Gardening is one of the most productive and practical hobbies, but it’s a lot of work. The gardeners need to be particular about the type of soil they use for plants and how they can encourage plant growth.
Usually, mulch is used to enrich the soil as it’s organic and helps reduce weed growth. In addition, mulch helps retain the soil’s moisture and keep the roots cool.
In fact, it’s a great way of adding aesthetic appeal to the garden bed. However, mulch sometimes has small white bugs, so we are sharing what they are and what they mean.
What Are The Small White Bugs In Mulch?
The white bugs are basically soil mites and are the size of a pinhead and look like tickers or spiders. There are different types of soil mites out there, and some of them are beneficial for the soil as they help break down the organic matter in mulch and help in the absorption of nutrients.
In most cases, they are great for plant growth, but the gardeners can remove them.
The soil mites appear in mulch because there is a sufficient source of nutrients for them in mulch. However, they can also be found in topsoil, potting soil, and compost. The easiest way of getting rid of small white bugs is to remove the food source, which means you’ve to clear the decaying matter or compost.
On the other hand, if there are reddish or brown streaks on them, they are spider mites, which can damage the plants. If these mites aren’t removed on time, it results in the withering of the plants. That’s because the spider mites are the sap-drinkers, which feed off the plants.
It’s quite easy to differentiate between spider mites and regular white bugs – use a paper towel to wipe the plant’s leaves, and if it leaks the red or brown streaks, these are spider mites and must be removed.
The spider mites are usually found on the plant’s stalks and leaves and leave behind a soft and silky webbing on the leaves. Since spider mites damage the plants, it’s recommended that you use an insecticide on the infested plants for two months to remove the eggs and adults.
Having said that, the regular white bugs in mulch aren’t harmful, but if there are white bugs on stalks and leaves of the plant, they are spider mites and should be removed . Some other types of white bugs include;
- Oribatid Mites
This type of soil mites is common in wooded areas where it works on the breakdown of the organic matter.
At times, these mites make their way to container plants, patios, and decks, especially if the mulch is around, because they are drawn to organic matter, such as mold, moss, and leaves (these are common ingredients of mulch).
- Worm Bin Mites
These are fast-moving mites that are commonly found in mulch or compost bins. In addition, they can be found in the outdoor piles of manure or indoor pins. These mites are round and shiny and tend to feed on the rooting rinds. These mites can be removed by putting watermelon rind in the mulch.
These bugs have a fork-like tail and have the ability to jump ten times their height. They are white or light grey in color. They breed extremely fast and can riddle the soil. However, these bugs cannot harm the plants and live off the dead plant’s debris and mold and won’t attack the plants or their roots.
They can thrive in moist environments, which is why they stay in mulch, especially if the plant is watered regularly. The easiest way of removing springtails is to leave the plants dry for some time.
The mealybugs are white and small and often look like lint that’s scattered around the soil. The mealybugs can be damaging to the plants because they feed off the soil’s nutrients, which results in disrupted growth, wilting leaves, and early dropping of flowers.
Ways To Control White Bug Infestation
The majority of small white bugs in the mulch are beneficial for plants. However, it’s still recommended that you clear the bug infestation because they might be mealybugs or spider mites, which hinder plant growth.
The garden is an ecosystem, which means proper balance is important to prevent and control the white bug infestation. For this purpose, you can try the following tips;
- Maintain The Lawn By Aerating
First of all, you have to maintain the lawn by aerating it regularly. Proper aeration helps prevent the soil from getting excessive moisture or shade and makes sure it doesn’t hold the decaying matter. As a result, the lawn will be less appealing for mites.
- Regular Cleaning
Regular clearing of the garden and removal of old organic matter is one of the best ways of controlling the infestation. This is because the organic matter in the soil is the primary source of food for the mites.
For this purpose, it’s recommended that you clear away the old clippings, dead plants, fallen leaves, and branches. In addition, you must clean the gutters in the garden.
Cleaning also includes removing the old potting soil. Since white bugs live in the top layer of the soil, it’s recommended that you remove the top two inches of the soil and discard it.
In addition to removing the soil, you must clear the decaying organic matter and dead leaves. However, you must be gentle while removing the decaying matter to make sure roots aren’t damaged in the process.
Home compost is one of the most common reasons behind soil mites. However, it’s recommended that you invest in a closed compost bin to control the population of mites and prevent them from invading the garden. The compost bins are easily available in nurseries and plant sections of grocery stores.
Overwatering of the plants can result in water-logged soil, which not only kills the plant but also causes speedy decaying of the plants. For this reason, it’s recommended that you water the top layer of the soil only when it is dry.
In addition, you must aerate the lawn for better water drainage or reduce the clay content from the flower beds. Lastly, you should invest in a rain garden.
- Use Insecticides
The soil mites can be easily killed with the help of all-purpose insecticides, but it should be the last resort because insecticides can damage the environment. Also, the insecticides should be used for over two months to ensure all the eggs and adults are killed.
Instead, you can make eco-friendly insecticide by mixing one gallon of water and five tablespoons of cleaning liquid. This solution can be sprayed onto the soil until the bugs are removed.
The second option is to mix the dish soap and neem oil to create an organic pesticide. For this mixture, you should use two tablespoons of liquid soap and neem oil in one gallon of water and spray it all over the mulch and plants. This mixture should be used every week to ensure the proper removal of the bugs.
- Repot The Plant
Whenever you have to repot the plant, it’s recommended that you opt for a fresh and new potting mixture because it will be free of mites and bugs. Keep in mind that the soil mites can get into the potting soil bags and lay eggs, which can infest the plant.
For this reason, you should always purchase fresh soil. However, you must repot the plant when all other solutions for removing the white bugs don’t work.
To repot the plant, you should remove the plant, wash the roots, and use fresh soil. In addition, you should always repot the plant away from other plants to minimize the spread of bugs. Last but not least, you must use a well-sanitized pot for the plant.
The Bottom Line
The small white bugs in the mulch are beneficial to the plants as they help break down the organic matter in the mulch. However, if these bugs are spider mites or mealybugs, they can damage the plants.
Since it’s hard to differentiate between beneficial and sap-drinking bugs, it’s recommended that you remove them all to prevent plant damage.