Springtails are minute, wingless insects that
get their name from the fact that they have an unusual locomotor organ. The main
locomotor organ is a forked, tail-like structure (called a furcula) which is folded
forward under the abdomen when the insect is at rest. The furcula is held in place
by a clasp-like structure, called a tenaculum. When the tenaculum is released, the
furcula thrusts downward and backward against the substrate, allowing the springtail to
jump consider able distances. A springtail 5-6 mm in length can jump 75-100 mm and
floating springtails can even jump on water! Many springtails are beautifully colored
(white, gray, yellow, orange, metallic green, lavender, red) but, because these insects
are so small, this detail goes unnoticed by the general public.
The usual habitat of these small insects is in soil of woodlands, in decaying
vegetative matter, or on the surface of stagnant water. For the most part they are
innocuous creatures and are seldom even noticed. Most soil-inhabiting springtails
feed on decaying plant material, fungi and bacteria, and thrive in an environment that is
moist or high in humidity. Because springtails infest decaying organic matter, they
can infest soil of potted plants and become a nuisance in greenhouses or mushroom cellars.
They do not injure living plants.
Because these insects do not cause any real injury,
persons faced with a springtail infestation should try to reduce the population by
eliminating moisture and humidity in the area that they are found. Outside, they cause no
problem and are an important component of the ecosystem. For a quick kill of
existing populations, a single spray treatment should do the job; anything containing Cypermethrin will work. However, eliminating the
conditions that cause an indoor infestation (usually in bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages)
will quickly reduce their numbers.