Root lice: this is how you recognize and combat lice

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Root lice: this is how you recognize and combat lice: plants

Mealybugs are usually easy to recognize because they are stuck on the leaves of the plant and can be seen there with the naked eye. But there are also lice that attach to the roots of the plants underground, these are known as root louse and much harder to spot. So that the plants do not take damage, they must be observed regularly.

Root lice - definition

Meat lice, aphids or scale insects, which also belong to the same family as the root lice, are quickly recognized as they settle on the leaves and stems of the plants. However, root lice are plant lice that live underground and therefore are not seen so quickly. The root lice surround themselves with white or cream-colored wax exudates and suck at the roots of the affected plant. Root lice live in large colonies and therefore there is always a strong case. Root lice look like this:
  • small, two to three millimeters large animals
  • present in amounts at the root of the plant
  • Excretions of root, root neck and soil
  • white, waxy powder
Another indication of an infestation are many red ants near the plants. Even small piles of soil next to the plants are formed by the root lice.


Above all, plants that are already weakened are attacked by the subterranean lice. These include those plants that have deficiency symptoms, an accumulation of rottenness due to stagnant water has already occurred or the soil around the roots is highly compacted. This is how the damage image of infected plants looks like this:
  • atrophy in growth
  • wither, even though they are sufficiently moist
  • die off
  • This can cause large defects in plant cultures
  • Infestation of root lice is associated with infestation of ants
  • this is due to the excreted honeydew of the lice
For crops, the harvest is lower to completely off. Lettuce plants, for example, wither from below and turn yellow. Affected berry plants have a lower yield, but the plant itself is hardly affected. Young bushes stop growing. Ornamental and indoor plants can suffer considerable damage and die altogether.
Tip: To be sure that the plants are attacked by root lice, they must be carefully excavated. Otherwise, the small pests are not recognizable, since they are usually not on the earth's surface.


Woll lice - Lubricants

Almost all ornamental plants and vegetables can be infested by the root lice. But the pests in particular have a preference for milkweed and thick-leafed plants. But flower bulbs are not spared and so can tulips or narcissi infest his, like many other tuber plants too. Because there are different types of root lice that can even be host specific, like the lettuce root louse, to give an example, no plant is safe from infestation. Thus, the root louse is very common, especially in the following vegetable crops:
  • Endive, lettuce or chicory
  • Carrots, celery or parsley
  • Gooseberries and currants
  • houseplants
  • Dieffenbachia, rubber tree, palm trees, cactuses
  • Balcony plants such as geraniums or carnations
Many root species hibernate in the plant remains on the ground, so it is important that all remains are completely removed after harvesting. Thus, a renewed infestation in the next year can be contained or avoided.
Tip: However, as root lice are considered to be hostile and prefer to lay their eggs on hawthorn or black poplar, and then switch to the vegetable patch, a mixed crop of these crops should be avoided in the vegetable garden.


It is better to fight off infestation than to prevent infestation from occurring. Because especially when the soil is unfavorable for the plants of all kinds, it comes to a root lice infestation. The pests prefer mainly compacted or dry soil, so it should always be kept loose and sufficiently watered. However, waterlogging should also be taken into account and avoided, as the pests are also happy to approach these weakened plants. Further preventive measures are the following:
  • regular crop rotation in vegetable cultivation
  • Create mixed culture
  • Tomatoes, onions and leeks go well together
  • Keep the pests away with their smells
  • select salad-resistant varieties from the trade
  • against waterlogging in the bed or bucket create drainage
  • Insect protection nets (Erdflohnetz) in the garden over crops


Once a plant or even a whole vegetable patch has been attacked by the root lice, it will be difficult to fight them.Also, a distinction should be made here between perennial and annual plants in the control. With annual, infested plants is often not worth the effort to save them yet. The progress of the infestation is also important, as it should be:
  • Expose root area
  • regularly sprinkle with tansy or broth
  • Dig out infested plants cultivated in pots
  • Wash off the roots and free them from the lice
  • then place in a water bath for several hours
  • put in fresh soil
  • Thoroughly clean pots first
  • Use natural enemies in the garden bed
  • Add new worms from the trade in the irrigation water
Once a bed of carrots or lettuce plants is severely affected, it makes more sense to destroy the plants completely and to remove and cleanse the soil. The infected plants and remnants of these should under no circumstances be added to the compost but disposed of with household waste. Because on the compost, the root lice can overwinter and are distributed the next year with the fertilizer back in the garden and could do so a lot of damage.
Tip: Millipedes, ground beetles or short-winged beetles are natural enemies of the root louse. Therefore, these animals should not be fought in a kitchen garden. It is better to offer shelters made of stones or old potsherds. Thus, the beneficial enemies can settle around the garden bed.

Make stinging nettle or tansy


Even preventively, a bed can already be poured with tansy or nettle broth. This does not harm the plants, but it helps well in infestations of root lice and also for prevention. The broth can be produced by yourself, but is also available in a well-stocked garden shop as a finished product. In our own production, the procedure is as follows:
  • Collect flowers of tansy and whole plants in August
  • dry
  • hang upside down ostrich in a warm place
  • make a tea from dried leaves
  • Allow to cool and add to the irrigation water
  • Collect nettle
  • one kilogram fresh with two liters of water
  • bring to a boil and let cool
  • Sieve out plant parts
  • give to the irrigation water in the ratio 1:10
Also, the tansy can be processed just like the nettles fresh to a broth. Here, about 1.5 kilograms of flowering tansy mixed with ten liters of water, placed for 24 hours and then boiled.
Tip: As the tansy flower contains the most active substances, these are highly recommended for the preparation of the broth. The tansy flowers in late summer, but as the plants are dried, they can be prepared for use in the spring / summer of next year in the fall.

Clean contaminated soil

The infested soil can also be cleaned. But this is only useful if it is Kübelerde. Garden soil, on the other hand, can be removed and treated with systemic insecticides. But those who want to be sure, exchange the earth with new earth. The old one can be put into the garbage in well-closed garbage bags. Under no circumstances should this land in the wild, as the root lice that are still in it could then spread here in a forest or in a field. The cleaning of Kübelerde is as follows:
  • Place affected soil in a microwave-safe container
  • to 700 watts
  • in the microwave for about four to five minutes
  • the lice should be killed in this way
Tip: If you want to be on the safe side, you can also combat garden or bucket soil with chemical agents against root lice from the market.

Video Board: How To Get Rid Of Lice And Nits Fast Using Vinegar.

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