Do you get alarmed every time you spot movement in your soil? Well, don't worry, because things aren't always as they appear. We're here to let you in on a little secret: some bugs are actually here to help you, and they're on your side!
One of our favourite and most beneficial bugs is the remarkable Springtail. These tiny creatures love to hang out in worm castings, which happen to be present in all of our incredible soil blends. Some people mistake them for spider mites, but Springtails won't cause any harm like their infamous counterparts. These helpful insects come in various colours, ranging from white and brown to black and cream.
Springtails are incredibly beneficial arthropods that exclusively target and feed on fungus and decaying organic matter. They offer excellent protection against root rot! By consuming and excreting dead plant matter, they contribute to the nutrient cycle, thereby improving the soil's structure. Alongside the high concentration of beneficial bacteria and the micro and macro nutrients found in worm castings, Springtails make for a brilliant fertilising amendment.
Another valuable ally on your team is the Predatory Mite! These mites are related to spider mites, but they are the carnivorous cousins that feed on spider mites, thrips, and other pesky pests. Predatory mites are usually slightly larger and faster than spider mites, making them distinguishable. These pear-shaped mites can be translucent, white, green, or orange. They are wingless and lack antennae. Keep an eye out for these helpful predators—they're incredibly handy.
While not as common, Isopods are the most efficient and effective beneficial arthropods. Also known as 'woodlice,' 'roly polys,' or 'pill bugs,' these remarkable crustaceans excel at removing desiccated plant matter and even decaying wood. Although they may not be prevalent in our blends, it's always a delight to spot one and know that it's diligently working to maintain a cycling and bioactive environment.
Soil Mites are another type of bug that you want on your team! These tiny white dots play a crucial role in facilitating the decomposition process within the soil. They crawl along the soil surface, ensuring the soil structure remains healthy and happy. Don't worry, they won't cause any harm to you or your plants, so there's no need to remove them.
Let's not forget our subterranean friends; Earthworms! These gardening allies frequently appear in our worm castings, often brought in by larger adult worms. There's nothing more exciting than having a worm supporting you when you repot a plant. They quickly and carefully handle any potential shock that the plant roots may experience during repotting, preventing major rot or further damage.
Additionally, they provide incredible active aeration every time you water. Although they may not live an exceptionally long time in smaller pots with the necessary dry periods for our botanical babes, they work diligently while they're present.
If you've had trouble with pests and you're seeking effective pest control methods, you can purchase beneficial or predatory bugs that can be delivered right to your doorstep! There are various types of bugs you can introduce to your green gang to help keep the nuisances at bay. Here are a few worth considering:
- Lacewing Larvae, also known as "aphid lions," which prey on spider mites, mealybugs, caterpillars, scale insects, thrips, whiteflies, and more.
- Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, or the "Mealybug destroyer," specialised in eliminating sap-sucking mealybugs.
- Amblyseius swirskii mites, which act as predators to thrips at different stages of their life cycle and also consume
- Ladybirds (Coleoptera) Ladybird beetles (Coccinellidae). These cuties will eat spider mites, aphids, thrips, mealybugs, whiteflies, scale, etc. One issue is that they won’t hang around on your plants for too long and will go to the nearest window.
So next time you see something moving around in your substrate, get your magnifying glass out and remember that they might be on your team, working with you to keep your plant’s growing strong!