Easily Get rid of Tiny dark silver bugs in Soil of house plants

sprintails

It’s not uncommon for houseplants to get infested with pests, but in some cases, pests can damage your plant. So what exactly are the tiny dark silver bugs in the soil of your houseplants and how to get rid of them?

These bugs can either be springtails, thrips, or isopods. Springtails will not harm your plant but can be removed by sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the soil. Thrips and isopods on the other hand can do damage but can be removed by using an organic pesticide or by repotting the plant in sterile soil.

By applying the methods that will be explained in this article you will keep your plants healthy for many years to come.

Featured image by: Katja Schulz

What are these tiny dark silver bugs?

Identifying these bugs can actually be quite difficult because there are a lot of different bugs that appear small, silver, and crawl through the soil. To make things a lot easier, I will only talk about the three most common pests that are tiny, silver, and crawl through the soil.

In order for you to identify these bugs, you can use the images below and compare them with the pest that you are dealing with.

Springtails, thrips or isopods

Right image by Andy Murray, center image by Gee and right image by USFWS Mountain-Prairie.

It’s important to know what type of bugs you are dealing with because not all pests are harmful to your plants or your health. Some pests are actually useful for your plant and can help the plant grow healthy.

The pest that you are most likely dealing with is springtails. Springtails are very common in the soil around plants and are actually not bad for your plants as they feed on decaying matter and bad fungus. They actually help the plant grow healthy and strong. There is no need to eliminate these bugs.

It can also be thrips or isopods which can damage your plant as they feed it. You can remove these pests by using a soap/water mixture and spray it on the plant, repot the plant in sterile soil, or use a pesticide to eliminate the bugs.

Why these pests can appear and how to deal with them individually will be further explained below.

Dealing with springtails

The most common pest that contains tiny silver bugs and will infest the soil of your house plants are springtails. These small (1/16 inch) creatures can be seen as crawling dots in your soil, they are white to silver and will not harm your plant in any way. They’re also not bad for your own health nor your pets’ health. You don’t need to remove them from the soil because they will not cause any problem. In fact they are very useful for your plant because:

  • They feed on organic matter, funges, and bacteria.
  • Their feces are nutrient-rich matter that the plant can absorb and use to grow.

Typical for these bugs is that they can jump and have small antennas. Springtails occur when the soil is too moist and there is organic matter in the soil mix. They can enter homes through open windows, open doors, vent pipes, and even window screens. They are attracted to the moisture in the soil and the light in your house.

In the video below, when you look closely, you can see the tiny dark silvery bugs crawling around. These are the springtails…

If you still want to get rid of springtails you can use one of the following methods:

The first method to eliminate springtails is by sprinkling diatomaceous earth on the infested soil, this soil drench is biodegradable and non-toxic but will kill the springtails.

Another way to eliminate these bugs is by taking the plant out of its pot, cleaning the plant with water, and removing all the infested soil from the roots. Next, you want to repot the plant into a clean (or new) pot and you want to add a soil that contains no organic matter (read the small letters on the package of the soil) as this will attract these bugs again.

Use a pesticide to clean the soil. When using this method, always carefully follow the instructions that are on the bottle of pesticide. You can easily make an effective pesticide containing 1 tsp of liquid dish soap, 4 tsp of neem oil, and 1 gallon of water. Or you can use a premade and organic pesticide with natural oils (including neem oil) and water. Click here to check out this organic and easy-to-use pesticide.

Dealing with thrips

Next are thrips, these tiny, silver bugs can easily infest your house plants when you keep a window or a door open. Thrips are small bugs that will grow from 0.02 to 0.25 inches. An easy way to identify this pest is by looking for the larger thrip that is usually black and has a longer body (see picture below). Only the baby thrips appear silver and are small, adult thrips are black and much larger.

thrips pest

The thrips that are on the infested plant won’t only crawl through the soil but also feed on the leaves, fruits, and flowers. These creatures will damage your plant and suck out the juices. These bugs will feed on the parts of the plant that they are on. The leaves can turn brown and get twisted because of the damage.

If you have a thrips party in the soil of your house plant, you can use one of the following methods to eliminate them:

  • Spray the plant and soil with a soap/water mixture (2% soap). First, try spraying the soap/water mixture on a small part of the plant. After three days, if the plant is not damaged by the soap mix, you can apply more soap mix to the infested parts of the plant. Use the soap mix every other day until the pest is gone. If you want an even more potent organic pest-control, you can add neem oil to the soap/water mixture. If the plant does take damage from the soap mix, you want to use another method to eliminate the thrips.
  • Another way to eliminate these bugs is by taking the plant out of its pot, cleaning the plant with water, and removing all the infested soil from the roots. Next, you want to repot the plant into a clean (or new) pot and you want to add a soil that contains no organic matter (read the small letters on the package of the soil) as this will attract these bugs again.
  • Or you can use a pesticide to clean the soil.

Dealing with isopods

Another pest that might have infested into the soil of your houseplant are isopods which can appear silver. They are small bugs that can grow from 1/8 to 1/2 inch, so they can grow a lot bigger than the previously discussed pests. The most common isopods that will crawl into the soil of your house plant are sowbugs and pillbugs. These insects can be both good and bad for your plant.

pillbugs sowbugs

The main activity of these critters is to feed on organic matter, which is a good thing as the feces of the bugs are nutrient-rich matter. But if a plant has a little bit of rot anywhere on the plant, there is a big chance that the isopods will start to feed on that part of the plant as well. When this happens, the bugs give the plant stress which can result in an unhealthy plant.

They also can be harmful if you have a weak plant or if the plant is heavily infested with these insects. When you see that these isopods are doing damage to the plant, it’s best to use one of the pest control methods below.

  • Spray the plant and soil with a soap/water mixture (2% soap). First, try spraying the soap/water mixture on a small part of the plant. After three days, if the plant is not damaged by the soap mix, you can apply more soap mix to the infested parts of the plant. Use the soap mix every other day until the pest is gone. If you want an even more potent organic pest-control, you can add neem oil to the soap/water mixture. If the plant does take damage from the soap mix, you want to use another method to eliminate the thrips.
  • These bugs need water to survive, so by letting the soil of the infested plant dry out completely a lot of bugs will be killed. To make this method work, you have to let the soil dry out completely without killing your plant. Then water the plant and let it dry out completely again. Do this a couple of times until all the bugs are gone. This method should only be used with plants that don’t require a lot of watering, as this can cause stress on your plant.
  • Another way to eliminate these bugs is by taking the plant out of the pot, cleaning the plant with water, removing all the infested soil from the roots, and repot the plant into new potting soil.
  • Or you can use a pesticide to clean the soil.

EXTRA TIPS: houseplant pests preventing

Pest prevention is much easier than treatment.

Here are a couple of techniques you can use to prevent pests in your house plants.

  1. Don’t overwater your plants (never leave the soil moist at all times)
  2. Empty water from saucers
  3. once every 1-2 years, repot the plants to give the plants fresh soil
  4. Keep your plants healthy and strong (by caring for them in the right way)
  5. Make sure there is enough air circulation around house plants
  6. If one plant is heavily infested, keep it away from other plants. Maybe put it in a shed or outside in a place where there are no other plants.
  7. If you have more infested plants that you have bought from one particular nursery. You might want to consider buying your plants from a different nursery the next time you are going to buy any plants.
  8. If your whole greenhouse or all your plants are infested with pests, you can use a fogger with a pesticide to eliminate the buggers. If you try this method, make sure you don’t use a fogger inside a home, as breathing in the chemicals will not be good for your health. Best to use inside a greenhouse or a shed with plants in quarantine.

If you liked this article, check out: Why is it Bad to put a House Plant Into a Pot That is too Big?