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Springtails

Facts, Identification and Control

Latin Name

Order Collembola

Appearance

Springtails are tiny insects. Their size ranges from 0.25 to 6 mm. They get their name from a spring-loaded structure, called the furcula, located on the underside of their abdomen. When the insect is disturbed, the furcula is released causing the insect to be flung into the air. One jump can cover 10 centimeters.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Springtails normally live in damp soil. They eat mold and fungus. They are common in flowerbeds, under logs, paving stones and landscape timbers. Woodpiles are also a common place for springtails to hide.

Springtails lose water through the surface of their body. If their environment becomes dry, they try to migrate to a wetter place. They sometimes enter homes under door thresholds. When they get inside, they go to humid areas. Rooms that offer the needed moisture often are basements, kitchens and bathrooms. They also find areas where there has been moisture damage. Springtails have been found inside walls where a pipe has been leaking. They have also been found in furniture that has become wet and mildewed. Overwatered potted plants and planter boxes are also places where springtails live.

Springtails do not bite or sting people. They do not damage buildings or the contents. They develop quickly. It is common to find springtails in very large numbers. The fact that there can be thousands of jumping insects in an area can be very distressing to homeowners.

When the dampness is corrected, the springtails disappear very quickly. Eliminating dampness is very important in preventing or eliminating springtails. A thorough inspection is the first step.

Reproduction

Springtail males place a sperm-containing structure on the ground called a spermatophore. Females then inseminate themselves with it. Females deposit individual eggs or clusters of eggs in damp locations. Life cycle from egg to adult varies, depending on species.

Signs of a Springtail Infestation

Mildew

If springtails have been a problem in the kitchen, start inspecting under the sink. Empty the cabinet and check the drainpipe. If it has been leaking, there could be mold or mildew present. Dry the cabinet completely to discourage the springtails.

If springtails have been active in the bathroom, start the inspection under the sink. Also inspect the trap behind the tub for leaking pipes. Examine tile walls carefully. If there is missing grout, mildew can develop behind the tiles.

Dampness

In the basement, check the walls for dampness. It may be necessary to get a waterproofing compound for the basement walls. The specialists at the home store can point out the right product. A dehumidifier can be helpful to get rid of dampness in a basement.

During the outside inspection, look for damp places where springtails could occur. Stack firewood up off of the ground and move it away from the house. Move mulch away from the foundation. Create a bare zone next to the foundation of 15 cm or more. If the zone is dry and free of leaves and mulch, springtails and other pests will not find it as attractive.

Make sure gutters are cleaned out. Downspouts should drain away from the foundation. If necessary, trim tree limbs that cause damp shady areas near the foundation.

Check exterior doors to be sure they close properly. Replace weather stripping that is missing or damaged. Check crawl space vents to be sure they are open to allow air circulation. Access openings into crawl spaces should have a door that closes tightly.

When the dampness has been eliminated, the springtails will leave quickly or they will die.

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