Small white bugs, fast crawlers in soil, please help ID...

avengingabOctober 12, 2006

Hi guys, I really need some help here identifying these bugs in the soil of one of my serissas. I'm about to put an automatic irrigation system with some of my bonsai trees all in one tub, and I don't want the infestation to spread into the other trees that are doing fine.

The infestation is so bad that when I repot (which I have done twice), I am tempted to just simply throw the plant away.

Any help identifying, so that I can treat and kill them all would be appreciated!

Insect Description: Multi-legged, allowing it to move pretty fast for its size

Size: less than 1 mm long

Color: Appear to be white when you lift the soil. On paper, they have a very light amber color. Not very transparent or translucent.

Mobility: They tend to show up when the soil is disturbed, otherwise, they stay inside the soil. There are NO flying insects (not fungus gnats or white flies), NOR do these jump (not springtails...or not the seeing variety). They like to stay in the soil near the roots.

Symptoms: Not very obvious, but stunted growth in leaves is obvious (compared to my other serissa which is growing healthy leaves). The leaves are very green and healthy colored, but some are curled or abnormally shaped (some even slightly wavy or oddly thin). Foilage is also more likely to stay small and grow in tight messy clumps instead of expanding into full, stretched out leaves. Fine roots do not appear to be affect nor galled. The root system is not as spread out as it should be though for a bonsai its size.

Attempted treatments: Used neem oil for a week or two with no effect, did not seem to respond to this treatment. Tried pryethins. When I repotted the last time, I even soaked the roots in pryethins and neem oil. Well, a month later and they are back.

Soil and Watering: The plant isn't overwatered, and is usually watered once the top inch is fairly dry. Soil is a chiefly inorganic coarse mix of shale, volcanic rock, and some bark. The plant is kept indoors under decent air circulation.

I think that's a fairly complete description, but if you have any questions, please ask!

Any ideas? I'm desperate and once the irrigation system is up. I'm going to have to make a decision about what to do with the plant if the infestation isn't eradicated.



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Soak the whole pot in the sink for 10 mins.... nothing will survive that, but then there may still be eggs, so you should maybe just get a regular house plant insecticide and do a drench as per label info. BTW, your mix is a bit on the dry side for serissas, and you may be leaving it just a day late for watering (usually the opposite of what I suggest for a lot of trees, but this is more tropical than anything and does need to be watered regularly, plus that mix (even if you add a bit more organic stuff) will let the water run right through anyhow, so you don't need to worry about rot or fungus.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2006 at 9:24PM
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Hi lucy,

Thanks for your message. I've tried soaking the pot in the sink before. I've even soaked the pot in a mixture of diluted Neem oil and pyrethins. They were still there, so then I repotted, and I thought I got rid of them because I had washed the roots thoroughly and sprayed them with insecticide (no, the serissa wasn't happy with that and got very pissed off). After a while it went back to normal though, but the bugs did too....

I usually water my serissa every day because even though it's indoors, the area immediately below my lights usually stay around 85-95 degrees at 45 percent relative humidity.

Anyway...I'm just trying to figure out what they are now, so maybe I can find a more specific means to target this particular pest. Even if they're not harmful, I'd prefer that they do not infest the soil of my other bonsai once I get the automatic irrigation system up.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 5:08PM
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I don't blame you - have you tried googling images of .. aphids? Or asking a local garden ctre if they have any ideas? Try Safer's soap spray (insecticide for house plants) - nothing to lose - neem may not work for everything after all. I still think your serissa would be happier with more organics in the soil and a day off from watering, but if it's alive and well, you're already ahead of the game with it, so never mind.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 5:58PM
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I think i have the same fast moving small white bugs in my soil. They do not fly and are very tiny. Have you had any success getting rid of them? I know they are not aphids. What did you eventually do with your tree?


    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 2:09PM
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After further research i'm fairly certain these are spider mites. It can be hard to see the webs in some cases. Also, they seem not to care for some plants, and thus stay mostly in the soil. Other plants they prefer to eat the leaves and stem and so on those plants they can be found more on the leaves. If anyone else has other comments on this, or thinks i'm wrong please do share.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 6:56PM
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Those little bugs could be a variety of thrips that live in the soil.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2012 at 11:57PM
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Hey I am having same issue driving me crazy all the bonsai that have them are thriving were doing bad but now all doing great and I had a fungus gnat issue and haven't seen enough in a while and was spook happy to finally be done with them do to my own personal mix (way better and more potent then the store carp that's too expensive and a waste) of pure organic neem and torturing and I been so happy CAUSE my fungus gnat issue was done now I move a rock I have sitting in the soil of a chinese elm and see these things crawling sprayed the he'll it of employment and nothing happened then moved a rock in my soil of my fukien tea which never had any issues even when the fungus gnats were embarrassing but moved the rock seen some cotton looking white stuff figured it was powdery mildew but now I'm thinking maybe they are spider mites but if so why won't the neem mixed with soap and torturing work and why aren't they up under the leaves as they're normally described please help cause my plants are great but wtf I don't like nothing in my plants soil or near my plants I have some predatory nematodes will that help and plus fyi I am using sphagnum moss method with my bonsai and for those old school traditional method please don't give your negative input on sphagnum cause it won't work my bonsai and I mean all twenty two of employment are doing amazing compare to how they were doing outside and indoor since I've switched and thats why I am using sphagnum so please help if u can and excuse my long message

    Bookmark   November 24, 2013 at 8:53PM
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