avoid this hassle and eradicate them.
In addition to feeding on various types of living and decaying organic matter, soil mites can spread diseases and parasites like tapeworms.
They are also easily transmitted from plants to surfaces in your home, as they will commonly hop from one surface to another in hopes of finding new organic material to feed on.
Many gardeners don’t find soil mites especially harmful but rather annoying and unattractive to look at.
While some people prefer to simply leave them be, many others simply want them gone because they don’t love the idea of hundreds of tiny mites crawling around in their gardens and feeding on their plants, regardless of how harmful they are in reality.
What Do Soil Mites Do To Lawns and Plants?
Because soil mites are scavengers, they will gladly feed on just about any living or dead organic matter, from plants to fungi and even dead insects.
As we briefly touched on earlier, soil mites are highly beneficial to gardens and lawns in small and manageable amounts.
They break down decaying material, eat harmful insects, and help to aerate the soil.
Unfortunately, soil mite populations tend to explode if left unchecked, so in a lot of cases, it’s best to simply get rid of them altogether, especially if you’re very particular about the appearance of your potted plants or crops.
The worst part about soil mites isn’t necessarily the damage they are capable of but rather the fact they aren’t enjoyable to look at in large amounts when they manage to infest.
Many varieties of soil mites also indiscriminately munch on living and decaying plant material, meaning they end up doing more harm than good in certain situations.
Determining which type of soil mites you have in your lawn or garden is also problematic due to their small size and resemblance to one another.
Most species are challenging to tell apart without examining them closely under a microscope.
Overall, there are around 20,000 unique types of soil mites.
While many of them are relatively harmless to humans and most plants, others are highly damaging, awful to look at, and capable of spreading diseases, bacterial infections, and parasites to you, your family, and your pets.
Where Do Soil Mites Come From?
Even though they are tiny and unable to fly, soil mites efficiently reproduce and spread across entire lawns and gardens and infest other nearby live and dead plants.
Most commonly, soil mites are present in moist areas like compost heaps, mulch, and moist, heavily wooded areas.
As their name suggests, they prefer to reproduce in warm, damp garden soil, usually in dark areas without much exposure to harsh sunlight to dry them out.
Soil mites are arachnids and are closely related to other arachnid species such as ticks and spiders.
They behave pretty similarly to ticks (aside from feeding on organic matter rather than blood).
When Should You Get Rid of Soil Mites?
There is a lot of debate amongst homeowners about the benefits and drawbacks of soil mites and when it’s best to get rid of them.
Some gardeners love soil mites, as they feed on decaying matter and in specific environments work as a sort of cleanup crew, eliminating other harmful pests and working to aerate the soil.
On the other hand, though, some types of soil mites tend to grow in number very quickly and end up doing more damage than good.
As we mentioned earlier, they can also spread other, much more harmful parasites, making them a health hazard.
They generally are an eyesore if they manage to overtake your plants and become visible in large groups.
Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you get rid of soil mites or not.
If they aren’t causing much damage to your plants and aren’t particularly visible to the naked eye, then it might be best to leave them alone.
Alternatively, suppose the population of the mites has grown to unmanageable levels and are beginning to do excessive damage to your plants and spreading to your home.
In that case, it’s probably a good idea to eliminate them, as there are plenty of other more efficient and effective ways to get rid of decaying matter and other pests and aerate your soil.
If you’ve decided to get rid of those soil mites for good, read on for some convenient and effective methods to send, them packing.
How To Get Rid Of Soil Mites
When it comes to getting rid of soil mites, you have many options at your disposal!
Most of the methods of eliminating soil mites consist of various solutions and sprays designed to be used directly on the plants and offending mites.
However, before you use any of these solutions, you’ll first need to take a few precautionary steps to ensure the predatory mites don’t return or you don’t accidentally leave any eggs or mites behind.
First and foremost, you’ll need to re-pot any affected plants and either filter or replace the potting soil entirely.
It’s crucial to be as gentle as possible here to avoid damaging the roots of the plants, which will often end up killing them.
If you choose to filter the soil, you’ll need to carefully sift it and ensure no decaying organic matter is left behind for mites to return to and feed on.
This is pretty simple for potted and indoor plants, but for outdoor plants in your garden, you’ll have to remove the top few inches of the soil surface and filter it.
Thankfully, you won’t need to dig very deep, as soil mites tend to stay around the top layers of soil, where they’re more likely to find organic matter to feed on.
Replacing the soil altogether is another somewhat less tedious option, though it is often more costly.
Using new, fresh soil is the best way to ensure the mites don’t return and reinfest and cause damage to plants in your home or garden.
Very carefully remove any dead leaves or decaying parts of the plants, as these often have mites clinging to them or eggs and larvae present.
Once you’ve either filtered or replaced the soil the mites had infested, your next step will be to choose from one of the various commercial or homemade solutions meant to deter and/or kill off any remaining or returning mites.
You’ll need to thoroughly spray the plants and the soil for best results.
Your first choice of mite-killing solutions is to select one of the various commercially sold insecticide or miticide sprays on the market.
It’s best to opt for insecticides with as many natural ingredients as possible and/or those with pyrethrins, as these are most effective at killing off mites while avoiding damaging your vulnerable plants.
For example, Bonide Products Pyrethrin Garden Insect Spray is a good option, as the pyrethrin inside targets the mites’ nervous systems yet is gentle enough to spray directly onto your plants.
Pyrethrin, after all, is a naturally occurring compound in chrysanthemums.
It’s even safe to use directly before harvesting your crops!
There are also sprays like Bonide’s Ready-To-Use Neem Oil, a natural fungicide, insecticide, and miticide.
It’s safe for organic gardening and effectively kills off mites at all life stages, from eggs to larvae to fully-grown adults.
If you don’t like the idea of using one of these commercially made sprays, though, there are a few great homemade solutions you have to choose from, all of which are easily made with inexpensive household ingredients.
One of the most popular means of killing off soil mites is a cinnamon and water solution.
Cinnamon is entirely safe for your plants yet is deadly to most varieties of soil mites, and best of all, it’s incredibly inexpensive and simple to make in bulk amounts to last for months or even years.
Essentially, for this solution, you’ll need to mix a teaspoon of cinnamon with around four cups of water.
After adding the cinnamon to the water and mixing, leave it to sit for a few hours or until the cinnamon begins to settle.
Finally, you’ll need to either spray or pour the solution directly onto the soil of your affected plants.
This will kill off any leftover mites lingering in the filtered soil or on the plant itself.
Garlic Water Spray
A garlic and water solution is another popular yet smelly option for eliminating remaining soil mites and preventing new ones from showing up.
For this method, you’ll need three or four whole cloves of garlic (not garlic powder!) per gallon of water you use for the solution.
If you’d like, you have the option of making as large of a batch as you want by simply adding more garlic cloves and water.
All you need to do is place the garlic cloves in a gallon of water and allow it to sit for at least 72 hours.
This will enable the garlic to mix with the water over time.
Just before you spray or pour it on your filtered or new soil, it’s a good idea to add another few cups of clean water to dilute the solution a bit further.
Like the options above, the garlic spray will kill off any leftover mites and deter new mites from coming around your plants.
Dish Soap and Starch Solution
Finally, you have the option of using a dish soap and starch solution to finally eliminate those creepy-crawly mites for good.
Many homeowners tout this method as highly effective, and what’s more, it’s far cheaper than most of the commercial sprays available for sale from home and garden shops and online retailers.
For this solution, you’ll need to mix a few generous drops of dish soap (such as Dawn or Palmolive) with four heaping tablespoons of starch and add it to about five or six cups of water.
The best thing about this simple spray is you don’t need to leave it to sit for any amount of time; it’s ready to go as soon as you mix it up!
Like the other solutions mentioned earlier, you simply spray or pour the mixture directly onto the soil.
Avoid spraying it directly onto your plants.