Thursday, June 4, 2009

Landscape and Indoors - Springtails

Springtails may be evident in landscapes with the wet weather and can invade homes and become nuisance pests. The following is more information.

Springtails are small, wingless insects that are very abundant in moist leaf litter or soils with high levels of organic matter. They can hop around like tiny fleas. Springtails typically feed on decaying plant material or fungi that grow in humid areas. They can enter homes from around the foundation or openings to crawlspaces. In some cases, springtails can live for some time in damp areas of houses and buildings that meet their moisture needs. These insects also can live in pots containing over-watered houseplants. Allowing the soil to dry out will usually eliminate them. Occasionally, they can infest greenhouses where they may nibble on plant root hairs or tender leaves.

Springtails are not harmful but their presence in an area indicates moist conditions that may come from things such as water leaks or condensation from sweaty pipes. Correcting these problems will end the infestation and the potential for more serious water or mold damage in a structure. Using a fan or dehumidifier to increase ventilation and to provide a drying effect in the home can be very effective as can repair of plumbing leaks and dripping pipes. These actions will eliminate the moisture that springtails need for food and survival.Aerosol insecticides that are labeled for indoor insect control can be used to reduce springtails temporarily but this does not correct the moisture or humidity problems that allow the insects to thrive.

Outside houses, remove excessive mulch and moist leaves, prune shrubbery and ground cover, and eliminate low, moist areas around the house foundation to permit proper air circulation. Remove wet, moldy wood or other moldy items.

Springtail closeup. Photo by Susan Ellis,

Information from "Pest Problems Following Rains and Floods" By Lee Townsend in the current edition of the Kentucky Pest News.

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