Springtails

Quick facts

  • Springtails are found in areas of high moisture and in organic debris.
  • They are nuisances and do not damage food, clothes, furniture or property.
  • Springtails do not bite or sting and are harmless to people.
  • They feed on decaying roots and fungi and rarely damage plants.
  • Moisture control is the most effective option for controlling springtails.
Many light colored flea-like insects on a dark background
Common soil springtail
Yellowish flea-like insect with 6 legs, 2 antennae, and a tail-like structure

How to identify springtails

Most springtails are dark-colored, brown, grey or black. Some species maybe white and some are even brightly colored.

  • Usually slender, elongate insects, but there is a group that is round and stout
  • Very small, between 1/16th and 1/8th inch long
  • Moderate length antennae

Springtails do not have wings and cannot fly. But they can jump up to several inches using a special forked structure under the abdomen.

Springtails and fleas maybe of the same size, but have differences in their structure.

  • Fleas are flattened from side to side and have very hard bodies, making them difficult to kill by crushing.
  • Springtails have a more rounded, soft body and are easily crushed.

Where do you find springtails

Outdoors, springtails can be found feeding on fungi, pollen, algae or decaying organic matter. You can find lots of springtails in mulch .

When springtails are found close to the home in high moisture conditions, they may eventually move indoors. In dry outdoor conditions, springtails may move inside to look for moisture.

Indoors

  • Find springtails in areas of high moisture and condensation (around plumbing leaks in bathrooms, basements and kitchens).
  • Springtails are commonly found in the soil of overwatered houseplants.
  • They prefer soil that is excessively damp or soil mixes that contain a high percentage of peat.
Four black-colored flea-like insects on snow
Snowfleas are a springtail species found in snow

Springtails in winter

Snowflea (Hypogastruna nivicola) is a springtail species that is active during winter and seen on snow.

Snowfleas are harmless springtails that become active as soon as the ground begins to thaw in late winter or very early spring.

They are generally found in groups and their dark colored bodies are easily noticed against white snow.

How to manage springtails

When you see large numbers of springtails, it means there is a high moisture problem. Springtails are generally a temporary problem and die when moisture levels are reduced.

Check inside and outside of the house for moisture problems

Moisture causing issues:

  • Rainspouts that do not carry water far enough away from the foundation.

  • Landscapes that slope towards buildings.

  • Excessive irrigation.

  • Non-functioning drainage systems around the building.

If you see small numbers of springtails, ignore them or physically remove them by hand or with a vacuum. For larger infestations:

  • Dry out wet areas with a fan or dehumidifier. 

  • Remove wet wood, especially if it is moldy.

  • Make structural changes to correct moisture problems.

  • Remove or reduce the amount of mulch around the foundation of your home.

If you have a problem with springtails in houseplants, let the soil dry out and water less frequently but more deeply.

Pesticides are not effective against springtails and should not be used.

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension entomologist and Stephen Kells, Extension entomologist

Reviewed in 2018

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