Are you a neat freak à la Monica from Friends? Even if a little bit of dust here and there doesn’t bother you, we bet it will from now on. Namely, what you think is dust might be tiny white bugs getting all comfortable on your surfaces.
Odds are, even the thought of it has made you feel uneasy. For that reason, we have prepared for you a brief guide to these dust-like insect species. Read on to find out what they are and how you should best deal with them.
What Are the Tiny White Bugs That Resemble Dust?
Before you find out how to get rid of these minute organisms, you need to consider the nature of each of the five main white bug species.
1. Dust Mites
If you’ve ever tried a Kirby or any other more potent hoover, you know how dirty your place can get. Even if you tidy up regularly, this vacuum cleaner can leave you dumbfounded at the number of tiny dirt particles it manages to collect.
Chances are, the whole thing instantly grosses you out, and you end up feeling like you’re living in a stall. But we’re all in the same boat here, mind you.
It’s not that we’re untidy — it’s just that dust mites find shelter inside our mattresses, upholstery, curtains, and carpets. For instance, a typical bed mattress can have around one hundred thousand to one million dust mites.
To make matters even worse, these microscopic insects feed on your dead cells. They also absorb moisture from the air, which is why you’re more likely to find them in high-humidity areas.
But the truth is, these tiny white bugs aren’t there to hurt you. Thus, they won’t bite you nor harm you directly — they are far too small to do that. However, an abundance of them can cause you to have an allergic reaction.
Their droppings can trigger your immune system’s response and leave you sneezing, coughing, or even dealing with asthma attacks.
2. Mold Mites
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Let’s face it — mold is yucky in and of itself. Imagining these tiny fungi growing on your pipes, windows, or walls might be giving you the chills. You can expect mold forming in areas with high humidity, and you’re probably already used to getting rid of it. But what about mold mites — what are they, and do all moist areas have them?
Mold mites are tiny white bugs feeding on fungi and yeast that you can find in soil or inside your home. Using more proper terms, these guys aren’t insects but arachnids, like ticks or spiders.
Mold mites are almost transparent organisms whose size rarely crosses 0.012 inches, making them invisible to the naked eye. In most cases, you’ll be able to spot only a discolored mass forming on mold.
However, these mites might also create brown or gray areas near your food. Dead and alive mites, their droppings, tiny food particles, and your dead cells make up this dust called biomass.
Another thing to look for is visible individual mites scurrying all over your surfaces. Such a sight may indicate there’s a mold mite infestation nearby, which you’ll have to deal with as soon as possible.
3. Woolly Aphids
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Have you ever seen one of those fluffy white masses forming on trees, looking like fungi? If so, it probably hasn’t even occurred to you that they are, in fact, insects. At a brief sight of such a formation, you might have mistaken it for white tree sap or leftover animal hair. But it turns out to be a heap of tiny white bugs called woolly aphids.
These guys dwell on tree barks and twigs where they feed on sap, producing a white waxy substance. As their name suggests, woolly aphids are fluffy and easy to spot as they’re always in large groups.
They also breed quickly, reproducing by parthenogenesis. What this means is that female woolly aphids can lay eggs without being fertilized.
Thanks to the fast reproduction of these bugs, they can cause an infestation in no time. You can usually find woolly aphids on hawthorn or crabapples in springtime.
That’s when they’re most active, but even then, they don’t pose a serious threat to the tree they live on. Still, they can cause premature leaf drop, curled or yellowing leaves, and slow plant growth.
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If you’re looking at a white formation on a plant, woolly aphids might not be the ones to blame. In this case, the true culprits will probably be tiny white bugs known as mealybugs. The two species often get mixed up thanks to their similar appearances and habitats. Like woolly aphids, mealybugs are white, fluffy, and reside on plants.
So, how can you differentiate between mealybugs and woolly aphids? The main difference between the two is that they attack different plants or different plant parts.
Unlike their lookalikes, mealybugs usually dwell on plant joints or where leaves meet stems. You can also often spot individual mealybugs scurrying around on a plant, which is rarely the case with woolly aphids.
When it comes to a mealybug infestation, bear in mind that it can happen to indoor species like your houseplants. They will pierce through their host’s leaves and stems, sucking the sap from the plant.
As a result, the leaves on the host plant can turn yellow, causing it to weaken. In more extreme cases and when left untreated, mealybugs can eventually also kill their hosts.
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Much like their cousins, the tiny white bugs called whiteflies can attack your houseplants. They also have distinguishing mouthpieces which they use to suck the host plant’s sap.
As a result, they produce a sticky white substance known as honeydew. And, as you can see, these guys aren’t proper flies, being more related to aphids and mealybugs.
But as opposed to aphids, whiteflies do require a bit higher temperatures. Because of that, they’re more likely to be found on indoor or greenhouse plants. Most commonly, you’ll be able to spot them on the backside of leaves, living in groups. Individual whiteflies, however, might be imperceptible, ranging from 0.06 to 0.01 inches in size.
Like aphids and mealybugs, they can cause damage to the host plant. By draining all its juices, they make the plant’s leaves dry and yellow. Whiteflies can also slow down their host plant’s growth and make it less fruitful.
What’s more, whiteflies are famous for transmitting plant viruses, and the plant hosting these bugs becomes more prone to illness in general.
How to Get Rid of These Tiny White Bugs?
Now that you’ve seen what these little guys are capable of, let’s take a look at how you can deal with them.
1. Getting Rid of Dust Mites
You already know just how much dust mites love humid places. So, the first step in getting rid of them could be getting a dehumidifier or an air conditioner. By doing this, not only will you make the place inconvenient for current dust mites, but you’ll also prevent potential future infestation.
Another good idea could be changing old carpets and curtains and replacing them with easy-to-clean synthetic materials.
Speaking of which, your number one ally in getting rid of dust mites would be regular and thorough cleaning. Wash your blankets and bedding in hot water or freeze them to make the conditions unfavorable for these parasites. You can also vacuum your mattresses using a HEPA filter hoover and cover them in dust-proof materials.
2. Getting Rid of Mold Mites
Because these guys can’t do without fungi, you might want to eliminate the mold first. You can do this using hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, or chlorine bleach. Whichever solution you opt for, remember to leave it over the mold for some time before rinsing it. And, to prevent it from forming again in the future, use a dehumidifier.
The same cleaning substances can also help you kill mold mites themselves. These arachnids won’t be able to survive baking soda, borax, and bleach. The same goes for vinegar and lemon, whose acidity is highly effective for getting rid of mites.
3. Getting Rid of Woolly Aphids
You already know that woolly aphids don’t pose a severe threat to your plants. For that reason, deciding to do nothing about the woolly aphid infestation would also be fine. What’s more, these guys already have their natural enemies like ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies.
But if you want to prevent a woolly aphid infestation on your plants, you can use insecticidal soap to treat the infected area. In more critical situations, you can also resort to harsher chemicals like acephate.
4. Getting Rid of Mealybugs
If you’ve noticed mealybugs on some of your houseplants, you need to separate the infected plants from the healthy ones. By doing this, you’ll make sure these insects don’t spread, and you’ll be able to control the situation more easily.
Then, you can use pesticides to get rid of all the visible mealybugs. But note that these guys are resistant to chemical pesticides, so be sure to use organic ones.
Another way to deal with them is to soak cotton pads with alcohol and clean the affected leaves. Using cotton swabs dipped in alcohol will prove an even more thorough procedure. With the help of them, you’ll be able to clean less reachable places.
5. Getting Rid of Whiteflies
When it comes to a whitefly infestation, there’s also no need to resort to pesticides. Instead, you can use a few simple home remedies to get rid of stubborn whiteflies. For instance, a regular handheld vacuum cleaner could do wonders. It will help you remove both adult individuals and their larvae.
You can also use diluted liquid dish soap to clean the affected leaves. This method will effectively rid your plant of whiteflies without harming it. An alternative would be neem oil, which works as a natural pesticide. In the worst-case scenario, you might need to remove the diseased leaves.