Springtail Facts: Exploring the Wonders of These Tiny Jumping Creatures
While they may sound sweet and a sign of summery weather on the horizon, springtails are anything but. Also known as snow fleas because their dark bodies stand out against white snow, springtails are those pesky jumping bugs that you find in crawl spaces and basements.
Springtails are very common in New Jersey, along with carpet beetles, silverfish, earwigs, cockroaches, sawtooth grain weevils and rice weevils. But while they are common, they certainly differ from these pests in numerous ways.
Here’s everything you need to know about springtails and how to distinguish them from fleas and Silverfish.
How Do You Identify Springtails?
While they are closely related to silverfish, these tiny arthropods have antennae, and their heads are oval-shaped. With elongated bodies, their color ranges from light brown to cream, white, but some are even a dark brown or black. There is also a group that is fairly brightly colored. Adult springtails are usually an ⅛ inch long.
Springtails get their name from their ability to jump like fleas. They have a pair of fork-like appendages (called furcula) which are usually curled under their bodies. When these furculas release downwards, they drop rapidly causing these critters to jump up and away.
While fleas are difficult to crush because of their hard exoskeleton, springtails are soft and can be easily crushed. Fleas and springtails also live in different conditions.
Why You Should Be Concerned About Springtails?
Springtails are classed as a nuisance pest because they cause damage to plants and can weaken them to the point of no recovery. While they do not bite or sting, they do carry bacteria that can cause secondary infections.
Where Do Springtails Live?
These critters can live in any climate and are widespread across the US. They like damp areas as they feed on decaying plants, fungi, molds, and algae. They need moisture to survive.
The seasons determine where they like to hang out. In snowy areas during winter and early spring, springtails are found on top of snow and around plant bases where the snow has melted. In summer (or year-round in places that get no snow), they can be found in any very damp area. You will find them in moist soil, gardens, and pot plants, decaying logs and around wet areas like hot tubs, Jacuzzis, and pools. They also like green- and mushroom houses.
Indoors, they can be found in any damp area, particularly drains, wall voids, basements, and crawl spaces.
The Life Cycle Of Springtails
Springtails do not undergo metamorphosis. They breed in three stages, eggs, nymphs, and adults. The females lay eggs in relatively small batches in moist soil, particularly in soil that is moist and rich in organic matter, their main food source. Females can lay up to 500 eggs in their lifespan. The eggs usually hatch after about 10 days after which nymphs emerge.
The nymphs molt between 6-8 times before becoming adults. Nymphs look the same as adults, they are just smaller. Adults live for about 2-3 weeks, so they have a very short lifespan.
When Are Springtails Active?
Springtails prefer cool temperatures, but they can be active all year. In snowy areas in New Jersey in winter, they are active on sunny days. In areas like the coastline that gets little to no snow, they are active on cooler days during the warmer months.
As they thrive on moisture, they are not very active on very warm and dry days. They favor the afternoon and early evenings when temperatures cool down.
Why Do I Have A Springtail Problem?
The reasons differ whether the springtail invasion is inside or outdoors. Outdoors, the infestation can occur with introduced mulch or compost together with an excess of decaying plant matter.
While springtails tend to live outdoors, if conditions become too dry, they will enter homes through windows, doors, vents, and any small open space they can squeeze through. In very hot weather, springtails tend to gather on the sides of buildings.
If you find a springtail invasion in a normally dry area, this might indicate that there is a leak somewhere. Infestations can occur when a new building has been constructed and the materials used were damp.
When springtails migrate indoors in dry weather, it usually means they are looking for a moist habitat. While this may be a nuisance to homeowners, the indoor invasion can be fairly short-lived as their populations trapped indoors die off.
The Best Ways To Prevent An Infestation Of Springtails
You can look for springtail nests in the following places:
- Under decks and decking
- In wood piles
- In flowerpots
- In soil or mulch
- In compost piles
- Under concrete slabs on a patio
- Under wood chips and straw piles.
If you spot signs of them, you need to take steps to remove them.
The first step is to get rid of excessive moisture. Outdoors should be kept well drained and gutters should be cleared. Garden beds should have good drainage between watering. If you notice a lot of springtails around your plants, then let the bed dry out and rather water less frequently but more deeply.
Control their food sources by getting rid of decaying plant matter, logs, and piles of plant debris. Keep mulch and compost away from foundations and firewood should be stored elevated on a pallet away from walls.
In your home, fix leaks and seal around tubs and sinks well with a good sealant. Doors and windows should close tightly. Fans and dehumidifiers can reduce moisture build-up in humid weather.
Also don’t forget areas around air-conditioner condensate areas. As the seasons warm and air-conditioners are used more, these areas are a perfect habitat for springtails.
If you have a small infestation inside, you can hoover them up or physically remove them with your hands.
Pesticides or insecticides are considered fairly ineffective against springtails. Many entomologists will advise homeowners to take the steps above to eliminate moisture build-up outdoors or to remove them indoors by limiting Springtails’ ability to get indoors.
Springtails can be found everywhere, on all continents. In fact, the only places springtails cannot live is in the world’s oceans.
If you have any questions about springtails or suspect you could have a problem in or outside your home, call one of our experts today. Twin-Boro can help you to identify and eradicate your pest problem.