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white ant like insects in potted plants

Posted by sowngrow TX8a (My Page) on
Wed, Mar 5, 08 at 11:46

I've got white insects, similar to ants, but a little thicker in the body and about 1/4" long, in potted plants, in my greenhouse. I first noticed these white insects in a bag of potting soil. I've tried watering the plant with orange oil in water, but that didn't eradicate these things. Could these be termites? I don't have wood in the soil unless there might be some real small pieces of wood chips mixed in with it. I'll try to take a photo, but these things are tiny so I'm not sure I can capture them enough to show you what they look like. Thanks for any advice on these.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: white ant like insects in potted plants

They might be white flies. I use rubbing alcohol to kill insects on potted plants. I dampen the top of the soil, but I do not put enough alcohol that any would be taken up by the roots of the plant. I have also sprayed the leaves, when necessary, with a 50/50 solution of water and alcohol. It has been successful for me.

RE: white ant like insects in potted plants

  • Posted by jean001 z8aPortland, OR (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 5, 08 at 21:01

Whiteflies aren't in soil or potting mix. They live on the plant during their entire life cycle.

Not termites either.

If they tend to jump, they're springtails. If the tend to stay on the surface or within the potting mix, they may be symphylans.

In both of the last two instance, it means that the potting mix is kept too wet.

RE: white ant like insects in potted plants

After my intial post on this subject, I searched termites on the web and what I have looks exactly like termites. They don't have wings, don't jump and the soil has been allowed to dry in between waterings. The one pot I had sitting on a wire bench and tunnel like things were protruding from the bottom of it. I touched them with gloved hands and they disintegrated like fine dust with tiny white spots in it-possibly termite eggs? I don't know but so far that's what it appears to be. Some information I found online said that termites do live in soil. I'll try to get a photo of the insects and post it tomorrow. Thanks for the replies.

RE: white ant like insects in potted plants

Usually termites build tunnels in order to connect to a moisture supply, but your pots may be taking care of that.

Do you have a magnifying glass to help you make a valid ID? Refrigerate or freeze 'em to slow them down before looking closely. Generally, light colored "ants" without waists do turn out to be termites. If you do make a valid ID, better check your house. Several species are active in your area, including some that blow in on the wind.

If you own your house, you probably have a termite bond, and a thorough inspection will be free for the asking.

Here is a link that might be useful: my website

RE: white ant like insects in potted plants

I can see the termites fine. I can't fit these pots in my freezer and honestly I don't want to put termite infested pots in my food freezer. I can have a termite inspection done for free. Had one done at our last home in this area as we did get termites inside our home. I have seen termite damage on the fence behind my greenhouse about 30' from the greenhouse. I know termites travel. I'll try putting boric acid in there, in a dish. I use it for ants here. A GW member from San Antonio who posts frequently suggested trying it for termites also. Thanks for your reply.

RE: white ant like insects in potted plants

Check this web site
You can ID ANY kind of bug

Here is a link that might be useful: What's That Bug?

RE: white ant like insects in potted plants


so what is the best method for getting rid of these ? And how exactly did you dampen the surface of the soil, Lorna, do you mind my asking ?

Thanks Ellen Sullivan

RE: white ant like insects in potted plants

  • Posted by jolj 7b/8a-S.C.,USA (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 2, 11 at 14:46

grow now, Thanks for the link.

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