Soil Mites vs Root Aphids: 13 Obvious Differences Explained

Although soil mites and root aphids might share some visual similarities, some stark differences can easily distinguish them from each other.

Today, I will be covering soil mites vs root aphids in detail in the form of this article. If you have any doubts regarding these two plants, then it will be cleared by the end of this piece.

At first glance, these garden dwellers are small, shaped like a teardrop and can be white. On closer inspection, though, soil mites have 8 legs instead of 6 like root aphids have.

Additionally, as the name suggests, root aphids are commonly found around the roots of a plant. At the same time, soil mites build their colonies around the base of the plant in the soil.

Soil mites vs Root aphids

Therefore, to avoid confusion, this article on soil mites vs root aphids has been carefully pieced together to help identify what potential pest you may have. This knowledge is important to have when maintaining complete protection of your plants. ‘

So without further delay, let’s dive into the different lifestyles of soil mites vs root aphids.

What are soil mites? A detailed Overview

Soil mites belong to the tick and spider families. However, these tiny arthropods (invertebrates with jointed legs) are much smaller. They are so small that a microscope is required to see them properly. They can either be brown or white and grow to around 1-2 mm in diameter.

What are soil mites A detailed Overview

There are 3 main species or variants of soil mites: Oribatids, Mesostigmata and Prostigmata. Although, the most common soil mite found on most indoor plants is the Oribatida variant. Their food choices include algae, rotten roots, fungi, and organic matter such as bark, leaves, etc.

It’s easy to assume that soil mites cause harm to plants, but they do quite the opposite. They feed on organic waste instead of the plants and enrich the soil they grow in.

The biggest threat that a soil mite poses is actually to humans. They can host parasites such as tapeworms which transmit to humans if care isn’t taken whilst handling them. 

How do you know if the soil has Soil mites?

Even though these little mites are so tiny, it’s still possible to notice their brown or white bodies crawling over the top of a plant’s soil.

They are usually the size of the tip of a pencil or something similar. These mites are generally present almost anywhere that contains compost or decomposed organic soils that stay moist and humid.

This could be in a dark area of your home or where water is constantly leaking onto the soil, such as outside under a roof. Darker areas with little access to a light source can amplify the conditions making them more present by restricting the moisture from drying out. 

What are Root aphids? A detailed Overview

Not to be confused with the common aphid, root aphids have a reputation for destroying a plant’s roots. The worst part about these little pests is that they often go undetected.

Depending on their species, environmental conditions, and host plant, the color of a root aphid can vary slightly.

What are Root aphids

Almost all species have a waxy, crusty outer shell and can be either yellow, green or brown. These pests reproduce asexually, meaning they can spawn like crazy with as little as just one of the present.

The eggs are either laid vigorously during the winter inside the soil or attached to the lower leaves and stems in the warmer months.

When the time comes, they drop from their eggs and burrow into the roots, heading to the roots. As they destroy the roots, the aftermath of the hole filled stems produce mildew and disease. 

How do I know if I have root aphids?

Without closely studying your plants, it takes a bit of prior knowledge to work out if they suffer from root aphid damage. If they aren’t discovered early enough and dealt with, they can cause major long-term headaches.

Once the root system and stem become damaged, a plant’s almost no way to receive water and nutrients. As a result, their life will, unfortunately, end. Here are some signs to look out for if you’re unsure your plant is affected by root aphids.

How do I know if I have root aphids
  1. Plant growth slows down and even stops.
  2. Abnormal formation and coloring of leaves. They may also wilt.
  3. The leaves are damaged and/or yellowing (they can also turn brown if untreated).
  4. Increased activity and presence of ants.
  5. Shifting/Softening of soil surrounding the stem as it becomes damaged. 
  6. The white waxy residue looks like fungal growth.

Soil mites vs Root aphids: What’s the Difference?

The major difference between a soil mite and a root aphid is, surprisingly,, not how they look. Instead, it’s the damage or lack of damage that they may or may not cause.

Funnily enough, soil mites aren’t interested in attacking a plant, as they are generally happy to feed on decomposing organic matter in the soil.

As they eat and break down the soil, the waste they produce feeds the plant by nourishing the soil. In contrast, root aphids are nasty. They lay their eggs on a plant’s lower leaves and stem areas. The spawned larvae bore down into the soil and attacked the roots and stem on first instinct.

Soil mites vs Root aphids

As they do so, they expose these plant areas to diseases such as mildew and rot. Once these parts of the plant are compromised, it becomes difficult for the plant to access vital food and water. They will focus so much energy on healing from the damage that they can’t feed themselves.

Furthermore, root aphids have quite a complex relationship with ants. The ants feed on the honeydew byproduct left behind by the feeding aphids. As a thank you, the ants can protect the aphids’ eggs as they grow. They have even been known to carry aphids from plant to plant via the soil. 

Apart from these intricate behaviors, some other differences should be noted to help distinguish between the 2. These include: 

Soil MitesRoot Aphids
FamilySpider, ticks (Chelicerate Arthropods) Aphid (Aphididae)
Color White or brownWhite, whitish yellow or brown
Size (Maturity)1-2 mm in diameter 2-3 mm long
Features8 legs, ​​bulbous, round, or teardrop shaped bodies6 shorter legs, pear shaped bodies
Lifespan3-4 years30 days 
Location Above soil level traversing the surface. On roots below soil level
Relation with antProduces honeydew as food, ants protect them and help break down organic matter for them. Produces honeydew as food, ant returns the favor by guarding eggs and helping to transport the aphids
Damage AreaNoneRoots and stem
Impact on plantHelps plant by breaking down organic matter in soil which enriches it for the plants as a result. Feeding damage and resulting cavities form mildew and root rot. These diseases restrict food and water intake, killing the plant slowly alongside the spreading rot.
EggsLaid in substrate, take 6 weeks to hatchLaid on the soil surface in winter or lower leaves in spring. Reproduction is entirely asexual. Mother produces only daughters which mature in 7-10 days. 
Behaviour and MovementConstantly feeding on organic matter, calm Erratic and wild feeding, fast multiplying
Temperature to survive40-75°F (4.5-24°C)30-90°F (-1-32°C)
Control MeasuresUnnecessary, they are beneficial Neem oil or a pyrethrum-based spray

How Does Root Aphid Damage the Plants?

The only way to describe the damage a root aphid causes to plants is by comparing it to a raging bull in a China store. Absolute carnage! When a root aphid is released from its egg, it instantly becomes wild with hunger. These little pests bore straight into the soil and head for the roots.

How Does Root Aphid Damage the Plants

They begin by suckling on every living limb of the plant possible. As a result, they leave a sticky, honeydew substance. This honeydew can potentially form fungal diseases and invite hungry ants to feast on the dew. The damage they cause puts the plant into survival mode as it tries to regenerate.

The problem is that the plant’s food and water supply can become severely hampered by damaging its food canal (a.k.a. the roots and stem). Discoloration, leaf curling, yellowing, and stunted growth are just a few visual examples of root aphid damage. 

How to get rid of root aphids?

The fastest way to kill root aphids is using Neem oil or a pyrethrum-based spray. Apply any of these directly onto the base of the stem above the root system. Make sure to give the plant a really good watering after application. This will help let the solution soak deep into the soil, which will help treat the roots.

There isn’t; too much else to it except reapplying if the issue persists. As a last resort, remove the plant from its growing location and spray the solution directly onto the roots. Once this has been completed, re pot with a new, fresh potting mix and observes any changes over the next 1-2 weeks. 

Do Soil Mites Damage Your Plants?

As much as soil mites may sound like a destroyer pest, they are quite harmless. Soil mites are seen as a friend in the gardening world. They appear when the conditions for them are dark and moist.

Their purpose is to consume organic matter such as decaying limbs, leaves, bark, etc. and produce a waste product that nourishes the soil for the growing plant.

The only way that they can be harmful is that they can carry certain parasites around. There is a chance that these parasites may find their ways inside a host body, such as an animal or human. Many studies have proven the long term illnesses caused by parasites living inside our furry friends and us.

Should I Leave Soil Mites in the Soil?

Soil mites should be left to go about their business. There is absolutely no reason to remove them. As mentioned, these tiny mites serve a very important purpose to the plants and removing them can hinder a plants growth.

You may consider doing so only if you couldn’t tell the difference between these types of beneficial mites and other real plant pests. 

How to get rid of soil mites?

Having soil mites present in your garden means that your plants are growing in soil that is healthy and full of nutrition. If you feel the need to remove them, then the best way is to do as follows:

  1. Ensure they are there.
  2. Repot your plant in good quality soil.
  3. Remove the plant and dispose of soil somewhere where it will benefit from these garden helpers. 
  4. Clean and disinfect the pot.
  5. Gently rinse the roots and completely flush away any soil. 
  6. Add the plant to the new soil and pot
  7. Water lightly and observe closely whilst roots re establish themselves. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do mites eat aphids?

Depending on the species, mites can eat aphids. Soil mites aren’t predatory because they won’t eat root aphids. Soil aphids are much smaller and prefer to feast on decomposing organic matter. At the same time, larger mites would have no problem taking down and munching on an aphid.

How can you tell the difference between aphids and spider mites?

Aphids are larger, which makes them easier to spot. Aphids feed on buds, flowers, leaves, tips, and stems. They leave a sticky honeydew as a byproduct of their feasting habits. Spider mites, on the other hand, eat mostly from the underside of the leaves.

Why do aphids keep coming back?

Aphids have a high spawn and regeneration rate. Their lifespan only lasts between 20-40 days. They will stay on one plant until it curls up and dies as it succumbs to the injuries caused by them.


We have extensively discovered that soil mites and root aphids are quite different. They only seem similar to the untrained eye. The mites are a plant ally, whereas the aphids can destroy them.

We hope that this article has helped distinguish between the 2. As always, happy growing!

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