Fast Moving White Bugs In Your Soil

Fast Moving White Bugs in Your Soil? Common Houseplant Bugs

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Pesky PESTS – every gardener’s dreaded nightmare!

Why wouldn’t it be? After all your efforts in taking care of your plants, these tiny white bugs suddenly appear in the soil. Ughhhh!!! What could you have done wrong for them to be infested with such annoying critters?

So frustrating, I know.

To help ease your worries, we have gathered some of the most common houseplant bugs. We will help you identify which is which. And, teach you how to prevent and treat the infestation.

This way, those tiny white bugs could either be among these three – whiteflies, mealybugs, or spider mites. So, stick around and read until the end to know exactly what to do.

Tiny White Bugs & More – What You Should Know About the Bugs

Fast Moving White Bugs In Your Soil
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Whiteflies

Scientific Name Aleyrodidae
Characteristics
  • Pure white soft-bodied moths.
  • Although they have wings and can fly, they are not “true” flies.
  • Size can be as small as 1/12 of an inch.
  • Appears triangular in shape.
  • Often found in clusters on the leaf’s underside.
  • Instantly flies off when disturbed.
  • Most active in the daytime.
  • Does not thrive in freezing temperatures.
  • Closely related to aphids and mealybugs.
Susceptible Plants Ornamental & indoor houseplants: Ivy, begonia, gerbera daisy, garden chrysanthemum, hibiscus, verbena, poinsettia, lantana, and angel trumpet.

Fruits & vegetables: Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumber, bean, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, squash, melon, watermelon, and citrus tree.

Causes
  1. Hot and dry climates.
  2. Plant stress.
  3. Overfertilization with nitrogen-rich plant foods.
  4. Excessive use of non-specific insecticides.
Effects 
  • Yellowing of the leaves.
  • Shriveled leaves.
  • Premature dropping of leaves.
  • Encourage the growth of sooty mold fungus.
  • Increase the presence of ants.
Prevention & Treatment
  1. Attract beneficial bugs (e.g. ladybugs, parasitic wasps, spiders, lacewings, big-eyed bugs, etc.).
  2. Do not over fertilize your plant. Instead, opt to use slow-release fertilizers for better control.
  3. New growths attract whiteflies. Hence, avoid over-pruning your plants.
  4. Hang yellow sticky tape traps to help detect invasion.
  5. Use garden row covers to prevent whiteflies from penetrating the plants.
  6. Carefully vacuum the leaves to suck out the whiteflies. 
  7. Wash undersides of leaves with plain water using a spray bottle or garden hose.
  8. Make a DIY solution by mixing a squirt of dish soap into a gallon of water.
  9. Use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil on the leaf underside. It is best to apply in the nighttime to avoid adverse reactions from sun exposure.
  10. Treat the infestation with Imidacloprid. It is a low toxic insecticide effective for eliminating whiteflies.
Best products to use Garden Safe Ready-to-use Insecticidal Soap

Southern Ag Parafine Horticultural Oil 

Bayer Temprid FX Insecticide

Mealybugs

Scientific Name Pseudococcidae
Characteristics
  • Fuzzy white soft-bodied insects
  • Can also appear as cream or brown in color.
  • Size can be as small as 1/10 of an inch.
  • Often found around the leaves and the stems.
  • Inflicts damage by sucking out plant juice.
  • Leaves traces of cottony or waxy deposits.
  • Attracted to new growth.
  • Thrives in warm environments.
  • Related to scale insects.
Susceptible Plants Indoor houseplants: English ivy, jade plant, ficus trees, hoya plants, palm, philodendron, aglaonema, cactus, dracaena, and ferns.

Outdoor plants: African violets, begonia, gerbera daisy, chrysanthemum, hibiscus, marigold,  poinsettia, jasmine, and mimosa.

Crops: Avocados, grapes, and citrus trees.

Causes
  1. Overwatering.
  2. Overfertilization with nitrogen-rich plant foods.
  3. Use of contaminated potting soil.
Effects 
  • Yellowing of the leaves.
  • Curling and wrinkling of leaves.
  • Premature defoliation.
  • Encourage the growth of sooty mold fungus.
  • Stunted growth.
  • Plant malformation.
Prevention & Treatment
  1. Attract beneficial bugs (e.g. parasitic wasps, green lacewings, and ladybird beetle.)
  2. Do not overwater your plant.
  3. Do not over fertilize your plant. Instead, opt to use slow-release fertilizers for better control.
  4. Prune infected portions of the plant.
  5. Wash the plant with plain water using a spray bottle or garden hose.
  6. Wipe affected areas using cotton swabs soaked in rubbing alcohol.
  7. Use insecticidal soap or neem oil on the leaf underside. It is best to apply in the nighttime to avoid adverse reactions from sun exposure.
  8. Use synthetic and commercial insecticides containing Dinotefuran or Thiamethoxam.
Best products to use Swan 70% Isopropyl Alcohol

Verdana Organic Cold-Pressed Neem Oil

Valent Safari Dinotefuran Insecticide

Spider Mites

Scientific Name Tetranychidae
Characteristics
  • Yellow or reddish-brown, oval-shaped bugs with eight legs.
  • Size can be as small as 1/50 of an inch.
  • Not actually an insect. Rather, they are classified as arachnids.
  • Related to spiders, ticks, and scorpions.
  • Often found in clusters around leaf undersides.
  • Inflicts damage by piercing through the plant and sucking out the sap.
  • Feeding marks appear as tiny spots on the leaf surface.
  • Traces of fine webbings on leaf undersides and branch intersections is a telltale sign of infestation.
  • High reproductive rate.
  • Resistant to chemical pesticides.
Susceptible Plants Ornamental & indoor houseplants: Arborvitaes, azaleas, camellia, roses, impatiens, and salvia.

Crops: Beans, sugar peas, eggplant, squash, tomato, strawberries, melons, and watermelons 

Causes
  1. Hot and dry climates.
  2. Excessive use of non-specific insecticides.
  3. Use of contaminated potting soil.
  4. Cross-contamination from other spider mite-infested plants.
Effects 
  • Yellowing of the leaves.
  • Curling of leaves.
  • Premature defoliation.
  • Stunted growth.
Prevention & Treatment
  1. Attract beneficial bugs (e.g. ladybugs, lacewing, minute pirate bugs, spider mite destroyer, predatory mites, predatory thrips, and big-eyed bugs).
  2. Avoid water stress.
  3. Prune infected portions of the plant especially those with visible webbings.
  4. Hose down your plant to dislodge webbings and flush out spider mites.
  5. Spray insecticidal soap or botanical insecticides for spot treatment. 
  6. Use pure neem oil to smother and kill spider mites.
  7. Use naturally-derived miticidal sprays that contain Pyrethrins and Azadirachtins.
  8. Worse comes to worst, do not hesitate to entirely take down heavily-infested plants if it means saving the rest of the neighboring plants too.
Best products to use Neem Bliss Pure Neem Oil

Southern Ag Natural Pyrethrin Concentrate

General Hydroponics AzaMax

Fungus Gnats

Scientific Name Sciaridae
Characteristics
  • Gray to black insects with one pair of gray to see-through wings.
  • It has long legs and antennae that make them resemble a mosquito.
  • Size can be as small as 1/8 to 1/10 of an inch.
  • Short-lived lifespan of only one week.
  • Adult gnats may lay about 200 eggs.
  • Fungus gnats are not strong flyers.
  • They spend the majority of their time on the soil surface.
  • Thrives in warm and humid climates.
Susceptible Plants Ornamental & indoor houseplants: African violets, spider plants, peace lilies, geranium, wandering jews, carnations, and poinsettias.
Causes
  1. Overwatering.
  2. Use of contaminated potting soil.
  3. Cross-contamination from other fungus gnat-infested plants.
Effects 
  • Yellowing of the lower leaves.
  • Premature defoliation.
  • Wilting of the plant.
  • Stunted growth.
  • Precipitates development of soil-borne disease including Pythium, Fusarium, and Verticillium.
Prevention & Treatment
  1. Do not overwater your plant. Allow top 1 to 2 inches of the soil to dry before watering.
  2. Hang yellow sticky tape traps horizontally across the surface of the soil.
  3. Use mosquito dunks containing beneficial bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis.
  4. Cover the pot’s drainage hole with synthetic fiber.
  5. Use beneficial nematodes and predatory mites to eliminate gnats at the larval stage.
  6. Use insecticidal soaps and neem oil to smother larvae.
  7. Treat infestation with insecticides containing Bifenthrin, Cyfluthrin, Permethrin, or Azadirachtin as active ingredients.
Best products to use Summit Mosquito Dunks

BASF Cy-Kick-CS Insecticide

Syngenta Demon WP Insecticide

Thrips

Scientific Name Thysanoptera
Characteristics
  • Yellow to brown or black-bodied insects with two pairs of narrow, fringed wings.
  • Size can be as small as 1/50 to 1/25 of an inch.
  • Inflicts damage by sucking out the plant’s juice and scraping on leaves, flowers, and fruits.
  • Thrives in tropical and temperate climates.
Susceptible Plants Ornamental & indoor houseplants: African violets, orchids, gladioli, and roses.

Crops: Onions, beans, carrots, squash, grapes, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, and nectarines.

Causes
  1. Overfertilization.
  2. Use of contaminated potting soil.
  3. Cross-contamination from other thrip-infested plants.
  4. Thrips are attracted to moist environments.
Effects 
  • Discoloration of the plant.
  • Affected leaves appear pale, splotchy, and silvery.
  • Disfigured flowers and fruits.
  • Decreased seed production
  • Stunted growth.
  • Signs of scarring.
  • Potential to transmit viruses including tomato spotted wilt virus and impatiens necrotic spot virus.
Prevention & Treatment
  1. Hang yellow sticky tape traps.
  2. Hose down the plant with water. The force of the stream will help to detach thrips from the plants.
  3. Attract beneficial bugs (e.g. ladybugs, pirate bugs, lacewings, predatory mites, and predatory thrips).
  4. Do not over fertilize.
  5. Use reflective mulch to help conceal your plant from thrips.
  6. You may spray dormant oil on infested fruit trees.
  7. Dust affected areas with diatomaceous earth.
  1. Use neem oil for spot treatment of heavily-infested areas.
  2. Treat infestation with Pyrethrin. It is a short-lived botanical insecticide that is less toxic on plants.
Best products to use Navadeal Reflective Mylar Film

Harris Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade

MGK PyGanic Gardening Pyrethrin Concentrate

Wrapping Up:

Pests can be nasty! No doubt about it. But, with proper knowledge, keen observation and persistence, you can surely overcome your bug worries. To help you on the path to bug-free plants (except for the beneficial bugs, of course), we’ve compiled a handy list that tells you exactly 

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