Bugs in my potting medium-YUCK!

wiscnick(5)October 6, 2008

I have seen a post on these guys a while back, but now that I need the info, of course I can't find it!

These are those oval grey bugs that are segmented and have lots of legs--the ones that hide under rocks. People call them pill bugs or sow bugs, or roly-polies...I have no idea what their proper name is...

Any way, I was watering my Zygo, and decided it was dry, so I soaked the pot, and YUCK--these bugs started popping out of the top. I tried to get as many as I could, but they don't seem to drown. Then I decided to soak the pot in soapy water, but again they seemed unaffected...

So, how to get rid of them?

PS yeah, next year I'll be sure to keep all my pots off the ground when I put them outdoors...


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xmpraedicta(3b Saskatoon)

They're harmless, except they'll hasten the breakdown of the potting media...I've heard they nibble on roots but as far as I know, they're detritovores and only eat stuff that's decaying or rotting already. If I know I have these, I soak the entire pot when watering, which makes all these guys crawl out so I can scoop them up. After a few weeks, they'll all be gone. :)

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 1:31PM
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Alvin is right. As long as it is not the harmful ones, it can be one of the following:

  1. Fungus gnat pre-adults
  2. Oribatid mites; (another Reference)


    Bookmark   October 7, 2008 at 10:16AM
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Nick, I must disagree with the other responders. It is my experience that these bugs can do substantial damage, at least with phals. They eat leaves and roots and come back to the same location each night until the damage is substantial. On phal compots they can do as much damage as a slug. They are my number one pest problem and this is the time of year I begin to see them. Fortunately they respond to insecticides. Spray along benches where they travel and along the base of greenhouse walls. Definitely treat any plants they are eating on or living in. If you want to catch them in the act, wait until dark and then look for them on the plants with a flashlight.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2008 at 12:40PM
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Hi thanks for the advice--everyone!
I googled pill bug/sow bug and the picture represents what I have. Apparently I can lure them to an upside down cantalope half--I will try this, as well as drowning, as I would prefer not to have these critters in my house!


    Bookmark   October 7, 2008 at 12:44PM
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I had oodles of the same bugs crawling around in and under the few pots of indoor plants I did bring out for the summer. I think our rainy conditions this year account for the high number of them. They seemed to like my pot of Sprekelia bulbs the best, and I wound up re-potting the bulbs into fresh soil and a clean pot before bringing indoors. Luckily, I opted not to bring any orchids outdoors this year.

Next year, any pots brought outdoors will be hung off the ground, or placed on wire shelves... this should deter bugs a bit more than keeping pots on the ground.

I did use a systemic and a spray before bringing in any of the other plants I had out.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 9:39AM
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orchid126(z6, NJ)

Yes, it's always wise to drench the medium a couple of times before bring the plants in for the winter.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 3:14PM
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I agree with Calvin.

One way to hasten their departure is to change the medium at the next appropriate opportunity. "Pill bugs" like decaying matter; fresh material doesn't meet their requirements.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 4:46PM
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what do you mean by drenching the medium? Do you mean with an insecticide, as in pouring it through? I am sorry if I don't understand--I did spray every plant with Bayer's 3 in 1, spraying the medium also, but I don't think I would say I drenched it--please explain

    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 5:53PM
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orchid126(z6, NJ)

I use Bayer's Advanced Rose and Flower Spray for the growth above the medium, and being a systemic it will also protect the roots. But critters can inhabit the medium. I usually drench the medium (pour through thoroughly) a couple of times, a week apart, with an insecticide like Orthene or some sort of soapy water to kill any bugs or eggs lurking in the medium. Dr. Bronner's Peppermint soap (from the healthfood store), Fel's Naptha, Murphy's Oil soap, and Safer's Insecticidal Soap (especially formulated for plants), are all good as are dish detergents. A tablespoon or so to a gallon would be a good mix.

I believe it was the July issue of the AOS magazine that had an article with a list of the bugs that various dish detergents kill.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2008 at 1:31PM
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