Small Creepy-crawlies In Potting Soil: What Can You Do?

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:30 pm

When small creepy-crawlies appear in the potting soil, it causes not only disgust. Some of the insects can harm the plants. Which animals they are and how they disappear, explains this article.

  • Insects in the potting soil become noticeable only with increased occurrence
  • the most common are larvae of various insects
  • to get rid of them can be not so easy
  • depending on the species, let the soil dry out or submerge it completely in water
  • chemical means are usually not necessary

Discover creepy crawlies

The first little animals are usually found by chance. When watering flowers, they suddenly crawl over the soil. Rarely do you recognize an infestation of the potting soil on the plants themselves. For this to happen, they would have to be pests, on the one hand, and very large in number, on the other. Not all insects that can be found in the potting soil harm the plants. Most of them live there only temporarily and disappear all by themselves. So it is also not always necessary to fight or drive away all the little animals.

Small Creepy-crawlies In Potting Soil: What Can You Do?

Small Creepy-crawlies In Potting Soil: What Can You Do?

Note: Creepy crawlies in potting soil sometimes harm plants, but they are harmless to humans and animals.

Fungus gnat larvae

Fungus gnats (Sciaridae) themselves are small, black, winged insects. The adults do not harm plants, but they reproduce very rapidly. The larvae live in the potting soil and they feed on any plant material. If they find no more dead material, they start to eat the roots of the plants.

See also  Pests On Orchids - 5 Tips For Prevention
Small Creepy-crawlies In Potting Soil: What Can You Do?


  • Keep potting soil as dry as possible, larvae develop only with sufficient wetness.
  • as beneficial insects against the larvae you can buy nematodes
  • yellow stickers catch the mosquitoes before they can multiply
  • repot the plant, remove the old soil as good as possible
  • put garlic cloves into the soil or water the plant with garlic broth


On the one hand, mites are quite easy to recognize, they always have eight legs and no wings, on the other hand, the individual species are very difficult to distinguish from each other. Therefore, it is almost impossible to tell whether they are pests, such as root mites (Rhizoglyphus), or beneficial, such as predatory mites (Gamasina). As a rough guideline, beneficial mites can reside anywhere in the soil, while root mites sit directly on the roots and suck plant juices there.


  • Predatory mites will control other mites, so do not take immediate action if it could be predatory mites
  • repot plants if necessary
  • if mites are sitting on the roots, cut back the roots


Springtails (Collembola) are easily recognized by the fact that they jump around on the soil. Basically, they do not harm the plants in the pot. At least as long as they can still find enough dead plant material. Nevertheless, in case of excessive occurrence of the small creepy-crawlies in the potting soil, it is necessary to reduce them. To do this, you can put the plant in a larger bucket full of water for some time. The insects eventually float to the surface of the water

See also  Bird-friendly Ways To Control Boxelder Borer?
Small Creepy-crawlies In Potting Soil: What Can You Do?

Note: Drain the water well after treatment so that the roots of the plant does not rot.

Other larvae of insects
There are other insect larvae that can reside in potting soil. This is especially true of your own compost soil. This usually cannot be prevented, however, the larvae rarely do any harm. Larger larvae can simply be collected from the soil and returned to the compost.

Frequently asked questions

Where do the little animals come from?

In most cases, they are brought into the house either with the potting soil or with the plants themselves. If you use your own garden or compost soil for repotting, you should also expect to find small creepy crawlies in the potting soil.

Can the creepy crawlies move from one pot to another?

That depends on how mobile the animals are and how close the potted plants are. Insects capable of flight can theoretically go anywhere. It is different for those that can only walk or crawl. In the case of infested houseplants, it is always a good idea to move them to a separate room.

How to get rid of potting soil from the very beginning?

The only thing that helps is to sterilize the soil. This is done by steaming, baking in the oven or heating in the microwave. However, it should be remembered that this can also destroy many beneficial microorganisms in the soil.

See also  2 Ways How To Make A Fly Trap?


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *