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Springtails

Facts, Identification & Control

General Facts

Springtails are common soil dwelling arthropods. There are about 810 known species in North America.  Springtails prefer to inhabit in moist, organic materials, such as mulched gardens, potted plants, or in large agricultural fields. As the name suggests, springtails have the ability to jump great heights relative to the size of their bodies. Due to their jumping capabilities, many people often confuse springtails with fleas.

Appearance / Identification

What Do Springtails Look like?

picture of springtail pest

Springtails are tiny hexapods measuring about 2 mm long in length. They lack wings and the body is divided into three parts, head, thorax and abdomen with three pairs of legs. The head bears short antennae.   One of the main identifying features of a springtail is the presence of an extension at the tip of abdomen known as a furcula, which looks like a long clasp folding underneath the body. The coloration of the species generally ranges from dark grey to whitish. Nymph springtails are usually white, while adults typically appear grey. The furcula remains folded under the wingless body from the backend of the abdomen and serves as an escape mechanism against predators. In threatening situations, the furcula acts as a spring, hence their name, and launches the arthropod safely into the air.

See more pictures of springtails

Habitat

Found in abundance throughout North America, springtails reside mainly near food sources of dead, organic materials; however, some species may feed on plants. In most cases, springtails prefer moisture. Infestations commonly occur indoors in areas like bathrooms, kitchens, basements, or other locations where moisture normally accumulates. Rainfall and high humidity increase the likelihood of springtail sightings. Springtails overwinter indoors in buildings and homes, though some Canadian species can withstand the cold and spend the entire winter outdoors.

Diet

Springtails feed mainly on organic materials. Common elements of the springtail diet include algae, fungi, and decaying matter, which may range from rotting vegetables to animal remains. Some species feed on living plants and even fungal spores and pollens.

Life Cycle / Reproduction

Springtail breeding usually hinges on the surrounding climate and current weather conditions. During periods of excessive moisture, springtails may reproduce at alarmingly rapid rates. They typically migrate to areas of greater moisture as habitats dry. Each springtail goes through several instars during the pupal and nymph stages until finally reaching adulthood. Male springtails leave a spermatophore on a substrate for the females, which then pick up the package and complete the fertilization process before they lay eggs individually or in groups. Upon hatching, an average springtail completes the lifecycle within three to five weeks, depending on the sustainability of the surrounding environment.

Problems Caused by Springtails

Springtails are a nuisance pest; they pose no real threats to humans. They are not known to harm people, property or cause structural damage. Springtails also neither bite nor carry pathogens or other potentially harmful diseases. The arthropods primarily cause concern when they congregate in large numbers, which produces an unnerving and even repulsive sight.

Prevention Tips

The best ways to prevent springtail infestations include removing excess moisture from living areas. Leaky plumbing, gaps or cracks in wooden frameworks or foundations, and fresh mulch in areas butting directly up against homes often create the most favourable conditions for springtail infestations to occur. Removing the moisture from infested areas frequently reduces the prevalence of the pests, which usually migrate from drier habitats to wet or damp places. However, springtails may stick around regardless of any preventative steps taken, especially since they can survive winters both indoors and outdoors. The only true way to effectively take care of a springtail infestation is to call pest control specialist.