Unfortunately, root-eating pests are a common issue in both outdoor and indoor gardens. There’s a wide range of bugs that might find their way into the soil to munch on your plant’s roots, but what can you do if your garden happens to fall prey to these root-eating creatures?
Here’s how to to get rid of root-eating pests:
- Check plants for signs of damage.
- Identify the root eating pests.
- Remove dead or heavily infected plants.
- Treat for root-eating pests.
- Take preventative measures against future pests.
- Provide healthy soil.
- Learn to spot potential damage sooner.
- Never plant something new without checking it for pests.
In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss the eight best ways to rid your plants of root-eating pests both organically and with pesticides. I will also review a few frequently asked questions about treating root-eating pests. Therefore, if you want to learn more about protecting and ridding your plants of these dangerous insects and animals, be sure to read on.
1. Check Plants for Signs of Damage
The first step to getting rid of root-eating pests is to inspect your plants for potential damage. It’s essential that you know what to look for when it comes to root-eating pests. Therefore, in this section, I’ll go over some of the signs that indicate that root eaters are plaguing your plants.
Signs your plant’s roots are under attack by pests:
- Your plants have suddenly stopped growing despite adequate care.
- Your plants have started to wilt.
- Your plant’s leaves have begun to curl in on themselves.
- Your plant’s leaves have turned a pale yellow color.
- Your plant’s leaves appear dry, burned, or withered.
- Your plants are starting to die.
These are all good indicators that something has gotten a hold of your plant’s roots. A plant’s root system is critical as it sets out in search of nutrients for the above-the-ground plant. Plants can quickly become malnourished and more susceptible to illness and disease if their roots become damaged.
Once you have thoroughly investigated your plants, it’s time to dig a little deeper. To best understand if you have root-eating pests or not, you will need to remove some of the dirt protecting the plant’s roots. This will allow you to get a better look at the problem.
Remember to do so gently, so you don’t damage the root system. You want to do your best to look for eggs, larvae, or any other creepy-crawly creature hiding in there. Each pest is unique and will require slightly different treatments to eradicate them entirely. So let’s talk about how you can identify these common root-eating pests.
2. Identify the Root Eating Pests
The next step is to identify which type of rooting eating pests have invaded your garden and have been munching on your precious plant’s roots. Unfortunately, there are several different varieties of root-eating critters. Luckily, identifying which ones are currently harming your plants isn’t too difficult so long as you can spot the culprits.
So let’s take a look at the most common root-eating pests.
First, you will want to check for root maggots. Root maggots can be tricky to find as they are pretty small and tend to spend their larval form under the earth snacking on plant roots. These maggots are actually tiny fly larvae that have been laid in the soil.
Once they hatch, they consume nearby plants’ root systems until they mature enough to emerge from the soil as full-grown flies. These pests tend to do the most damage during the wintertime as that’s when they hatch and begin feeding. However, it’s important to note that they also enjoy moist soil and can often be found in weed-heavy ground.
These maggots can be identified by their creamy white worm-like bodies. They are pretty small, and if you inspect your plant’s root system, you will find them boring into the roots. Basically, they look similar to most maggots but can be challenging to spot if you don’t get close enough to the roots and check them thoroughly.
Another common pest that loves to eat plant roots is the root aphid. The best way to identify these pests is by watching for the yellowing of your plant’s leaves, looking for white mold along the roots, and finding some of the pests themselves.
You can identify root aphids by their tiny pear-shaped bodies. Root aphids look similar to common aphids but are slightly more transparent. They also tend to be a more yellowish color and relatively small. It’s essential to identify these pests quickly as they are asexual and can reproduce quickly.
Luckily, there are many different creatures that consume aphids (like ladybugs); therefore, they are one of the easiest pests to remove without involving too many chemicals. However, it can be pretty challenging to spot root aphid eggs as they are tiny and blend in with the soil. So if you do suspect a possible infestation, preemptively treating it is always a good idea.
Root aphids also respond well to chemical pesticides, especially if they’re applied in liquid form. This is because the pesticide seeps into the soil and fully coats the pests and their eggs, killing them rather quickly.
Japanese Beetle Grubs
Another root gobbling pest is the Japanese beetle grub. Any grub is terrible if it gets too close to your plant’s roots. However, the most common grub you’ll deal with is the Japanese beetle grub. But what makes these pests genuinely awful is the fact that they are harmful to your plant’s health both in their larvae and beetle state.
These grubs can actually grow to be over an inch (2.54 cm) in length and can quickly decimate your plant’s roots. The grubs can be spotted by their long whitish cream bodies, which tend to curl into a crescent shape.
These grubs primarily enjoy feasting on grassroots. However, they are known to make their way to the roots of garden plants. An excellent way to tell if you have beetle grubs is by looking for dead patches of plants. The reason for this is that the beetles will completely eat away the roots, leaving plants unable to absorb nutrients.
You can dig up these patches of dead plants to unearth the beetles below. If you happen to notice these grubs, you should act quickly and remove any you find from your garden plots.
Root Eating Fungus Gnats
Another common root-eating pest is the fungus gnat. These horrible gnats tend to lay their eggs in the soil so their young can feed on the organic matter there. Unfortunately, your plant’s roots are included in that organic matter.
The best way to spot root-eating fungus gnat larvae is by their glistening black heads and long white bodies. These fungus gnat larvae are only a problem in significant numbers, so if they have become an infestation, you will begin to see adverse effects on your plants.
An excellent way to spot these larvae is by the slight slime trails they leave on the surface of the dirt. If you dig away some of the dirt from your plant’s roots, you may also be able to spot them wriggling through the soil. Another way to tell if you have fungus gnats is by watching for swarms of adult gnats flying about your garden.
Up next, you will want to check for root mealybugs. These tiny pests spend most of their lives underground, feasting on organic matter, including your plant’s root system. You can easily spot these creatures by turning over the soil and looking for small white bugs.
Mealybugs are a grayish-white color and have strange mold-like dust that encompasses their bodies. They appear pretty similar to springtails but larger. Unfortunately, these strange pests also lack eyes, but that doesn’t stop them from destroying plants.
These tiny pests can spread quickly from plant to plant, so if you spot signs of them, you should quickly begin taking measures to combat the infestation.
Another common root-eating pest is the root weevil. These creatures are small beetles that lay their eggs in the soil where the larvae hatch and begin to feed off the roots. These beetles make quick work of plants and continue to damage once they reach their beetle form.
Adult beetles are pretty small, and their larvae even smaller. The tiny white larvae closely resemble a maggot and tend to curl into a c shape. Luckily, these common pests can easily be controlled with suitable pesticides and preventive measures.
Less Common Root Eating Pests
Finally, I would like to cover some of the less common root-eating pests. There are many pest varieties that like to eat roots, and some are more common than others. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever run into them.
Other root-eating pests include:
- Moth caterpillars.
Though these pests are less likely to be your root-eating culprits, it’s still a good idea to check for them if you are struggling to diagnose your plant’s health problems. Pests like thrips and springtails are pretty common, and you will certainly see them in your soil if you garden enough.
3. Remove Dead or Heavily Infected Plants
Once you have determined the pest infesting your plant’s root system, it’s a good idea to begin purging your garden of infested or dead plants. Removing dead plants is essential as they provide a breeding ground for future pests and will lead to a more prolonged battle with the root-destroying bugs.
When removing infected plants from your garden, you should NEVER add them to your compost. This will only allow for your compost to become infested with the pests since it’s pretty much impossible to ensure you have removed all of the bugs’ eggs. Instead, the best way to dispose of possibly infected plants is to burn them or throw them away in a sealed garbage can.
You don’t want the root-eating pests to return to your garden. Sadly, for most pest infestations, you’ll need to remove the plants altogether. However, you can always try treatment first, though, with pests like root maggots, it’s often easier to start over.
4. Treat for Root Eating-Pests
Once you have removed the plants that are too far gone for saving, it’s time to begin treatment. Each type of root pest will require slightly different forms of treatment, and some will need to be more severe than others. However, for the most part, you should be able to treat most pests with mild pesticides.
Removing Root Eating Pest Organically
Having a fully organic garden can take a lot of work, and it can feel disheartening when your plants become infested with root-eating pests. So next, I will discuss the best ways to stop these pests organically.
Ways to stop root-eating pests without introducing harsh chemicals to your garden include:
- Insecticidal soaps. These soaps can aid in preventing further pests from crawling into your soil and laying eggs. However, they’re not great when it comes to killing pests that have already taken up residence in a plant’s roots, like root aphids.
- Remove any infected plants. Sadly the best way to ensure these creatures stop terrorizing your garden is to remove any plants they may have laid eggs in.
- Neem oil. Spray your soil with neem oil to kill several varieties of garden pests such as Japanese beetles, aphids, mealybugs, fungal gnats, and other common garden pests. This oil is entirely safe to add to your organic garden.
If you haven’t already tried neem oil, I personally recommend Plantonix’s Cold Pressed Neem Oil (available on Amazon.com). This oil is fantastic because it’s safe to use in an organic garden, and it is cold-pressed instead of heated during the extraction process, which means it will be much more effective against pests.
Honestly, when it comes to keeping an organic garden healthy from root-eating pests, the best way is to prevent these insects from entering the soil in the first place. By taking preventative measures, you will be far less likely to experience infestations in the future.
Removing Root Eating Pests for Non-Organic Gardens
Trying to clear your garden of pests without pesticides can be tricky, so if you aren’t worried about keeping your garden completely organic, here are a few ways you can rid your plants of these root-eating pests using chemical treatments.
The best ways to stop root-eating pests in a non-organic garden include:
- Liquid pesticides. Any harsh liquid pesticide should do a great job of quickly killing any pests that have made their home in your plant’s roots. However, it’s important to note that using these kinds of chemicals will also kill healthy organisms and garden worms.
- Powdered pesticides. You can also use the powdered variety which is supposed to be sprinkled around your plants. This should ensure that future bugs don’t make their way into the soil again.
- Remove dead or infected plants. If a plant is dead or extremely infested, it’s best to remove that plant from the garden. These kinds of plants will only act as a source of nutrients for the pests and a safe place to lay their eggs.
Using liquid pesticides is a surefire way to kill most pests lurking in your soil. Additionally, the chemicals used are harsh and fast-acting, making them a great option if you aren’t cultivating an organic garden.
The Best Treatment Methods for Each Root Pest
As I previously stated, some pests respond better to specific extermination methods. Therefore, in this section, I’ll be going over the best ways to remove each type of root pest ‘ve discussed earlier. So let’s get started.
Here’s how to treat each type of root pest:
- Root maggots. Using organic methods is actually the best way to remove these pests from your garden. There are actually several predator bugs that will hunt these critters, such as nematodes. You can also try spreading some Diatomaceous Earth.
- Root aphids. The best treatment method is neem oil or a Spinosad-based insecticide. There are also forms of fungus you can purchase to spread through the soil that will kill them off. Not to mention nematodes and ladybugs can also help with these pests.
- Japanese beetle grubs. Getting rid of these grubs is pretty simple, and many recommend creating a mixture of dish soap and water to spill over the infected areas of your garden or lawn. This will force the grubs to come to the surface where you can more easily dispose of them.
- Root eating fungus gnats. Oddly enough, hydrogen peroxide mixed with water can be used to permanently rid your plants of these gnats. The fungus gnats’ eggs and larvae will instantly be killed by applying this mixture.
- Mealybugs. The best method to rid your plants of mealybugs is to pull them up and soak the roots in hot water. This approach will kill the bugs and not harm the plants so long as it isn’t done for too long.
- Root weevils. Using pesticides is the best method to rid your soil of these bothersome pests. You can undoubtedly use organic methods to combat root weevils, but they may come back.
5. Take Preventive Measures Against Future Pests
Once you have selected your pest removal method and applied it, you should begin preparations against future infestations. The best way to keep your plant’s roots safe is to prevent the pests from ever taking up residence in the first place.
How To Prevent Root Pests in an Organic Garden
First, I will review the best methods for preventing root-eating pests from returning to your organic garden.
Organic ways to keep your garden safe from root-eating pests include:
- Setting up sticky bug traps for plants. Setting up sticky paper around your plants can help catch any would-be root munchers from slipping their eggs into the soil. This method will also keep your garden free of unwanted chemicals.
- Reapplying neem oil every 2-3 weeks. By reapplying with this organic pesticide, you can better ensure no new root pests have made their way back into your soil. If any have, they will quickly die, leaving your plants to thrive in peace.
- Removing any pests you see by hand. It’s always a good idea to inspect your plants each week, and if you notice any pests, dispose of them quickly.
- Keeping your garden bed weed-free and tidy. A clean garden bed will help you see better when an issue arises with your plants, especially if the pests are lurking in the soil.
- Releasing helpful bugs in your garden. Ladybugs and good nematodes will actually go after many root-eating pests like aphids, and they are a great way to naturally rid your plants of harmful insects.
As you can see, there are quite a few options when it comes to preventing future infestations. The most important thing is to be aware of what’s going on with your plants. If you inspect them regularly, you’ll be better able to spot when something is wrong.
How To Prevent Root Pests in a Non-Organic Garden
Next, I want to talk a little about the best preventive steps to take in a garden that isn’t organic. When treating a garden without the constraints of using organic products, removing root-eating pests can go much quicker and it can be easier to prevent future infestations.
However, it’s important to note that using harsh chemicals like liquid pesticides on your soil can also kill beneficial bugs and microorganisms. Therefore, you’ll want to proceed with caution when using harsh chemicals.
Non-organic ways to prevent future root-eating pests in your garden include:
- Reapplying pesticides every 2-3 weeks. In order to keep your plant’s roots safe, you will want to redo your pesticides regularly. This is because bugs’ life and breeding cycles are relatively short, and you will need to keep up on newly hatched pests.
- Keeping an eye out for signs of pests. Using your judgment is sometimes the best method for recognizing that root pests have started harming your plants. You should regularly evaluate your plant’s health in order to catch an infestation in time.
Ultimately, when it comes to using chemicals to treat pests in your garden, they are very effective. You can combine different forms of pesticides to aid in prevention, but the best approach is to do adequate research and find a brand that works well for you.
If you are looking for a great pesticide, I recommend using BioAdvanced Insect Control (available on Amazon.com). This product is excellent because it can fully seep into the soil to kill hard-to-reach bugs and works pretty well on aphids.
6. Provide Healthy Soil
Another excellent way to get rid of harmful root-eating pests and prevent them from returning is to maintain good soil health. Good-quality soil that doesn’t contain too much moisture is far less likely to fall prey to root-eating bugs and diseases.
So what exactly makes up good soil?
Well, good soil includes plenty of nutrients, maintains plant growth, is free of weeds, and doesn’t suffer from mold or other issues. Now you can continuously improve the quality of your soil by adding nutrient-heavy soil, compost, or fertilizer. However, it’s essential to be careful when composting as you can easily get harmful bugs if you compost the wrong items.
If you would like to learn more about creating healthy soil for your garden, I recommend watching The Gardening Channel With James Prigioni’s video on building the perfect gardening soil. He does a fantastic job of walking you through the steps for making healthy soil for free.
7. Learn To Spot Potential Damage Sooner
Another critical step to ridding your garden of harmful root pests is learning to spot damage sooner. Whenever your plants are under attack, there are a few signs that indicate that something is going on below the soil, and it’s your job to pay attention to those signs.
Signs that pests are eating your plant’s roots include:
- Leaf discoloration.
- Stunted growth.
- Wilted leaves.
- White mold.
- Slime trails.
- Bugs in the soil.
- Dying plants.
These are all symptoms you might notice if root pests are attacking your plants. Whenever your plants appear unwell, checking for root pests should be at the forefront of your mind. If you suspect root pests, removing some soil to check your plant’s roots is okay. You can do this without completely uprooting your plants.
8. Never Plant Something New Without Checking It for Pests
Finally, it’s crucial that you carefully inspect new plants before introducing them to your garden beds. This is because you can’t fully know where the plant has been or the quality of soil used. Unfortunately, this means that a number of root pests could be living in the soil, ready to infest your garden.
So before planting a new plant, you should remove it from its pot and break up the root ball to check for any signs of bugs, eggs, or larvae. You should also look to see if the roots appear damaged in any way, as this is a sign of pests harming the plant’s roots. If there is no damage, it should be safe to plant the new addition in your garden.
However, it’s always a good idea to add a little neem oil or liquid pesticide to ensure the new plant didn’t bring any root pests with it. You may also want to discard the soil that came with the plant, as it can be challenging to spot pest eggs in the dirt.
Another efficient way to combat bringing root pests into your garden is to only purchase healthy plants from trusted vendors. If you notice the plant you have acquired is looking a bit sickly, it’s probably best not to add it to your garden immediately. Instead, you should diagnose the issue and take any necessary measures.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How Do You Get Rid of Root Eating Bugs?
You get rid of root-eating bugs by removing infested plants from your garden and treating your soil with either organic or chemical pesticides. Depending on the type of insect infesting your garden plant’s roots, the process may be a bit complicated.
Q: How Do You Identify What’s Eating Your Plants’ Roots?
To identify what’s eating your plant’s roots, you will need to move back the soil and inspect the damage. Keep an eye out for eggs, larvae, and fully-grown pests. Take a photo of the pests and reverse image search it or simply google its characteristics to identify your particular root pest.
Q: How Do You Get Rid of Bugs in Your Soil Naturally?
To get rid of bugs in your soil naturally, you can use organic pesticides. However, the best way to ensure bugs stay out of your soil is to take preventative measures such as providing healthy soil, not overwatering, and regularly monitoring your plants for unwanted pests.
Ultimately, the best way to get the heart of your root-eating pest problem is to prevent these parasites from entering your soil in the first place. However, if you’re already dealing with an infestation, there are several approaches you can take to combat the issue, such as applying pesticides and removing infested plants from your garden.