No matter how well we care for our houseplants, every now and then you’ll find you get some unwanted housemates. One of the most common pests are little silver bugs that live in the soil of your houseplant. These are usually springtails or isopods. There are a few simple things you can do to get rid of these bugs and also prevent them from coming back in the future.
The most common of the tiny silver bugs that you’ll find in the soil of your houseplant are springtails. These bugs are very small, only growing to about 2 millimetres long. They are white or silver in colour without wings. Springtails love a moist habitat, this makes your houseplant an ideal home. These small bugs will often look for new homes during periods of drought, they look for moisture and whilst being very small bugs, they have powerful jumping capabilities and are able to cover short distances quite quickly.
It is very rare that springtails will damage your plant, they much prefer to feed off the organic matter, bacteria and fungus found in the soil. This doesn’t mean that they cant harm your plants on occasion though. Springtails may use overly wet and acidic roots as a food source.
Springtail damage can be spotted by small round pits in the roots of your houseplant. This damage wont affect well established too much, however in seedlings, young plants and diseased plants, damage caused by springtails may lead to wilting and eventual death. This is because the small holes in the roots change how the plant can absorb water and nutrients leading to your houseplants becoming malnourished.
How to get rid of Springtails from houseplants
Firstly, don’t freak out if you only see a a few springtails in your houseplants. They wont cause an enormous amount of damage and if it is only a few, they may go away in time. If the population starts to grow however, you may need to take action to save your plants. The higher the population, the less organic matter will be available in the soil for them to feed on. As they look for more food they will start to eat the roots of your plant.
The first thing you’ll need to do is reduce the moisture in the soil as this is what springtails like. In periods of drought they move from place to place searching for a suitable climate, if you reduce the moisture levels they will either go away and look for a new home or die out completely.
To reduce the moisture levels in your houseplant pot:
– Start to water the plant less, only water when the top 1-2 inches become dry.
– If you are using a mulch, use less of it to speed this process along.
– You’ll also need to ensure that your pots have adequate drainage to remove this excess moisture.
If you find that after your moisture correction efforts that you still have a springtail problem, you’ll need to look into using a pesticide. Always make sure to read the labels and directions carefully and to use the chemicals in the right concentration.
We’ve tried our fair share of pesticides and insecticides over many years of growing and have found this product to work extremely well on springtails, you can find it on Amazon through our link.
Isopods (Pillbug & Sowbug)
If you have tiny silver or white bugs in the soil if your houseplants, they may be isopods. Isopods are crustaceans that thrive in moist areas. The most common isopods found in your houseplants will be either pillbugs or sowbugs. These bug-like animals can grow up to half an inch long, depending on the species. They feed on decaying organic matter within the soil but will mostly occupy the top layer of soil about 1-2 inches down.
Isopods can cause more damage to your plants than springtails, so if you see them it is best to act soon. Although they feed on decaying organic matter, as populations grow they will find alternate sources of food. Low lying leaves and flowers become food for isopods and as feeding pressure increases they will start to consume roots and stems leading to plant death.
How to get rid of Pillbugs and Sowbugs from houseplants
The method for getting rid of isopods is very similar to removing springtails. Because they are crustaceans, they breathe using gills, so naturally they enjoy a moist environment. By using the same moisture control techniques you can remove isopods and prevent them from coming back in the future.
Pillbugs and sowbugs feed on organic matter that is decaying, so if you use organic mulch it is beneficial to swap it out for black plastic mulch or remove it all together to speed up the drying time. They also do not like too much sunlight, so putting your houseplant in an area of your home that receives a bit more sunlight will help to remove isopods and stop them from coming back.
There aren’t chemical controls available for isopods that are extremely effective so it is not advised that you go down this route as you can cause more damage. In severe cases of isopod infestations it would be best to remove the plant, clean the roots and re-pot it in clean soil which is free from any infestation.
If you find tiny silver or white bugs in the soil of your houseplants, don’t get upset or discouraged, there are simple fixes to get rid of them and prevent them from coming back in the future. Springtails, pillbugs and sowbugs wont cause a large amount of damage as long as you dont let the population get out of hand. At first sight of these pests, take it as a hint that you could be watering too much, move the plant so it gets more sunlight and most of the time you wont need to take any more action. However it is good to know that there are simple fixes available and you’ll be able to save your beloved houseplant so it can continue to grow happy.