Pest patrol is a duty every gardener must shoulder at some point in the growing season. But before you draw up elaborate plans to fumigate your backyard or douse your potting plants in pesticide, remember: not all bugs are bad. Some tiny creatures actually perform functions crucial to the health of your soil. Read on to learn about one such creepy crawler, the soil mite.
Soil mites are beneficial arthropods that help break down organic matter in the soil. This can include fungus, leaf litter, algae – basically any naturally occurring item that finds its way onto the ground. Some soil mites even eat very tiny bacteria and nematodes that would otherwise harm soil health. Biologists have so far identified over 20,000 types of soil mites, and they suspect nearly 80,000 types exist across the globe.
Here’s a quick overview of the most commonly found soil mites: Oribatid, Astigmata, Gasamid, and Mesostigmata. Oribatid soil mites love to eat fungi, so you can often find them near moss and lichen. They typically live three to four years but can live up to seven years in the right conditions. View website article for more details.
Astigmata prefer soils with high nitrogen content, such as farm soils. Gasamid and Mesostigmata are predatory soil mites; you’ll find them preying on nematodes. Regardless of type, soil mites are tiny, measuring no more than a few millimeters. If you are able to see them, they will look like small white dots, moving slowly through the soil. View website article for more details.
Soil mites love organic matter. You’ll likely find them in your compost bin. It’s also possible you’ll find them in a bag of Miracle-Gro potting soil – even if freshly opened. Assuming you have healthy soil, you will find soil mites already existing in your garden, whether you have a raised garden bed, vegetable garden, or flower bed. View website article for more details.
In rare cases, soil mites might increase in numbers to the extent that you can see them in indoor containers and house plants. (This is unlikely thanks to the mites’ slow reproduction rate.) Even if you find soil mites on your precious orchid or peace lily, don’t panic. These mites won’t do any harm. Like the soil mites you find around outdoor plants, soil mites are not harmful to indoor plants.