Sorry to start another post after my "mildew" post, but this truly deserves a new introduction. I thought these white specks falling from my plant today were just particles from the powdery mildew. After CLOSELY examining one backside of a mint leaf I noticed a microscopic white dot actually moving. As I looked closer I noticed A LOT of moving white specks all over the quater-sized leaf. I have come to identify these mites as springtails (not technically insects or mites). They are everywhere throughout my mint and most likely all of the plantgrowth of my system. They thrive in damp, moist areas. The particles that would fall before and weren't moving were the shells from their moulting. Springtails also jump, which would explain why they seemed to be able to fly when blown on. They also feed on mildew, which would explain why they were around a plant with powdery mildew. It all is adding up now...
Does anyone have any experience with mites or springtails? I have an indoor system. My girlfriend is STRONGLY pressuring me to disassemble my system and I'm 85% committed to doing so in the next few days. These mites just seem too ubiquitous and prolific to treat and keep for an indoor system. Come Spring and Summer I REALLY want to have an outdoor aquaponics system--do you think I will run into the same problem with an outside system? I've heard that mites can become a problem indoors because of the lack of predators that feed on them (e.g. ladybugs, other insects, etc.). I'm hoping that an outdoors system will have more exposure to predators to keep mites at bay. I want to keep the fish, but I don't know how I can keep them without having to do water changes all the time. This whole situation is REALLY discouraging! It really seems as though 2 months of hard work was in vain.
Again, if anyone has any input please put in your two cents. Special thanks to TC who has helped me with all my problems and answered all of my posts!
Mites are a problem, but springtails??? I'd just keep the system going...its not like they're going to devour your living basil or mint...
And the Aquaponics system hardly drew them into your home, so it's not like your going to get rid of the springtails by dismantling your system. They'll probably just return to where they've been living for years...under your bathtub, underneath the slab of your home, under the bathroom cabinetry etc...They will be less visible, but you do know that they are there, right? Besides, they're completely harmless, they tend to freak out the girl-folk when they come out en-mass, but harmless nonetheless. Other than your girlfriend, why is it exactly that you need to dismantle the system?
You might try dusting with diatomaceous earth which will be harmless to the fish and bacteria but is generally hard on small insects. Only real drawback is it's dusty.
If you were to try spraying with something like neem, I would recommend making some sort of drop cloth for under the plants over the grow bed to and covering the fish tank to make sure you keep as much of the spray out of the fish water since oils and soaps are generally bad for fish. Otherwise neem oil is fairly safe for humans as they use it in many products used on humans.
Now to some extent your problems probably stem from humid conditions that brought on the mildew so domino effect, Hopefully with the fan running now and once you treat for the mildew you will probably knock the springtail population back. And if you feel you need to remove something to get rid of them, well beware that if you leave the mint plant unchecked, it will probably take over the entire grow bed and choke everything else out.
Bill, we have been using Liquid Ladybug on mites for the past few months and it works very well (http://www.theaquaponicstore.com/Liquid-LadyBug-16-oz-Spray-Bottle-...).
Two words: Colloidal Silver. I've used it and it works great! Plus its great for your fish too. You can buy it at a health food store or make it at home, just google how to, there are tons of how tos out there. Most important is to keep your garden clean.
And good luck!
"Table 1 summarizes the procedures employed and observations made in various efficacy
tests. Tests 7 and 8 on Table 1 suggest that liquid formulations of rosemary and lavender
oil each at 2% concentration, is effective against both aphids and spider mites. The final
formulation of the 2% rosemary-lavender mixture, caused 94.9 ± 3.650 mortality of mites
on roses and 100% mortality of aphids on peppers."...
They don't say anything about springtails though...
Thank you all for your responses! I went to the State Agricultural Experimentation Laboratory in my area and they identified the pest(s) for me (for free and in minutes, I might add!). I had aphids (both winged and crawling) on my mint and thrips on my basil (and probably spread out to all my other veggies and herbs too). So I was wrong about them being springtails!
I went out and bought some Safer End All organic insect killing spray only to later read on the label to NOT USE NEAR AQUATIC ANIMALS, ESPECIALLY FISH. Luckily I never used it--the pyrethrins are toxic to fish. I did a little research and found out that they made another organic spray that is a 3-in-one that protects against insects, mites, and mildew. Its active ingredients are sulfur and potassium salts of fatty acids. I also purchased some organic ecosmart insect killer that has rosemary and spearmint oils as its active ingredients. Both products claim to kill aphids and thrips. Both products have soap as an ingredient and seems to be an unavoidable ingredient in insecticides for soft-bodied pests like aphids--apparently it smothers them . I also added some 1oz neem oil to the ecosmart as well as a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. I used both products kind of liberally today, the mint was actually dripping so I hung it over the side of the grow bed to limit the amount that would drain into the tank. I just hope that now the fish aren't bothered by any of the soap, oils or pepper--it didn't bubble or anything like that so I'm hoping this will work out! I plan on spraying every 3 days for 2 weeks to kill the aphids and mildew.
My girlfriends giving me a 2 weeks to straighten this problem out, so hopefully these pests will be gone!
I also tried to buy some diatomaceous earth but the seasoned nursery owner scolded me and told me it wouldn't kill aphids. Has anyone ever tried to use flour by sprinkling the flour on the plant and then washing it off 5-10 minutes later? It supposedly smothers the aphids. Also, the etymologist I saw told me to try dipping the plants in 120 degree water for 15 seconds and that would kill them. Has anyone ever tried that method? I'm afraid it would start to cook the plants! (Especially if I did it with the lettuce or kale?)
Thanks again everyone!
Nope, never dipped my plants in hot water. You probably don't want your plants to be dripping with those sprays either. I don't know about aphids, but it doesn't take much to kill mites with the oil/surfacactant sprays I've used. Covering your tank up while you spray might be a prudent precaution. Adding the Neem oil might not be such a good idea for the fish, then again some of the studies on Neem oil toxicity to aquatic life contradict one another. You may have been much better off with just the spearmint and rosemary...Just be sure to go easy, even with just those two. Too much is not a good thing, and it shouldn't take much. If you haven't actually added the Neem oil to the mix yet, DONT...No oil is 'great' for fish, but Neem seems to be the worst, as it appears toxic to fish. Use the Ecosmart as is.
Why wouldn't DE work on aphids? Them being soft bodied and all? Weird...
if you can lower the temp and raise the humidity, that will greatly slow down the reproductive processes of the mites