Springtails mostly go unnoticed, but these moisture-loving pests can suddenly appear in large numbers near swimming pools, sinks, around houseplants and in garden soil.
These primitive creatures may look like insects, but springtails are actually members of a group called hexapods. Hexapods differ from insects because they have internal mouthparts. Springtails (Collembola) cannot fly, but they have a spring-like mechanism on the abdomen, called a furcula, that launches them several inches up in the air. Being only 1/16 of an inch long, springtails are sometimes confused with fleas, but they do not bite people or animals. Springtail eggs are whitish and laid in small clusters in the soil. Immature and adult springtails look identical except for size. They can be black, gray, or blue, or white.
Springtails are normally found in leaf litter, moss, and organic mulch. As temperatures rise and soil dries out, they often move indoors, being small enough to pass through window screens and under doors. The sheer number of insects can create a mess in your home or on the surface of a swimming pool.
Springtails normally feed on decaying organic material, but they have also been known to feed on the roots and leaves of young seedlings. The damage looks like tiny, irregular holes on the leaves and little pitted areas on roots and leaves.
Since moisture is key for the survival of these tiny pests, their appearance can indicate a water leak, excessive watering, or poor drainage. Especially large springtail populations can be controlled by temporarily removing mulch. This will allow the soil to dry out a bit, without harming plants. Planter pot saucers should be emptied regularly, along with any other standing water. Some points of entry into the home can be blocked with caulk, weather stripping, and steel wool. Obviously, water leaks will need to be repaired. Pesticides are not effective.
If you have a springtail problem, cut off their water supply.
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