What Are These Tiny White Worms In My Soil?

  • By: CarlBroadbent
  • Time to read: 8 min.
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Growing plants can be a rough business.

You’ll find that some plants are easier to keep than others but one thing that’s common among all types is that they can attract pests.

white worms in soil

There are a huge number of different pests but if you notice little white worms in your soil, you’ll be understandably concerned.

But what are they?

These thread like creatures could be one of two things; fungus gnat larvae or pot worms.

They’re problematic to your plants as they will attack the roots and take away all of the nutrient-giving organic matter from the soil. 

What to Expect? If you have noticed these little critters in your soil, there’s no need to panic just yet. There are ways you can get rid of them and save your plant. 

What Are Pot Worms?

Look at any type of soil and, if it is healthy, there will be some sort of worm presence.

In fact, there are some worms, like earthworms, that are considered beneficial for your soil as they are what are known as decomposers.

They break down organic matter in the soil, turning it into nutrients for your plants. 

However, there are lots of other types of worm and one that is commonly mistaken for the infant red wriggler (a type of earthworm), is the pot worm.

What might surprise you is that these pot worms are almost always present but they can start to take over and that’s when it becomes an infestation. 

Once they are established in soil, they will breed extremely quickly so it’s best to jump on the problem as soon as possible.

They won’t do as much damage to your plants as fungus gnat larvae but they could cause root rot and wilting leaves in the worst cases.

Plus, once they are settled, they make it difficult for the common red wriggler to set up camp which means your plant won’t reap the benefits of these creatures.

What Are Fungus Gnat Larvae?

Sometimes, the tiny white worms that are lurking amongst the soil of your favorite house of garden plants are not even worms.

They’re fungus gnat larvae. The fungus gnat is a small flying insect that can be seen hovering around plants and soil. 

Fungus gnat larvae
What are fungus gnat larvae?

If you’ve got an infestation of these larvae, they don’t look good but they can also be harmful to your plant.

They’ll use up all of the important organic matter in the soil, leaving very little for your plant to thrive on.

Moreover, if the infestation is not dealt with, it’s almost certain that your plant will suffer root rot.

Another issue with fungus gnat larvae is that they are relentless and if you’ve got several plants in close proximity to one another, they will spread. 

What Causes Tiny White Worms In The Soil?

If you notice any type of disease of infestation in your soil or around your plants, then it’s important to act quickly.

Tiny white worms in the soil reasons
Tiny white worms in the soil cause

Not doing so could result in the problem spreading and then it becomes very difficult to deal with.

Even a brand new plant that’s got no problems could quickly go in the opposite direction if its neighbour has white worms in the soil.

Before you know it, all of the plants in your home will be affected.

There are several things that can cause an infestation of tiny white worms and it’s important, as a plant carer, to recognize when the risk may be higher.

Here are the top reasons that white worms appear in your soil.

Soil pH

As a gardener, you will know that the pH levels of the soil plays a role in what can grow there and how healthy certain plants will be.

But did you know that certain pH levels can also bring on the appearance of white worms?

The reason for this is that an unfavorable pH level prevents new growth and can cause damage to the plants.


After This: You’ve got a prime environment for little white worms which will quickly become abundant. 


Rain

If we are looking at outdoor plants then it’s important to keep in mind that rain isn’t always your friend.

Yes, your plants need water and it’s beneficial when there’s some light rain that’ll give them the moisture they need. 

But you can have too much of a good thing and sometimes, when the rain is heavier, this can strip the essential nutrients out of the soil.

As a direct result of this, pests, such as tiny white worms have the perfect environment to thrive.

This is because they need a moist place to grow so the wetter the soil, the more likely these bugs will be to appear.

White worms in particular love wet soil and as we have already mentioned, once they’re there, they’ll breed at an alarming rate.

Once this happens, it can be extremely difficult to get on top of.

Humidity Levels

If you are keeping houseplants, then you will know that you need to ensure the right humidity.

Different plants have different needs with some wanting a very dry environment while others require high levels of moisture. 

Watering soil white worms
Moisture level soil

However, if a plant is constantly exposed to high moisture levels, that’s when problems begin to arise.

This becomes even worse if the plant is not kept clean and hygienic.

As it absorbs all that moisture, the plant becomes more prone to infestations and other diseases.

While it’s not good for the plant, it does create the perfect environment for those tiny white worms we are trying to get rid of.

Clean Soil

It’s only nature that decaying organic matter will end up in your soil.

Things like fallen leaves, old fruit, dead insects, and other things all fall into this category.

While a little decaying organic matter is good and gives those earthworms something to feed on, too much can lead to trouble.

If you don’t remove this matter and allow it to get out of control, it won’t be long before you start noticing little white worms. 

What’s More – This environment is perfect for these critters to start breeding. As this happens, the population of white worms will grow at an astounding rate.

How To Get Rid Of Tiny White Worms In Soil

Provided that you act quickly, there is no reason that you cannot put a stop to the tiny white worms you have found in your soil. 

Get rid of tiny white worms soil
Get rid of tiny white worms in the soil

If you’ve got a houseplant then you will need to take away the top layers of the soil as this is where most of the infestation will be.

Get rid of this by putting it into a bag and securely tying it before putting it into the trash.

If You Wish – You can simply remove all of the soil and completely repot the plant, but that isn’t necessary unless you have a very serious infestation.

However, if the plant isn’t far off outgrowing its pot, it’s the prime opportunity.

After you have removed and replaced the infected soil, you cannot become complacent just yet. You will need to make sure that you use an insecticide treatment.

Choose one that is appropriate for use with the type of plant you are treating and if indoors, opt for an indoor chemical:

  • If you would like to go for a more natural choice then it is possible to treat your plant using neem oil.
  • Your 1 ½ teaspoons of neem oil should be mixed with a small teaspoon of liquid soap and you’ll need to add this mixture to a liter of water.
  • Castile soap mixed with water is another gentle yet effective option.

Just make sure that you use it sparingly; you’ll only need about one teaspoon of castile soap for every one liter of water.

Can I Prevent White Worms In My Soil?

They say that prevention is better than cure so it’s a good idea to try and stop white worms from invading your soil rather than having to treat them.

But even after you have treated an infection, you can apply the following information to avoid future problems. 

Most importantly, you will need to watch the moisture content of your soil.

Avoid over watering your plant and before you add any water, be sure to check the soil to make sure it is completely dry.

Every plant is different and some may need watering more frequently than others but using something like a soil moisture meter can be useful.

Tiny white worms in the soil what to do
Tiny white worms in the soil solution

Moreover, using a mister over simply pouring water into the soil is a safer option and will ensure that the soil isn’t overly moist. 

Fungus gnats will be attracted to exposed moist soil. If you have a plant that requires more frequent watering then it’s a wise idea to cover your soil.

You can use a variety of things including sand, pebbles, or gravel and these all look great too.

From Experience – As we have learned, it is essential to make sure that the pH balance of your soil is spot on. If you need to then you can add certain things to alter this and prevent white worms.

Using lime or phosphorus works well but also sprinkling wood ash can be very effective.

This is also useful if you are trying to stop an infestation as once these materials are applied, the population will decrease. 

Finally, when it comes to buying new plants, make sure you always check them for signs of an infestation.

If you have left a plant outdoors, don’t bring it back in until it has been checked. 

How Long Should Treatment Take?

Treatment should start to take effect pretty quickly.

However, the quickest way to get rid of an infestation is to apply insecticide to the plant.

You can also remove any visible white worms by hand to speed up the process.

This is particularly useful for less serious infestations. 

For more serious problems, it will naturally take a little longer to treat and in some cases, you may have to admit defeat and replace all of the soil. 

Conclusion

If you have found tiny white worms in your soil then these will be one of two things; pot worms or fungus gnat larvae.

These feed on the organic matter in the soil and often don’t leave enough for your plant which means it will suffer.

However, it is easy to remove them and you can take steps to prevent future infestations.

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