3 Reasons why bugs in your potting media is a good thing (and why you should consider leaving them there)

In Orchids
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People will say that bugs in your media is a sign it’s too wet or too old and decomposed—that’s sort of true, but potting media starts decaying within a few weeks regardless of the bugs in it, and whose to say all bugs are bad anyways?

Here are 3 reasons why bugs in your potting mix is good and why you might keep them around

1. It means your keeping your potting mix consistently moist – moist enough that the soft-bodied and fragile bugs like springtails and soilmites are able to survive…do you know what else likes those consistently moist conditions? Orchid roots! Bugs in your potting mix are a good litmus test to help you know that you’re watering consistently. If they suddenly disappear…it might be time to increase your watering routine.

How to get rid of bugs in your planter, potting mix, or soil

If you *really* don’t like bugs in your house, there’s an easy fix: you can add a few drops of dish soap to a gallon (4L) if water and run that through the pot the next couple of times that you water. How it works: Most bugs can repel water (that’s why springtails sort of “float” on water). Soap is a surfactant and when you add it to water it changes the surface tension; this makes the bugs less able to repel it and they drown.

2. “Neutral Bugs” feed “Good Bugs” and those kill “Bad Bugs” – Before you go dosing your pots in soap water…a consideration: “neutral bugs” like springtails and soil mites (insects that don’t really have a direct effect on your plants or its roots) have the added benefit of being food for the GOOD BUGS (like predatory mites & nematodes). If you leave the “neutral bugs” alone, you can grow a good population of the “good bugs” which in turn will help you battle and keep “bad bugs” (like spidermites, thrips and fungus gnats) away or at least under under control.

What’s a “Good Bug” look like?
Meet, Hypoaspis miles, the predatory soil mite that eats bad bugs

Where do “good bugs” come from? Generally greenhouses use them as natural pest control. Each time you buy a plant (orchid or houseplant) you likely are introducing an ecosystem of insects. Those bugs will travel between pots and the predatory mites are especially mobile and will race from one pot to the next if they’re close enough.

3. They contribute to your fertilizer routine – yup…bugs like springtails, soil mites, predatory spider mites, fungus gnats, soil worms, and all of those bugs that do not directly feed on your plant, have the potential to contribute to your plant’s health. How? by eating fungus, detritus, and other decaying matter in your pot, and pooping it out as urea and other waste products. Their niche in nature are as decomposers and through that process of consumption, digestion, and excretion, insects in your soil have the added benefit of providing both micro and macro nutrients.

What about bad bugs though…right?

Stay tuned and I’ll cover those in a future post.