What Are Bulb Mites: Treating Plants Affected By Bulb Mites

Potted Bulb On A Table Full Of Bulbs Next To A Gardening Tool
(Image credit: sanddebeautheil)

Bulb mites are tiny little creatures that can wreak real havoc on bulbs if they’re allowed to take hold. It’s very important to take preventative steps against bulb mites, and to carry out bulb mite treatment if you find your plants infested. Keep reading to learn more about plants affected by bulb mites and how to get rid of bulb mites.

What are Bulb Mites?

Bulb mites are tiny critters that feed on bulbs. They aren’t insects – they’re actually arachnids, like spiders. They enter the bulbs of plants through wounds and soft points in the surface. Usually, they take advantage of spots that have already been damaged by an outside force, but they also help the process along by chewing on the outside of the bulb and allowing easy access for bacteria and fungi that cause the bulb to rot. Once they get inside, bulb mites reproduce rapidly and can quickly turn a bulb to mush.

Methods for Controlling Bulb Mites

When controlling bulb mites in the garden, you should first begin with preventative methods. If that fails and your bulbs become infected anyway, it’s time to take another course of action to get rid of the pests.

Preventing Bulb Mites

The best method of bulb mite treatment is prevention. Always handle bulbs delicately - if you damage the surface, you’re creating an open door. Store your bulbs in a dry, cool place. Bulb mites thrive in moist environments that are over 50 F. (10 C.). Before planting bulbs, examine them carefully. If a bulb has any squishy spots, chances are good it’s already infested. Do not plant the bulb. Throw it away, preferably boiling it first to kill the mites inside. Don’t compost it.

How to Get Rid of Bulb Mites

It’s a good idea to treat bulbs with miticide before planting, even those that don’t seem to be infested. If you don’t catch your bulb mite infestation early, the plants that grow out of them will be stunted and yellow. They probably won’t flower either. Destroy any affected plants. A very effective natural treatment is the introduction of Cosmolaelaps claviger, a beneficial mite that is a natural predator of bulb mites. Introduce these predatory mites to the soil and they should take down the bulb mite population.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.