Last week, there were a few reports of springtails, otherwise known as Collembola, in gardens and a home. Springtails are minute, wingless insects that can jump when disturbed. They are common in low numbers on soil and in leaf litter, and they go unnoticed much of the time as they remain hidden. However, on occasion, they can build to massive and very noticeable numbers. While they can be common and create a nuisance, they are rarely pests and do not cause damage.
Springtails get their name from the forked appendage under their abdomen that can spring them into the air when disturbed. Because of this jumping behavior, they have been confused with fleas. Springtails are normally found in leaf litter or thatch. They are scavengers, feeding on decaying plant matter, fungi, and algae. They are more abundant in association with moist soil and do not survive well in dry environments. The wet weather this spring and early summer has provided plenty of moisture for springtails.
When found in buildings, one approach is to increase ventilation and reduce humidity and moisture. Avoid overwatering houseplants, which can favor springtail buildup. Around the outside of buildings where they have been a problem, remove accumulations of fallen leaves and rake mulch away from the base of the foundation. Where they have been a recurring problem, barrier sprays can be used around the outside of buildings.
Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist