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soil pests?

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by chair on October 17, 2005 04:13 PM
Hi, I hope someone can help me identify the pests-and then tell me about a solution- that have recently infected many of my houseplants. the thing is there are no bugs on the plants. I noticed little tiny white things jutting around in the saucers underneath the plants, where there was some water accumulation. I have only seen one in the earth. any help would be great. thanks
by chair on October 17, 2005 04:46 PM
it's me again. i've had another look at the plants and have noticed lots of white dots. i wonder if there is something laying eggs in the plants, perhaps fruit flies? if this is the case how do i get rid of them?
thanks again
by Cricket on October 17, 2005 04:55 PM
What do the white dots look like? Shape, size, fuzzy, crawling? Where on the plants are they located - top/bottom of leaves, stems, or in the soil? Do you know the names of the plants they are on?
by chair on October 17, 2005 09:13 PM
the white dots look like sea salt. not fuzzy and not crawling. the dots are in the soil and not on the plants themselves. the little white moving things were in the saucers where there was a little bit of water; they are thin and are shaped like dashes. i couldn't see any legs. i have around thirty plans and, unfortunately, it looks like most of them have been infected to varying degrees. only the two orchids seem to be absolutely free of white dots.
by Jiffymouse on October 17, 2005 10:54 PM
mineral depostis? from fertilizing?
by chair on October 17, 2005 11:49 PM
i haven't used any fertilizer. and recently we had a lot of fruit flies in our apartment. i looked them up and read that they can lay eggs in any organic matter. that's why i thought that could be the problem.
by Will Creed on October 18, 2005 08:43 AM
The white things in the soil are not insect eggs. They are probably perlite or fertilizer pellets.

If you have seen fruit flies around your plants, then they are fungus gnats. Adult fungus gnats fly around and are an annoyance, but they are not harmful to people. Each gnat lives for about 5 days. The trick is to get rid of the next generation - the gnat larvae that live in the top layer of the soil. The larvae feed on decaying organic matter. Decaying pine bark in potting mixes and decaying plants roots feed the larvae.

Try to keep the soil as dry as possible. Remove all loose soil from the surface and put a light layer of coarse coir (coconut husk) or sand or diatomaceous earth on the soil surface. These substances have sharp edges that carve up the larvae. (Recent studies indicate that fine-textured peat moss also deters gnat larvae.)

Another safe technique is to place ½ inch slices of raw potato on the surface of the soil to attract the larvae. After a day or so, discard the slices along with the larvae inside. Repeat this until there are no more larvae in the potato.

For more serious infestations try Knock-Out Gnats to treat fungus gnats available from Gardens Alive for about $20. See

Another bio-control method is Gnat Not, a parasite that destroys gnat larvae and other soil pests. It comes on a sponge in plastic (5 weeks shelf life) that is rinsed into water and applied to the soil. For information, go to

Detection trick: Add a little water to the soil and then look very closely for tiny fungus gnat larvae swimming in the water as it pools on the surface. You need good light and good eyes to see them. If you don't, then your plant is probably gnat free.

Prevention is often the best remedy. Use sterile potting mixes that are free of bark chips. The potting mix should have ample drainage material, such as perlite so that it drains well and allows the soil to dry out frequently. Fungus gnats can nearly always be traced back to overwatering and/or poor soil quality.
by chair on October 19, 2005 01:35 AM
WOW! thanks so much.

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