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tiny possibly damaging bugs; what are they?

 
pollinator
Posts: 1559
Location: Denver, CO
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A patch in my garden is suddenly covered by hundreds of tiny crawling critters. They are light brown or tan, and range in size from smaller then a pinhead to a bit larger then a pinhead; they have six legs, small antenna, and no visible wings. I scooped up a handful of mulch and put them and the substrate in a jar, and took a video through a magnifying glass. A link to the video is at the bottom of the email; it is pretty fuzzy. I'm wondering what they are, and if there is any connection to nearby plants suddenly shriveling up.

 
Posts: 17
Location: Jackson, Michigan Zone 5
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fungi books bee
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Cant really tell from the video, Maybe aphids. I don't recall seeing aphids move that fast though.
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
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I would say that they were brown aphids, but they move much to fast, and are predominantly on the soil surface.
 
pollinator
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Location: Derbyshire, UK
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Fungus Gnats? They lay eggs in the soil and the larvae hatch there, eventually metamorphising into tiny little flies that are really annoying. The larvae can damage plant roots.

I get them in potted plants in the house, and usually deal with them by putting a layer of sand or small gravel on the soil- if the gnats can't get to the soil to lay eggs the population declines. I'm not sure what I would do in an outdoor garden situation, diatomic earth might help.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I don't think they are fungus Gnats; no wings and the wrong shape; they are smooth and pear shaped, very aphid like.
 
Posts: 36
Location: Northern Utah/Northwest Colorado
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I have to admit that I didn't watch the video, but your description sounds exactly like some critters that showed up in my worm bin while I was having major fungus gnat issues... fungus gnats are now rare, and if I have fungus gnats in any of my houseplants, they get some vermicompost, no more gnats. This leads me to believe that they might be hypoasis miles. Good guys.  I would suggest checking some of the roots for root aphids. These predator mites could be thriving because they have lots of pest to eat.

And thank you for asking a question that finally motivated to register.
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
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Thanks for joining, Tom!

I looked up hypoasis miles, and they did look very much like, but they like most mites seem to have 8 legs. My critters, as far as I can tell, have 6, though they are so small that it is hard to tell.
 
garden master
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It kinda looks like they may have shiny wings, but it's hard to tell. At the rate of speed at which they move they seem to be fungus gnats. Aphids don't move that fast. Those guys were cruising.
 
Tom Digerness
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Wow, I watched the video (like I should have to begin with) and those are definitely not my mite buddies.  Way too fast and large.  I am intrigued, and my mind will be stirring until it is figured out.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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No wings; and yes, very fast. I took another look through a magnifying glass. They have fat, pear-shaped abdomens, six legs, fairly long antenna (as long as their legs), and a small thorax. There is a range of sizes, with the smallest almost half the size of the largest. And they are moving constantly.
 
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I watched the video and got the 'impression' of a nymph stage of a squash bug/stink bug.  They hatch out in a large group and then run around a lot.  They can cause squash leaves to wilt even early in the season.  Seems early for them though, I haven't even planted squash yet.....and I don't think I've seen them that small.....
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Yes, it would be early. Here in Denver, we won't be planting squash for another two months. And I didn't have squash in this bed over the last few years. Also, my critters are more brown.
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
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There is getting to be more and more of these critters on the soil surface.

However, I have a thought. The critters in the jar are still alive. There are no green growing plants in the jar with them. Does that mean they are living on soil organic matter, and therefore benign? Or could herbivore insects live that long without food? Or could they eat both, like pillbugs do? Or could more and more be hatching out of the mulch in the jar, replacing those that die?
 
Mark Morgan
Posts: 17
Location: Jackson, Michigan Zone 5
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Maybe springtails or some kind of mite?
 
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