Soil Mites In Compost — What Is An Oribatid Mite And How It Affects The Soil

Soil Mite Info: What Are Soil Mites And Why Are They In My Compost?

Could your potted plants be lurking with potting soil mites? Perhaps you have spotted a few soil mites in compost heaps. If you’ve ever come across these frightening looking creatures, you may be wondering what they are and if they’re a threat to the livelihood of your garden plants or soil. Keep reading to find out more about soil mite info and their effects in the garden.

What are Soil Mites?

So what are soil mites and are they dangerous? Potting soil mites make their home, with many family members, in soil. These tiny creatures are about the size of a pinpoint and are very easy to miss. They may appear as little white dots walking along the surface of the soil or along a plant container. There are many species of soil mites and all are close relatives to ticks and spiders. Soil mites are not thought to cause any damage to plants and, in fact, are oftentimes deemed to be beneficial to the decomposition process.

The Oribatid Mite

The Oribatid mite is a type of soil mite that is commonly found in wooded areas where it often assists in the breakdown of organic matter. These mites occasionally make their way to patios, decks, container plants or even inside homes. They are generally drawn to decaying organic matter such as leaves, moss and mold.

The easiest way to deal with pesky soil mites, should they be a bother to you, is to get rid of the decaying matter. Keep outdoor living spaces and roofs clear of decomposing matter as well.

Soil Mites in Compost

Because of its decomposition properties, soil mites love compost and will find their way into a pile any chance they can. Known as worm bin mites, these little critters find compost bins to be the perfect banquet.

You may find several different species of bin mites in compost, including predatory mites that are flat and light brown. These fast moving soil mites are found in all sorts of compost bins including both indoor bins and outdoor piles of animal manure.

Slower moving soil mites in compost are also found. You may recognize some of these as shiny round mites which move extremely slow and look like tiny eggs. These mites generally feed on fruits and vegetables, including rotting rinds. If you are concerned that these mites are competing with your compost worms, you can place a piece of watermelon rind in your compost pile and remove it in a few days, hopefully with a large number of mites.

Additional Soil Mite Info

Due to the fact that much of the soil mite info available may seem hard to find, it is important to know that they are relatively harmless to humans and plants. So, don’t panic if you see potting soil mites or mites in your compost bin.

If you are set on getting rid of them in your planting containers, you can simply remove your plant from the pot, soak it to remove soil and repot with new, sterilized soil. A small amount of insecticide can be added to the soil to keep your plant mite free as well.

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How to Kill Soil Mites

Things You’ll Need

Beautiful flowers may not be the only thing growing in your soil—it may also be the home to soil mites. If you’ve noticed small, white dots walking across the top of your soil or along the edges of your plant’s pot, there’s a good chance these mites have set up shop in your soil. According to the University of Illinois Extension, mites can range in size. Some mites are about the size of pinpoints, while others can reach up to 1/8-inch in diameter. Fortunately, mites are typically just nuisances and do not bother the plant; however, there are a few ways in which to remove the mites and allow your plants to be the only tenants in the soil.

Step 1

Clean and filter the soil. According to the University of Illinois Extension, mites feed off of leaf mold, decaying plant material and peat moss. Therefore, removing any debris in the soil will give the mites less to live on, which may lead to their elimination.

Step 2

Re-pot your plant into sterile soil. Moreover, make sure your pot is clean and void of any soil or debris.

Step 3

Soak the plant’s roots to remove the old soil before placing it inside the new soils and pot. While it is important to remove as much of the old dirt as possible, you must re-pot the plant quickly before its roots dry out or the plant could die.

Step 4

Apply insecticides that contain pyrethrins to the soil. Note any dilution instructions and follow the directions on the label.

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Soil Mites: Identification & Treatment

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  • 0:04 What Are Soil Mites?
  • 0:32 Identifiying Soil Mites
  • 1:56 Are They Harmful?
  • 2:30 Treating Them
  • 3:22 Lesson Summary

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Amy has a master’s degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

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What Are Soil Mites?

The simplest definition of soil mites is mites that live in the soil. Mites are considered close relatives of ticks and spiders. They are arthropods, having an exoskeleton (no internal bones), and a segmented body with legs coming from the segments. Soil mites are also very tiny, measuring just millimeters long, if that — so tiny that just a small 3.5 ounce (100 gram) sample of soil can contain as much as 500 mites from 100 different genera.

Identifying Soil Mites

Since they’re so small, they’re difficult to identify with the naked eye. You can easily miss them by just casually glancing at your soil. But, if you look closely, you might see tiny dots moving around in there. If they aren’t ticks or spiders, then they’re probably soil mites. They can be white or brown, or some other color.

A closeup of an Oribatei mite

There are many types of soil mites, but four suborders are the most commonly found: the Oribatei, Mesostigmata, Prostigmata, and Astigmata.

The most common of these four is the Oribatei, the oribatid mites. These are also called turtle mites because they have a large shell-like body that looks similar to a turtle’s shell. Oribatid mites don’t grow more than a millimeter in length, so you’ll need a microscope to really see them. They eat algae, fungi, dead plants, tiny dead insects, and tiny live worms. For the most part, these are scavengers and not predators. You can find these mites in the top layer of soil and also on lichens and mosses. They’re also found in compost.

The Astigmata — astigmatid mites — are usually found in soils that are rich in nitrogen such as on farms. The Mesostigmata — the mesostigmatid mites — are mostly predators feeding on other small animals. The Prostigmata — prostigmatid mites — is a suborder of a number of mites who all feed differently.

Not much is known of soil mites, but they are being studied and more information is being found about them. In 2001, about 20,000 soil mites had been identified with an estimate of 80,000 different kinds of soil mites in existence.

Are They Harmful?

Now, the big question: are soil mites harmful to people? So far, all the research on soil mites actually indicates that they are beneficial and in fact an extremely important part of the whole decomposition process. Without soil mites to help break down decaying organic matter, plants wouldn’t have nutritious soil to sink their roots into, and as a result animals and humans wouldn’t survive.

They can become a nuisance if they enter your homes and begin settling into your potted containers, or if they begin to crawl all over your patio. Soil mites can also pose a health hazard as they can carry parasites such as tapeworms that can be transmitted to humans.

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Treating Them

If your container gardens or your porch or patio have soil mites on them, the best way to treat them is to first remove all decaying matter such as old leaves or rotting fruits. Keep your living areas, including roofs, free of decaying matter so that they do not become a tempting home for soil mites.

When soil mites begin making a home in your potted containers indoors, you may want to get rid of them. To do this, you’ll need to soak your potted containers so you can take your plant and its roots out of the soil. Then, you’ll repot your plant in new sterilized soil. Add just a little bit of insecticide if you like to keep soil mites away from your soil.

If you keep worms for composting purposes, you may not want too many soil mites living in the same mound. To keep these soil mites in check, you can place a piece of hard fruit such as the rind of a melon into your compost pile and then throw it away after a few days. After those few days, that melon rind should have quite a few soil mites crawling on it and feeding from it.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. Soil mites are mites that live in the soil and are relatives of ticks and spiders. They’re small and grow to just millimeters in length, if that. As of 2001, 20,000 soil mites have been identified with an estimated 80,000 different types of soil mites in the world.

There are four sub-orders of soil mites: Oribatei, Mesostigmata, Prostigmata, and Astigmata. The Oribatei, or oribatid mites, have a turtle-like shell and eat algae, fungi, decaying plants, dead insects, and tiny live worms. These are the most common type of soil mite. The Astigmata are astigmatid mites usually found in soil rich in nitrogen such as on farms. The Mesostigmata are mesostigmatid mites that mostly feed on other small animals. The Prostigmata is a suborder of a number of mites who all feed differently.

For the most part, soil mites are harmless to humans and plants. They are very beneficial to the decomposition process that plants and humans rely on. They can become a nuisance if they begin living in indoor potted containers or crawl around porches and patios. To get rid of them, first make sure you remove any and all decaying plant matter. Then, for potted containers, soak them in water so you take the plant out and repot it in new sterilized soil.

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What to do When Root Aphids Have Taken Over Your Plants

Takeaway: Heat can bring out the worst problems in indoor gardens. Root aphids are a particular setback that can do massive damage to your roots. Here are a few tips on how to keep your plants safe and sound from these nasty bugs.

Whatever the reason, excessively hot temperatures are not favorable to an indoor gardener. Hot temperatures break down plant immune systems, leaving gardens susceptible to attack and infection. If not properly equipped, a system designed for perpetual harvest can begin to collapse as a result of stress input on the plant. Debilitating stress can be caused by a number of factors, including insects, molds, blights, mildews and viruses.

Damage From Root Aphids

Root aphids, the spider mites of the new millennium, are a particular problem. They will infest all grow mediums from rockwool and hydroton to coco and soil, and they crawl to and from containers, pots, cubes and trays, as well as fly about. These little suckers have taken over many gardens; in fact, younger adolescents will devour root systems in hours, turning healthy vibrant plants into wilted standing sticks overnight.

The damage ultimately results in root disease, which many gardeners often mistaken for the primary cause of failure rather than the root aphid itself. As such, inspect for root aphids if you are experiencing root disease despite having ideal water or root zone temperatures. If you look close, they can be seen darting through the atmosphere of rooms (sometimes they are mistaken for fungus gnats, but they are visually more aggressive in flight) and swarming in and around the root systems.

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Their bodies are round—as opposed to slender like thrips—and are much larger than spider mites, and the coloration of adolescent species ranges between hues of red, brown, green and black.

Damage caused by root aphids is notable in a variety of ways. Sudden wilting or death of what were thought to be healthy plants is a common sign of a root aphid attack. Plants will suddenly collapse as a result from over stress to the plant system. Mucus membranes coating aeroponics roots and the smell of must or dirt is a sign that negative pathogens are dominating the plants’ immune systems.

Growth will slow dramatically along with water consumption, and leaf production might grow at half the rate and size of normal. Discoloration in leaf tissue is a sign of nutrient deficiency or lockout, which ultimately results from a damaged root system’s inability to absorb proper nutritional elements.

How To Prevent And Fight Root Aphids

Preventative measures are applicable and available in various forms to combat outbreaks of aphids. Many growers will treat with supplemental micronutrients or vitamins in attempt to solve nutritional deficiencies; however, in actuality, a pesticide is needed. Poisonous pesticides and insecticides are available for immediate systemic control, but I recommend treating with natural and organic alternatives if possible. Poisons are much more hazardous to handle in comparison and will require stricter measures of safety standards when applying them to gardens.

An effective biological control is live ladybugs, which are available at most gardening centers. Ladybugs are most effective on smaller plants, as they are easier to “clean.” The bugs easily scan over cuttings for aphids within a matter of minutes. They will even literally burrow down into most grow mediums and mine juicy aphids from the rhizosphere. However, avoid releasing ladybugs into gardens that have been treated with insecticides or pesticides.

Large infestations, on the other hand, are a little harder to control with biological combatants since they must quickly overpopulate the target pest in order to prevent devastation. In many cases, the time it takes to conquer this feat leaves gardens devastated from neglect.

Azadirachtin extracted from neem, pyrethrums extracted from chrysanthemum, and rosemary and lemongrass oil are naturally derived pesticides that are effective at controlling root aphid outbreaks. These natural plant-based remedies containing rosemary, clove, pyrethrums, and azadirachtin are available to the hobby or commercial grower and feature organic certification. (Organic certified does not necessarily mean safe for consumption, though, so always use care when handling any type of insecticides or pesticides.) I recommend using them together as it provides a broader spectrum of attack against the aphid.

Different active ingredients will have different effects as far as “kill on contact” is concerned. Rosemary- and pyrethrum-based products should have a more concentrated effect for killing on contact. Azadirachtin will work overtime if applied effectively, but it might have little response as an immediate fix. Also, depending on crop type, age, sensitivity, etc., ingredients will fluctuate as far as effective rate is concerned. For example, you might find that pyrethrums will be more effective on tomato and pepper varietals, but not as effective on roses.

An effective way of applying these products is immersing the entire root system in a premixed solution of the desired active ingredient. I recommend root drenching methods, when possible, for battling root aphids and killing large populations on contact immediately. What to root drench with however, will vary with your personality, preference, interest, and just overall how desperate you really are.

Basically, using any desired container or reservoir as a holding tank (i.e.: a 5-gal. bucket, a trashcan, etc.), completely dunk rockwool cubes and containers of hydroponic grow medium into solution and agitate with an up-and-down motion. This will help knock off eggs, larvae, adults and anything clinging to the root mass.

Soilless mixes, such as coco and peat, can be irrigated manually until run off for effective application. It’s also possible that you might need to apply a weaker dilution rate of the desired ingredient with hydroponic gardens because they will be more susceptible to more frequent irrigations—as opposed to soilless mixes, which can hold the solution in the root system for a longer period of time. Less is always more; you can always add a little more, but once damage is done, it’s impossible to undo.

For those who must drop the nuke, so to speak, imidacloprid is the answer. This nasty molecule is sheer death to all root-dwelling insects like aphids, thrips and fungus gnats (it pretty much annihilates anything except mites). Different concentrations of imidacloprid are available in different forms. Just be sure to use extreme caution when handling and applying this dangerous compound.

Cleanliness is obviously the best way to prevent problems from occurring in the garden. Always start from seed if possible, and avoid transfer of cuttings in order to prevent spreading root aphid infestations. Great gardeners are susceptible as much as beginner growers, so practice consistency, develop methods and implement follow-through. Despite heat waves and bug swarms, your garden should stay insect- and disease-free with the proper inputs and routine practices.

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Why You Shouldn’t Put Soil Over a Tree’s Exposed Roots

Have you ever been tempted to cover exposed tree roots with dirt? The temptation is understandable. Here are just a few of the reasons why such roots can drive homeowners crazy:

  • They are unsightly.
  • If they occur in a lawn area, they are in the way every time that you mow the grass; hitting them by mistake can damage your mower blade.
  • Even if they are not in a lawn area, tree roots sticking up above-ground create an unusable space.
  • You or other people can trip over them, so they create a health hazard.
  • And to add insult to injury, they can push up through walkways, etc., causing damage to your hardscape that costs you money (for repair), time, energy, and consternation.

Maple trees (Acer) are especially apt to cause these issues. So are beech trees (Fagus), and anything in the willow family, such as the quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides). As a result of such problems, you may be wondering if you can put topsoil over the roots to cover them up or create a shade garden under the tree.

It does seem, at first glance, like it would be perfectly safe to have topsoil brought in and spread it on top of the exposed roots. After all, soil can’t be a bad thing for roots, right? It is in their nature, is it not, to grow in the dirt? One can readily see why so many homeowners make this landscaping mistake.

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Sure, it may seem safe. However, this practice can be bad for the health of your tree, so beware the cover-up!

Why It Can Be Harmful

If you are thinking of placing dirt on top of exposed roots, at least you are avoiding an even worse mistake: namely, cutting the roots (and yet some beginners mistakenly do just that). Nonetheless, you need to be cautioned against putting soil over tree roots—at least any great amount of soil. You see, tree roots need to breathe. They need oxygen, and dumping a thick layer of dirt on them can suffocate them. In fact, if you suffer from exposed roots, there is a good chance that lack of oxygen was the reason that the roots came to the surface, in the first place: They were getting insufficient oxygen with which to breathe, perhaps due to their growing in compacted soil.

Here is the good news, though: A small amount of soil can be spread over exposed tree roots, in two stages (if necessary); this incremental approach gives the tree roots time to adjust. But suddenly covering exposed tree roots with enough soil to start a garden could cause serious harm to the tree.

How Much Soil to Use

So what is considered a «small amount?» A 2-inch layer of soil is about right. Better yet, mix in some compost before applying the soil, so that the resulting mix will be lighter and fluffier, thereby reducing the likelihood of suffocating the roots. Sow grass seed over the area to try to keep the soil from washing away. If, a year or so later, you find that the soil did not hold (for whatever reason) and the roots are showing above-ground once again, repeat the procedure.

An alternative idea to «dress up» the area under the tree might be to spread a thin (2 inches) layer of mulch over the tree roots, then lay out container gardens (potted plants) with plants of varying heights and textures. If you find attractive pots and hit upon a color scheme that pleases you, then you may end up with a «garden» that is the envy of the neighborhood.

In extreme cases, where exposed roots are sticking up higher than 2 inches above-ground, it is best to just leave them alone and accept that you have a less than ideal situation (unless you are willing to remove the tree).

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What Is White Mold and Is It Dangerous?

White mold is a term that applies to many species of mold which can grow in homes. And, like any other mold, it may compromise your property and health if you don’t deal with it. Read on to learn what white mold is and how it can affect your health.

What is White Mold?

White mold is not a specific type of mold – many species of mold may appear white. The species of white mold commonly found in homes are aspergillus, cladosporium, and penicillum. All these molds may also appear gray, green, black or other tints. Moreover, all molds thrive in moist areas where a food source like wood is present.

Generally, it’s not necessary to determine the type of mold you have in your home – all molds have the same negative effects.

Some molds may appear white in their early stages of development. Later, these molds may change color after producing spores. Yet, many molds appear white regardless of age because their spores are not pigmented. The lack of spore pigmentation is caused by the type of material it’s growing on.

Also, white mold appears as powdery and may blend in with the materials it’s growing on, which makes it hard to tell that it’s actually mold.

White Mold vs Mildew and Efflorescence

Sometimes, people confuse white mold with mildew, which may also have a white appearance. However, mildew rarely grows on surfaces other than plants and doesn’t destroy materials. White mold, on the other hand, penetrates the surface of porous materials like wood or drywall and can ruin them.

It’s also common for people to confuse white mold with a substance called efflorescence. It’s a type of salt deposit caused by salty water which seeps through concrete, brick or stone. When the water evaporates, it leaves behind a white crystalline substance that looks similar to white mold.

Unlike white mold though, efflorescence does not pose any health risks and won’t grow or spread.

To tell whether a substance is white mold or efflorescence, just look at the affected surface. If it’s masonry, it’s efflorescence. Also, put some of it into a drop of water and if it dissolves, it’s not mold. Lastly, squeeze some of the substance between your fingers and if it breaks into fine powder, it’s efflorescence.

Is White Mold Dangerous?

All types of mold, including white mold can cause health problems. White mold should be removed as soon as possible to avoid health risks and structural damage. Even milder forms of white mold can endanger your health.

Since some people don’t realize that white mold is mold, it may put them at risk for extended periods. The symptoms induced by white mold include allergic reactions, respiratory infections, eye irritations, dizziness, nausea, headaches, and even depression.

If you suspect you or a family member has been affected by mold exposure, consult a doctor and have the mold removed immediately.

White mold is just one type of mold that can invade your home. Check out information about black mold, and how to remove mold from your home. For mold removal and water damage repair services, contact your local PuroClean office.

Known as the “Paramedics of Property Damage®,” PuroClean provides fire and smoke damage remediation, water damage remediation, flood water removal, mold removal, and biohazard cleanup to commercial and residential customers. Founded in 2001, PuroClean has a comprehensive network of more than 300 franchise offices across North America. PuroClean technicians are thoroughly screened, insured, and trained in utilizing the latest in mitigation technology and procedures, while operating under a strict code of ethics. Each PuroClean office is independently owned and operated. For franchise information, visit www.purocleanfranchise.com.

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