Springtails in Turf

General Information

Springtails are in a primitive order (Collembola) of insects in which the adults have no wings and have internal mouthparts. Springtails are so-called because they have a unique structure, the furcula, that allows them to jump for considerable distance relative to their tiny size.

Springtails are very common and abundant native insects, but they are seldom observed because of their small size and because most of them live in concealed habitats. A few species have been noted as pests in greenhouses, mushroom cellars, or on certain crops in other parts of the world. Most of the time springtails are harmless. As decomposers, they are important to the garden and yard ecology. They are sometimes found on the medium surface of potted plants and in greenhouses.

Description

Most species are barely visible without a hand lens. Some species are silvery or white whereas others may be light purple, spotted, brown, or black. Some species are slender and some are almost spherical. Springtails have antennae, six legs, a furcula, and they lack wings and have no external mouthparts. Most species are not heavily scleritized. They are seldom observed because of their small size and the fact that most of them live in concealed habitats.

Globular springtailGlobular springtail M. BertoneGlobular springtailGlobular springtail M. Bertone

Biology

Springtails are most often noticed in yards during the spring. Most species live in the soil or in leaf mold under bark and decaying logs, and damp situations with plenty of organic matter. Males attach a tiny spermatophore on a stalk attached to soil particles. Females straddle the spermatophores and work them into a genital opening. Eggs are laid later singly or in batches that the female sometimes covers. Young springtails molt at least four times before reaching the adult stage. Adults continue to molt from time to time but do not seem to increase in size. Most springtails feed on decaying organic matter but a few are predaceous on other springtails, and fewer actually damage plants. Rarely springtails may become exceedingly abundant and may congregate in heaps several inches high on driveways, sidewalks and poolsides. Springtails are also called "snowfleas" as they sometimes are noticed hopping across snow. Springtails do not bite.

Control

Because springtails do no damage around the home or even inside, insecticide applications are really not needed. In the rare case where springtails become so abundant that they rick up in heaps, they can be dispersed with a stream of water from a garden hose.

Other Resources

For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local Cooperative Extension Center