From the yearly archives: "2003"

My friend and I have little white bugs living in the soil of our plant. When we water the plants they float to the top of the soil then go back in once the water goes down. My friend tried to put dish soap in the water but that didn’t kill them. How can we get rid of them without buying a spray for them.
I have asthma and my friend is disabled. It would be easier if we could get a home remedy. Can you please help us. In my last email I failed to mention that our plants are indoor plants there are 5 different kinds of plants we own and 3 of them have the white bugs.

Dear Annette,
Your letter doesn’t specify if you have a full on infestation or just a few bugs. If they are big enough to see, they are big enough to be removed manually when they float to the surface. If you are squeemish, try tweezers.
A better suggestion, especially if you have many bugs, is to use the old flea bitten fox trick. Remember the fable of the fox who had fleas, so he grabbed a stick in his mouth and went for a dip? The fleas moved to his head to stay dry, and as they moved to the stick, the crafty fox let go of the stick, and was rid of the fleas for a bit.
Try submerging your plants in a bucket of water, when the pests rise to the surface, pour off the water into the toilet, and let the plant dry out. You may need to do this several times to rid the plants of the pestilence.
Sorry your description was so vague, I can’t really identify your pest properly, but they might be a variety of soil mite. It is also possible that they are not actually harming the plant, and have just taken warm refuge in your dirt. Dirt in the garden is full of insects and their kin which are actually beneficial.
Good luck.

Update:  December 5, 2009
We just got a comment on this letter, and we are linking to a site with information on Soil Mites.