Springtails

Info for the Indoor Gardener




Springtails are included under garden pests even though they’re not detrimental to house plants. As nuisance bugs, though, the Indoor Gardener needs to know how to get rid of them.

DESCRIPTION

  • springtails are the kangaroos of the insect world
  • .04-.1 inches long (1-2 mm)
  • move 3-4 inches per jump
  • that's about 100x body length
  • use springlike mechanism under abdomen to jump
  • wingless
  • almost blind
  • white, yellow, gray, blue-gray, purple
  • under microscope, many species have patterns on bodies
  • similar to fleas
  • congregate en masse
  • look similar to curled shell-less shrimp
  • can be long and narrow or globular
  • six legs
  • some species have hair/fur/bristles along top front of body
  • descriptive nicknames:
    • jumping dirt
    • snow fleas

Do have photos of springtails?


LOCATION

  • many species live in soil of house plants, though most live outdoors
  • prefer moist locations
  • they also appear in moist locations in house where there are no houseplants


MULTIPLICATION

  • they exist in droves and masses
  • can be in the 10s of thousands


DESTRUCTION

  • springtails do no destruction to houseplants
  • do not bite humans or pets
  • actually good for the soil
  • become a nuisance due to numbers


DETECTION

  • You probably won't notice them if they're in the houseplant soil until they multiply and overpopulate the container. Then they may swarm and head off to look for another moist place to live in your home.
  • can swarm around and under the container
  • jump on top of soil when watered
  • can rise like cloud of tiny spots when disturbed


SOLUTION

Note: Since springtails are garden pests only because they become bothersome by their sheer numbers - and are otherwise beneficial to the soil - you probably want to use non-toxic means of extermination, such as organic insecticide, even if the cost is a little higher. Have some patience: you can usually get rid of them by changing your watering schedule.

  • Prevention:
    • allow your house plants soil to dry out between watering
    • clean dead plant material off soil surface quickly
  • use insecticide dust or spray on soil surface
  • spray cracks and bottom of plant container
  • be sure insecticide lists springtails and follow directions
  • pyrethroids effective
  • a good source also listed Neem and Malathion
  • be sure to treat nest areas not just the visible swarms
  • try watering with Safers soap (follow label instructions)
  • Chemicals: Bifen granules (poisonous to pets) with liquid insecticide
  • chemical treatment is probably unnecessary unless all your houseplants have been overrun with hordes of springtails







For Botanists, Scientists, Outdoor Gardeners, and School Reports



KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Arthropoda

There's some controversy in the botanist world regarding these garden pests: not only aren't they really "pests," it seems they may not be "insects," either. The classification depends on which side of the argument the classifier follows. Here's the best I can figure out after some research. If scientific classification is important to you, though, I suggest you do further research along this line.

CLASS: Collembola

or...
CLASS: Insecta
ORDER: Collembola

2 SUBORDERS by body shape: one linear, second globular

General Information:

  • 3,500 to 6,000+ species worldwide, depending on source
  • 700+ species in U.S. and Canada, all within 7 Families
  • depending on species, springtails can be:
    • detritivores (feed on organic decaying material)
    • herbivores (feed on plant matter)
    • carnivores (feed on other animals)

  • ANATOMY:
    • "furcula" = forked appendage on abdomen that is similar to a lever
    • furcula consists of a hinge-like device connected to a latch
    • "tenaculum" = latch-like part of the bug
    • "collophore" = ventral tube
    • tube is wet and sticky, helps springtail stay on surfaces where it lands
    • collophore also used like a straw to draw in water
    • breathe through body coating
    • lose body moisture through the coating, which is why they need moist environment in which to live
  • about 50,000 of these garden pests can live in 1 cu ft of topsoil
  • that's about 300 million per 1-1/2 acres
  • derive nutrition from:
    • algae
    • bacteria
    • decayed plant matter
    • feces of insects
    • lichen
    • pollen
  • help soil by breaking down what they eat and adding nutrients and nitrogen back to the soil

  • at least one source mentioned that springtails can break down DDT in the soil
  • LIFE CYCLE:
    • ametabolous = no metamorphosis
    • female lays up to 400 eggs/lifetime
    • eggs laid one at a time or in groups
    • eggs hatch in about 10 days
    • juvenile stage cannot reproduce
    • 5-8 molts (about 6 days) to adult stage
    • can reproduce year-round
    • egg to adult stage in 5-11 weeks, depending on species and conditions
    • adult can live a year or longer
    • up to 50 molts in a springtails life



DISCLAIMER: The Indoor-Gardener.com provides information through data research and personal experience and does not mean to recommend or refute any product used for insect control inside or outside the house. Read and follow instructions carefully as listed on all products. Indoor-Gardener.com is not responsible for use of any product or method described on these pages, nor for any possible adverse affects of such use. The legal use of chemicals for plant health can change, and it is solely the responsibility of the user of such chemicals to remain in compliance with such laws. Indoor-Gardener.com and Batya D. Wininger assume no liability resulting from the use of any information on these pages. While this website does its best to provide only the best, up-to-date information to its visitors, there can be changes and mistakes. Read labels carefully and follow instructions for use.



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