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How to Get Rid of Soil Mites Naturally

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The absence of soil mites in soil bodes poorly for plant health and resilience. Still, it is possible to grow plants without them – hydroponically.  

Wherever there’s organic matter, soil organisms, including oribatid mites, are naturally abundant. Rather than getting rid of soil mites, gardeners should aim at reducing pests and supporting beneficial soil mites.

Table of Contents

Getting Rid of Soil Mites NaturaIly

Soil mite population diversity and numbers depend on an environment that supports their growth and health. There is a strong correlation between soil health and soil mite population size and diversity, a reason why soil mites are used as soil health indicators.

A microscopic mite is shown on a sign against a green grassy background. The mite is highlighted with a red circle, drawing attention to its small size.
“Small but mighty: A microscopic mite captured on camera, reminding us that even the tiniest of creatures play an important role in our ecosystem.”

Soil Mites Cannot Harm Humans.

Some mite species are known to bite people and cause rashes, itchy bumps, and discomfort. Most of these mites are animal parasites, not human ones, although they will bite humans without their preferred furry and feather hosts.

Soil mites do not feed on blood (are not hematophagous), nor are they parasitic like scabies mites (Sarcoptes scabiei). Parasitic and predatory soil mites lay their eggs on insects like leafhoppers, on which their larvae feed until the emerging nymphs can return to the soil, where they’ll feed on nematodes.

Other Mites That Can Harm Humans (NOT SOIL MITES)

Some non-soil mites may bite and annoy people. These mites live outdoors on plants, but most feed on rodents and birds. Others may infest stored food, especially grains, and cheeses.

To clarify, there are no such things as paper, cable, or computer mites. Indoor bites are generally because birds have nested nearby (eaves, attics, and other places) or there is a nearby rodent problem.

Hematophagous Mites

When a bird or rodent dies or abandons the nest, thousands of parasite mites might enter the house and bite people. Domesticated animals like hamsters, gerbils, chickens, and parakeets may also harbor human-biting mites.

Bird and rodent mites are tiny, around the size of a period, but a slow-moving dot. Mites can’t fly or jump.

Scabies Mite

An illustration of a scabies mite, a microscopic parasite that burrows into human skin, shown on top of a section of human skin.
“The tiny but troublesome scabies mite – a parasite that can cause intense itching and skin irritation by burrowing into our skin.”

The human scabies mite penetrates the skin and causes a rash and severe itching. The most frequently affected locations are the skin between the fingers, wrists, elbows, and shoulder blades. Check out CDC for a recommended prescription for treating scabies.

Scabies mites can only be spread by intimate physical touch or sleeping together. Fortunately, scabies is a relatively uncommon illness that dermatologists and other skilled medical professionals can quickly identify. Scabies mites die when not in human contact, so they cannot infect the premises. Bed bugs are not mites but insects.

Food Mites

Food products that are preserved, like grains, meats, cheese, and dried fruit, are also infested by various indoor mites. Items that have been moist or moldy from being stored for a long time often become infested with food and mold mites.

You may find indoor mites in unrefrigerated smoked meats, caged animal litter, and pet food bags. Food mites are not hematophagous but may irritate the skin. They’re minuscule but may be observed as slow-moving pale-colored specks on a dark surface.

Harvest Mites (Chggers)

Chiggers, the harvest mite’s larval stage, are found in tall weeds and thick foliage. There they may attach themselves to your armpits, waist, or ankles. Chigger bites result in delayed firm, red welts that itch terribly. Because it’s not immediate, people often don’t know the cause.

Straw Mites

A high magnification photograph of an elongated straw mite, displaying its body segments and tiny appendages.
“Zooming in on nature’s intricate details: A close-up of a straw mite, revealing its segmented body and delicate appendages.”

The straw itch mite, another almost microscopic biter, infests straw, grain, or hay. These may cause an itchy rash if handling infected materials. Another itch mite can be found in oak trees’ leaf galls and is spread by wind. Itch mite bites are itchy and sensitive and generally develop on exposed parts like the face, neck, chest, and arms.

Oak Leaf gall Mites

Thankfully, outbreaks of the oak leaf gall mite (Pyemotes herfsi) are rare and have mostly been documented in the Midwest. Itching mites might be to blame if the person was outdoors and close to oak trees. Like chigger bites, the discomfort may only become evident the next day.

Dust Mites

As creepy as it may sound, dust mites feed on human and animal dander (scraps of lost skin) and are ubiquitous. Although they are typically too small to be visible to the human eye, they can abound in carpets, beds, and couches.

Contrary to popular belief, dust mites cannot produce itchiness or bite-like symptoms but can aggravate allergies, resulting in asthma, runny or stuffy noses, sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes.

Scientific Names for Biting Mites

  • Bat Mite (Chirptonyssus robustipes)
  • Cat Mite (Cheyletiella blakei)
  • Chicken Mite (Dermanyssus gallinae)
  • Chigger Mite (Eutrombicula sp.)
  • Dog Mite (Cheyletiella yasguri)
  • Fowl Mite (Ornithonyssus sylviarum)
  • Grain Mite (Tyrophagus spp.)
  • Rabbit Mite (Cheyletiella parasitovorax)
  • Rat Mite (Ornithonyssus bacoti)
  • Scabies Mite (Sarcoptes scabei)

Why Soil Mites Are Important

A close-up photo of a small, red mite slowly crawling through the dirt or soil.
“Tiny but Mighty: A close-up of a red mite making its way through the soil.”

Less than 10% of plant matter is consumed by animals or humans, leaving more than 90% that requires decomposing and reconstituting as soil nutrients and minerals. Nature’s provision for the task is abundant; the smaller the processors, the more abundant they are.

Take a cup of soil from your garden and contemplate this. Each cup can contain billions of the following organisms. The most prominent ones are in bold, and the list is in descending order of population sizes.

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Protozoa
  • Algae
  • Nematodes
  • Insects
  • Flatworms
  • Springtails
  • Mites
  • Piplopoda (many feet)
  • Earthworms

We know that soil pollution, changing climates, and land usage affect the diversity and quantity of soil organisms. Our ability to grow enough food for a growing population directly depends on soil health and plant productivity, which are directly related to soil biodiversity. 

Soil Mites in Garden Soil

Soil mites are essential mesofauna that feeds on decaying organic matter, bacteria, fungi, and nematodes in the soil. There are tens of thousands of soil mite species, and their abundance is a reliable indicator of soil health. Conversely, their absence shows that the garden soil is nothing more than dirt.

Photo of moist soil with several green plants growing on it, with water droplets visible on the surface of the soil and the leaves of the plants.
“Nature’s Bounty: Thriving green plants flourishing on the moist soil after a refreshing rain shower.”

Soil mites are tiny relatives of ticks and spiders (arachnids) found worldwide in varied environments, from the poles to the equator and everywhere. Interestingly enough, ticks are the closest relative of mites.

While bacteria are the most abundant microbiota, mites are the leading group of mesobiota, followed by the macrobiota groups of larvae, pot worms, beetles, centipedes, millipedes, ants and spiders.

These form a critical, generally balanced soil food web with varying predator/prey relationships. Diversity is essential to keep all the cogs connecting and moving. Remove one cog, and the dependent elements of the system collapse. Diversity contributes to maintaining a system’s balance.

Reducing Soil Mite Populations

Several conditions cause soil mite populations to drop. If, as we know, the abundance of organic material bodes well for soil biota, then its absence would cause populations to decline. One of the greatest threats to biodiversity is industrialized farming.

Industrial farming is a system of agricultural production involving large-scale livestock cultivation and raising using modern techniques and technologies such as machinery, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). 

Industrial farming is characterized by the use of intensive methods of production, which focus on maximizing output and minimizing costs, often at the expense of animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and human health. 

A vast agricultural farm dominates the center of a golden wheat field, with rows of crops stretching towards the horizon under a clear blue sky. The farm features numerous industrial structures and silos, with large vehicles and machinery visible in the distance.
“Fields of Gold: A panoramic view of a vast wheat farm stretching towards the horizon, with a complex of industrial structures and silos at its center.”

Industrial farming aims to produce large quantities of food at low cost, and it is widely used in the production of crops such as corn, soybeans, and wheat, as well as in raising livestock such as chickens, pigs, and cows.

The Effect of Pesticides

Using pesticides destroys the soil biota, forcing the reliance on synthetical fertilizers. These, in turn, impact soil health in the long term, causing salts to accumulate. The absence of microorganisms affects soil drainage capacity, allowing much of the added fertilizers to run off.

The Effect of Fertilizer Run-off

Fertilizer runoff can have several adverse effects on the environment, including.

Negative impact on biodiversity: When excessive amounts of fertilizer enter the environment, it can also harm the biodiversity of the affected ecosystem, reducing the number of species and altering the balance of the ecosystem.

Eutrophication: When excess nutrients from fertilizers enter bodies of water, they can cause an overgrowth of algae and other plants, which depletes the oxygen in the water and can harm or kill fish and different aquatic life. This process is called eutrophication.

Harm to terrestrial plants: Fertilizer runoff can also harm plants on land by altering the pH of the soil or causing an overabundance of certain nutrients, which can damage or kill plants.

A pair of hands wearing a bright pink glove, holding a small trowel and placing fertilizer into the soil around several green plants. The plants appear to be healthy and growing well.
“Gardening essentials: a pop of color, a helping hand, and some love for your plants.”

Contamination of drinking water: Fertilizer runoff can contaminate groundwater or surface water used for drinking, harming human health.

Economic impact: Fertilizer runoff can also have an economic impact on industries such as fishing and tourism, as it can cause fish kills, beach closures, and other adverse effects that can harm local businesses and economies.

The Effect of Over-Cultivated Soil

Over-cultivated lands can have various adverse effects on the environment and agricultural productivity. Some of the significant impacts of over-cultivation include:

Reduced biodiversity: Over-cultivation can lead to biodiversity loss in agricultural landscapes, as natural habitats are cleared and replaced with monoculture crops.

Soil erosion: Over-cultivated lands are more vulnerable to soil erosion, which can lead to a loss of topsoil and reduced soil fertility. This can also lead to the degradation of nearby waterways and ecosystems.

Reduced crop yields: Over-cultivation can deplete the soil of nutrients and organic matter, leading to reduced crop yields over time. This can be exacerbated by monoculture farming practices, which can further deplete the soil with specific nutrients.

Increased pest and disease pressure: Over-cultivated lands can be more susceptible to pest and disease outbreaks as the soil and plants become weakened and less resilient.

An image of dark, rich soil that appears moist and has a crumbly texture. The soil is surrounded by grass and small green plants.
“Healthy soil, thriving plants 🌱🌿💚”

FAQs on How to Get Rid of Soil Mites Naturally

Climate change: Over-cultivation can contribute to climate change by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and reducing the soil’s capacity to sequester carbon.

Farmers can adopt crop rotation, intercropping, and cover crops to mitigate the adverse effects of over-cultivation to improve soil health and reduce pest and disease pressure. Additionally, protecting natural habitats and promoting biodiversity in agricultural landscapes can help to support ecosystem resilience and maintain soil fertility over the long term.

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