Mysterious white mites -- can anyone ID?

burnsey123June 11, 2014

While watering my plants yesterday, I was astonished by the sudden emergence of thousands of tiny white mites from the mulch. They're roughly pinhead-sized (or a bit smaller) and fast moving. I thought perhaps they were springtails, but they weren't jumping and are shaped like ticks. I've found them in the mulch and the upper layer of soil, but not on the stems or leaves of my plants. I'm not seeing webbing or signs of spider mite damage.

I'm not sure whether they're pests or not, but their numbers alone have got me worried. I'm hoping that someone here might have an idea as to what they are.

Unfortunately, my camera isn't quite up to the task of photographing very small things, but I've got a video of them in action and a (not great) photo of a mangled one under a (cheap) microscope. Apologies for the poor quality.

Here is a link that might be useful: mysterious mite video

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Quick update, as I've now had the chance to spread my infested mulch out and examine it under the harsh light of midday:

Along with the unidentified mites, I've noticed a smaller number of elongated, silvery white jumping mites that I assume are springtails. Comparing the colors of both, I see that my "mystery mites" are pale tan/pink rather than white, as I had originally thought. I wonder whether they could be hypoaspis miles or some sort of amblyseius.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 7:43AM
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dirtguy50 SW MO z6a(6a)

You just joined the forum today so it might be a good idea to introduce yourself first. Just my opinion.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 8:31AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Burnsey....welcome to the GardenWeb! There's no reason whatsoever for a newcomer to introduce him/her self. I'm a bit mystified by dirtguy's remark. We're just glad to have you stop by.....and with super images! You have NO idea how rare it is for us to have great quality pictures and video submitted for ID purposes.

Ironically, even considering the quality of the picture, I cannot identify this arachnid. I'll continue to sleuth for you.

But I will say that I wouldn't be overly concerned. The upper layers of soil and mulch should be teeming with all kinds of living organisms, most of which serve a beneficial role in the soil's ecosystem.

Again, welcome! We'll see what we can come up with.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 8:58AM
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Thanks a bunch, rhizo. My initial concern has died down the more I've looked into it -- though it was quite alarming to see so many creatures so suddenly! I've been watering my plants more than usual lately, in response to some extremely hot and dry weather, so the mulch was a great deal warmer and wetter than it had been. I'm sure that makes it a pleasant home for all sorts of things.

Sorry to offend, dirtguy. If there's a place for introductions I'll gladly post one, I just didn't see anything relevant in the list of forums and was worried about being criticized for posting off-topic stuff.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 9:56AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

what she said ...

but IPM dictates ... integrated pest management ... suggests that you ID some harm to a plant.. before we even consider any remedy ...

there are billions of things in the soil ... and mulch is just unfinished soil ... and we dont freak out when find them ...

knowing for the sake of knowledge is great ... but action on our part.. requires some HARM to something ... a threat is not good enough ...

dirtguy may have been trying to ask.. where are you ... big city name... usually helps narrow down things ...

your pix are brilliant ...


ps: e.g. spider mites.. are suckers... they suck plant fluids.. they would most likely .. never be found in soil/mulch ... in volume ... there just isnt anything to suck down there.. so there would be no ability to build a substantial population ...

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 9:57AM
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dirtguy50 SW MO z6a(6a)

burnsey, my post wasn't intended to be negative at all. This forum is full of good folk worldwide, so knowing where you are is indeed of great importance. We are all willing to help each other but someone in the US might not be the best person to address your issue if you are in Australia, Guam, South Africa, Siberia or Alabama. I apologize if you took it wrong as I wanted you to get the best answers by understanding where you are located. Please be active on this great forum.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 10:49AM
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A simpler click on the (my page) thingy along side the persons name would reveal that this person is in Switzerland. However, the owners of these forums could help by adding someplace to put a persons location with much less emphasis on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone that really provides little real information.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 11:37AM
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Ah, yes, I can definitely see the point in that, dirtguy. As kimmsr noted, I am in Switzerland.

And thanks, Ken, that's really why I was asking. I admit I had a bit of a novice gardener freak out when I saw them, but without knowing what they are, and whether they're likely to cause any harm, I didn't want to take any action against them. Much of the "advice" (if you could call it that) to be found on the wider Internet seems to boil down to, "if you see a mite and don't know what it is, pour on the pesticides just to be sure." I've gotten a lot of great tips and information from reading other people's threads on these forums, and knew I'd get a more thoughtful response here.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 1:54PM
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For far too many people any "bug" is a problem that must be killed. We need to keep in mind that of the 8,000,000 or so species of insects only about 8,000 are pests, the rest are pollinators, predators, or just innocuous, and are necessary to us just as bacteria are. If the research done by Dr. Phillip Callahan is to be believed plants under stress send out signals that attract insect pests.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 7:20AM
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