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Springtails (order Collembola) are very small, jumping insects that sometimes alarm homeowners by appearing in large numbers in moist indoor areas such as kitchen sinks, bathtubs, and in the soil of houseplants.
They may also be found outdoors in swimming pools, moist landscaped areas or vegetable gardens, and on the surface of mud puddles. They usually appear in the spring and early summer, but can be found year-round in moist environments.Springtails do not bite humans or pets, nor do they spread disease or damage household furnishings. They are mainly a nuisance by their presence
Springtails are minute, wingless insects about 1/16 inch long. They lay their round eggs in small groups in moist soil, especially where organic matter is abundant. The immature stage is usually whitish, and adults tend to be whitish, bluish, or dark gray to black. The immature stage differs from the adult stage only in size and color. Springtails get their name from the ability to jump up to several inches high by means of a tail-like mechanism (furcula) tucked under the abdomen. When disturbed, this appendage functions as a spring, propelling them into the air away from the danger.
Most species of springtails feed on decaying vegetable matter, although fungi, algae and lichens are also an important food source for many species. Some species within the globular Sminthuridae prefer fresh plant material, and spores and pollen have been found in the gut contents of other springtails. Some species may even feed on decaying animal matter, such as earthworms, dead flies or other Collembola.
Life Cycle: Springtails present an ametabolous life cycle, meaning that they do not undergo metamorphosis. Females can lay up to 400 eggs during their lifetime. Eggs are about 0.2 mm in diameter, spherical, and are laid singly or in clusters. After about 10 days, the eggs hatch into juveniles (hatching rate is temperature dependent).
Juvenile stages are similar to the adult stages, but they are smaller and without reproductive organs. In about 6 days, and after 5-8 molts, juveniles become adults. Adults will continue to molt, and are long lived with some individuals living for more than one year. An individual may experience up to 40-50 molts during its lifetime.
Damage: springtails feed primarily on decaying organic matter, and are rarely seen as crop pests. However, some species, such as the garden springtail, Bourltiella hortensis Fitch, feed on living plant tissues, generally preferring young leaves. Feeding from these herbivorous species results in small holes and surface scarring on the leaves (see photos, left).
The damage resembles that of flea beetles. Roots are also fed on by some species, such as Onychiurus spp. Springtails have been reported feeding on many different vegetable crops, for example: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrot, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, lettuce, onion, pea, potato, pumpkin, radish, spinach, squash, tomato and watermelon. Turf and ornamental plants are also sometimes fed on by springtails.
Control: Springtails cause no problems inside the house. They are so small that they canâ€™t really be removed with a dustpan and broom. But they can be knocked down by misting the areas where they occur with some dishwashing soap in water (about 1%). Sometimes, springtails are brought into the house on potted plants. Check plants for springtail activity before bringing them into the house. If springtails are active, let the soil dry outside for several days before bringing the plant indoors.
Do not overwater plants inside the house.Sometimes, springtails enter the house through small cracks and crevices, under doors, or through windows. Seal cracks and crevices with caulk. Weather strip around doors and windows. This will not only seal access of springtails from the outside but will also keep humidity and moisture out of the house. This all will help control springtails.
Insecticides can be applied for control of springtails. They can be applied as crack and crevice or spot treatments to infested areas where springtails occur in the house. lists the insecticides labeled for crack and crevice or spot treatment of springtails. Read and follow all label directions to assure that the pest and location of application are on the label. Keep children and pets off sprayed areas until dry.
A large indoor population of springtails may be an indication that large numbers are surrounding the structure. Removal of breeding sites will aid in control. Compost piles and decaying vegetation should be removed from areas close to the house. Mulch should only be 2-4 inches deep so it remains dry most of the time. Do not overwater mulched landscape plants and let the soil dry between watering plants.
springtails enter swimming pools, they will drown because they cannot tolerate chlorinated water for long. Since they live in surrounding soil, preventing the soil from becoming overly moist and reducing the acidity by liming controls the populations. Natural enemies, such as naturally occurring predaceous mites, may also help control springtails without the application of pesticides. Soapy water or insecticidal soap can be applied to soil or mulch where springtails occur. Contacted springtails will drown or suffocate in the soapy water.
sometimes necessary to control springtails with outdoor insecticide applications. These applications can be made as either barrier treatments to prevent springtails from entering the house or as broadcast treatments to control springtails in infested areas of the landscape. Barrier treatments are usually applied to the walls and soil immediately surrounding the house. It is typical to make barrier applications 3 feet up the wall and 6 feet out, depending on the label. Additionally, treatments should concentrate on steps and damp areas. It may also be necessary to treat mulched flowerbeds and the base of shrubbery
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