Ask a Question forum: Tiny, skinny, silvery bugs in house plant soil

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Name: Alyssa Blue
Ohio (Zone 5b)
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AlyssaBlue
Apr 3, 2016 7:03 PM CST
One of the plants I purchased several months ago, now has these bugs in the soil, so there must have been eggs in the original soil around the roots. To the naked eye, they look like a tiny straight stick. Using a flashlight and magnifying glass, they are fast moving bugs that are longer and skinny, and are silvery in the light as they move. I cannot find any exact match online. Springtail is the closest match, but they do not jump (or fly, for that matter). Maybe springtails do not always jump? Has anyone ever encountered this? If so, what did you use to get rid of them?

I only found these because I randomly check the plants by putting a slice of potato on top of soil to check for bugs. When I removed the potato after a few hours, the bug was crawling across, trying to get away from the light of the flashlight. Any help is appreciated!
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Apr 3, 2016 8:00 PM CST
It sounds like you have Thrips! And they are sucking the life out of your plants.

The best defense is Insecticidal Soap. Use it often until the thrips are gone.

Daisy
Name: Alyssa Blue
Ohio (Zone 5b)
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AlyssaBlue
Apr 3, 2016 8:46 PM CST
Great. Thank you for helping with that because I have not had to deal with that problem in the past so I wasn't sure.

Then I'm thinking insecticidal soap is not enough, I do not want to have them spread to other plants. I'm not afraid to use chemicals as long as it's pet and human safe.

It looks like they feed of the entire plant, is that correct?
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Apr 3, 2016 9:11 PM CST
Insecticidal Soap really is the best thing to use. Spray the plant completely: under, over and around. Pour the rest of your spray into the soil. Repeat about once a week until they are gone. Every time you water, water with insecticidal soap.

Daisy
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Apr 3, 2016 9:19 PM CST
Alyssa, the soap is very effective. You don't need something stronger to kill off your thrips. Stronger is not necessarily faster or more effective, but is usually much more toxic.

The reason you need to keep repeating the soap application is because it will kill off the bugs that are present, but not the ones still in their eggs. To get all the generations, you probably need to spray everything with the soap about twice a week for a couple of weeks. Be sure to get the undersides of the leaves, the soil surface, and all around the pot as well.
Elaine

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Name: Alyssa Blue
Ohio (Zone 5b)
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AlyssaBlue
Apr 3, 2016 9:20 PM CST
Ok, will do!! I've have a hard time dealing with bugs ever since living in the desert, and I stepped on a dead scorpion in our pool. Yes, it was dead but still. That's why I lean towards the "knock them out now" stuff first.

Thanks, Daisyl Thank You!



Name: Alyssa Blue
Ohio (Zone 5b)
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AlyssaBlue
Apr 3, 2016 9:53 PM CST
dyzzypyxxy- you and I must've been posting at the same time. That makes sense- you have to go through the entire life cycle before they are gone.

Thank You!
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Apr 4, 2016 4:51 AM CST
AlyssaBlue said:I cannot find any exact match online. Springtail is the closest match, but they do not jump (or fly, for that matter). Maybe springtails do not always jump? Has anyone ever encountered this? If so, what did you use to get rid of them?


Springtails jump when you disturb them. Have you tried poking at them with a pen or something to see if they do so? Are they only on the soil or are they on the plant as well? If they're mostly on the soil I'd lean towards springtails. Thrips would be mostly on the green parts of the plant. Is there any way you could post a picture? Also what kind of plant is it?

[Last edited by sooby - Apr 4, 2016 5:13 AM (+)]
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Name: Alyssa Blue
Ohio (Zone 5b)
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AlyssaBlue
Apr 4, 2016 6:52 AM CST
sooby- It is a money tree (pachira aquatica). There are actually a couple of curious deformed leaves on the plant, so that was my clue to put the potato on the soil, to check. I cannot sayat this point if they are actually related (leaves to bugs). The rest of the leaves look great.

These bugs are so small a photo would be a challenge, but I'm up for it. Lastnight, when I removed the potato from the stop of the soil, I could see a skinny speck of dirt crawl across the potato without the magnifying glass. Only when I used the magnifier, could I see that they are irridescent/silvery, long and skinny, and they do have antennae they move back and forth while crawling. They're hunting for food. Grumbling I actually saw one start chewing on the potato itself.

I've already sprayed the plant over, under and top of soil, but I can check again with the potato wedged in a little further and see if I can get a photo with the good lens. I'll include a photo of the leaf too.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Apr 4, 2016 7:05 AM CST
What I've done in the past is point the camera lens through a magnifying glass. Kind of needs a bit of juggling but worth a try. If you have a camera with a macro lens that might be enough. Even if you can get a fuzzy version of the shape of the critter it would help. I don't think thrips would feed on a potato slice - they typically scrape at above ground plant parts and suck up the juice.

The reason I asked what kind of plant it was is so that we could look up which thrips species affects that plant and from there what colour it is likely to be. Thrips can be a sort of white colour but it depends on the species. I've seen lots of white linear springtails on occasion though (that's the other test, see if they jump when you disturb them). I've had a quick look and am not seeing anything about whether thrips affect Pachira and if so which thrips species - off to have another look.

Edit, did find one but I don't know how likely it is in Ohio unless the plant was shipped from somewhere they occur - anyway a Chinese study suggests that Pachira can be affected, but not much, by this thrips, which starts of whitish but turns black. So you'd most likely be seeing different colour stages if that's what it is:

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=13227

This is a springtail for comparison:

https://extension.entm.purdue.edu/pestcrop/2013/issue9/graph...

I'm thinking from your description that symphylans would be too big?

http://mint.ippc.orst.edu/symphid.htm

[Last edited by sooby - Apr 4, 2016 7:26 AM (+)]
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Name: Alyssa Blue
Ohio (Zone 5b)
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AlyssaBlue
Apr 4, 2016 7:45 AM CST
If this helps, my first thought is that they are black iridescent. I've put potatoes in other plants purchased around the same time. Checking, it'll be a few hours. It would be cool if I could get the photo.

Added as an edit: It is not the thrip in the first link. Those are too big.
[Last edited by AlyssaBlue - Apr 4, 2016 7:53 AM (+)]
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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Apr 4, 2016 7:53 AM CST
That rules out symphylans then, but not the other two. Springtails can be black and may be iridescent. But then thrips can be black too, including the one I mentioned above. The location is more suggestive of springtails than thrips, though. Good luck with the photo, it would certainly help.

So from your edit these things are less than 2-3 mm?
[Last edited by sooby - Apr 4, 2016 7:55 AM (+)]
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Name: Alyssa Blue
Ohio (Zone 5b)
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AlyssaBlue
Apr 4, 2016 7:59 AM CST
More like 1 mm. No larger. I haven't seen anything on the leaves. They're very covert whatever they are..
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Apr 4, 2016 8:35 AM CST
Springtails aren't unusual in houseplant soil, if you can't get a good picture try making them jump. Or try that first....it would be diagnostic.
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Apr 4, 2016 9:58 AM CST
A springtail infestation is the result of over-watering. The good news is that they do not eat the plants but are living on rotting organic matter in the soil. Also, Insecticidal Soap is a good way to get rid of them.

But... You stated in your first post that they didn't jump or fly either. And that they are long and skinny. Its still thrips.

Daisy
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
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plantladylin
Apr 4, 2016 10:45 AM CST
I agree with the use of Insecticidal Soap; it's the go to in my gardening supplies!

I don't know what insect you have in the soil of your plant but for comparison there are side by side images of a springtail and a thrip here: http://images.plant-care.com/springtail-thrip-av.jpg
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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Apr 4, 2016 10:59 AM CST
DaisyI said:

But... You stated in your first post that they didn't jump or fly either. And that they are long and skinny. Its still thrips.

Daisy


Which species of thrips do you think it is Daisy? I only found one so far that goes after Pachira and the OP says from the description that it is not that big.

Also springtails don't necessarily jump unless disturbed and the linear ones (as opposed to globular) are also long and skinny. Just going through a process of elimination, why would thrips be on the soil and not on the plant?

All will (hopefully) be revealed if we can get a photo (or they jump when poked at) Smiling

BTW the garden springtail (Bourletiella hortensis), which is not what this is as it's one of the globular ones as opposed to a linear springtail, can damage plants.

Name: Alyssa Blue
Ohio (Zone 5b)
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AlyssaBlue
Apr 4, 2016 11:22 AM CST
Nothing yet. Put out more potato to see if that draws them out. Crossing Fingers!

Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Apr 4, 2016 12:53 PM CST
You may be right. I wasn't thinking about the thrips growing up and flying away and sucking all the life out of the leaves. As Alyssa hasn't really noticed any damage to her plant, springtail may be it.

Insecticidal soap is still what I would use.

Alyssa, what kind of plant is it? Maybe you could water it less and make your plant less desirable to creepy crawlies.

Do dead scorpions sting? My grandmother had a big black one that lived on the wall in her bedroom. It kept us kids at bay - no way were we going into a room with a know scorpion in residence. Smiling

Daisy
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Apr 4, 2016 4:27 PM CST
DaisyI said:

Alyssa, what kind of plant is it? Maybe you could water it less and make your plant less desirable to creepy crawlies.


The plant is Pachira aquatica (see above). I agree watering less would likely help. Maybe with the spray they're gone anyway though, whatever they are/were.

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