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The common indoor Springtail will feed on rotten roots, bits of bark and peat. Their speciality to reproduce is in moist, organic matter-rich compost that rarely sees periods of droughts. 'Cactus & Succulent' compost is less likely to support a large infestation when the soil is subject to periods of droughts between waters.
Springtails are entirely harmless for indoor and outdoor plants, feeding only off the compost's properties and avoiding the plant's healthy tissue. Indoor gardeners often remove the infestation purely on a visible aspect, as seeing small silver or brown critters rambling across the soil isn't a pretty sight. Springtails are also harmless to humans, causing no issues of biting or spreading viruses/diseases.
Springtails aren't detrimental to the plant itself, which means you won't see any symptoms arise on its foliage. Instead, have a scan across the soil's top surface for small silver or brown critters that'll parade across the dirt. If you harass them, you'll notice that they have the ability to jump several inches from their standing position - this is the key difference between Springtails, Fungus Gnat larvae & Soil Mites.
Springtails will occur solely along and beneath the compost line. If you find small golden critters roaming the foliage of your plant, you may be looking at a Thrips infestation.
Plants - Those that require moist soil or grown in peat-rich composts are most likely to be attacked. Arid dwellers, like Cacti and Succulents, are less likely to be attacked due to the drier conditions that may not support a large infestation.
1. Before sifting through the soil, the first step to do is hydrate the plant. Fingering the dry roots will bring nothing but grief in the form of Transplant Shock, which will only add to the misery.
2. A few hours after irrigation, take the plant out of its pot and inspect the outer surfaces of the rootball - crush each bug or colony as they become visible.
3. Gently remove the soil's bottom quarter by shaking the plant to loosen off the dirt. As it's essential to respect the plant, refrain from unearthing ALL of its root system, or readily snapping its roots. Have a look at the image below to learn more about how much soil you can safely remove without causing Transplant Shock.
4. Before placing the plant back into its original container, have a scan over the pot, too. Springtails may even attach themselves to the nooks on the pot's inside, potentially reigniting the infestation - wash the pot using warm water and dish soap to destroy any remaining inhabitants for several minutes.
5. Place an inch of the appropriate potting-mix into the pot's base and place the rootball on top. Pour more compost over the plant's soil to fill the remaining gaps between the rootball and its pot. If you need help choosing the right mix for your plant, send us a message to be pointed in the right direction.
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6. Once the plant is back in its pot, don't tinker with the roots again unless the symptoms progressively worsen. The final step to eradicate Springtails is to choose between using either an organic or chemical-based pesticide.
Insecticidal or Horticultural Soap is a well-known organic pesticide on the market, with two versions to consider. Although most garden centres will stock this, it's far more economical to purchase the second option - concentrated bottles. This method comes with pros and cons but is far cheaper to use if you have a large infestation. It's self-explanatory and highly beneficial for the outbreak as long as you use the correct levels of dilution - the only downside is its availability in local centres. It's best to buy this option online as there are many different companies to choose from, with some being cheaper than others. The second and most affordable way is by making it yourself.
There are three ingredients in creating your own Horticultural Soap - a vegetable, tree or nut-based oil, non-fragrant dishwashing soap and tap water. Most oils are acceptable, with the most successful being vegetable, sunflower, neem and olive oil. Add two parts oil, one part dishwashing soap and eight parts water to create the dilution. Although it's best to fresh bottled water, tap water that has been allowed to sit for 24hrs is also excellent.
For both variants of Horticultural Soap, dilute it down to the recommended strength and hydrate the plant using the newly-created liquid. Continue to care for the plant in the same way as before, hydrating the specimen every week or so with normal water. Applying Horticultural Soap should only be performed every two weeks, or after three waters (whichever comes first) to avoid burning the roots. We would only recommend using this pesticide on four occasions in total, and if the infestation continues to develop after four applications of the Soap, we would move on to using DE.
Diatomaceous Earth (D.E. or DE) is ground diatom mantels (skeletons) that can be highly abrasive to many arthropods, including Springtails. Although the white powder may be soft to the human touch, the sharp tooth-like edges off each grain will begin to cut its way into the pests' eco-skeleton, causing significant discomfort and weakened health. After a period of several days, the infestation will decrease as the mature mothers won't be able sufficiently to lay their eggs. Equally sprinkle a thin layer of DE across the soil's surface to create a protective barrier against the critters rising to the top.
As you have followed the first six steps mentioned in the previous section, you may not see any signs of an infestation for several weeks. We'd recommend waiting eight weeks before deeming the specimen pest-free, as relapses of later-hatching larvae could occur. DE is considered safe to both pets and humans and has no links to the development of illness. You can safely remove the powder (and a bit of the soil) once you feel that the infestation has subsided.
As the first method will take several weeks to eradicate, you may want to consider spending some money on 'hydrogen peroxide'. Now, before you rush to your local garden centre, this chemical is mostly found online, so have a shop around for the best deal here. For every three irrigations, incorporate a splash of the peroxide into its with to administer the pesticide. You'll have to do this for at least three times to stop the chance of a relapse thoroughly. Always follow the manufacturer's recommended dosages as Hydrogen peroxide may become detrimental to the plant when over-used. If you're worried about killing your plant, use DE!
At the local plant shop or garden centre, inspect the soil of any plants that you wish to buy. Most infestations come from already-affected plants, so always keep this in mind when increasing your plant-collection.
Regularly check for pests on your plants. Although this may sound patronising, many gardeners forget to inspect their indoor specimens. As soon as you see a symptom in the soil, keep it quarantined and follow the steps above!
Store your bags of compost well by keeping them tight and enclosed, out of dry or damp areas. Never use soil that has been left outside for any length of time, due to the very high risk of contamination.
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