Dabugman Says: Spring-Whosits
I had an interesting inspection to do the other day on an insect that is common in our area especially for new built homes. The lady (for the purpose of this article we will call her Ms. Smith), I meet with was just beside herself with anguish over these plentiful but harmless critters that had invaded her home. "What is it?" she asked, "a flea, a chigger, or an extraterrestrial life form from planet creepy -crawly?" After a chuckle I replied," Na, it's just a springtail." "Spring-whosit?" she asked. So I explained the following to her:
Springtails sometimes cause alarm to homeowners when seen outdoors or indoors in massive numbers, appearing as "piles of soot" in driveways, backyards, on mud puddle surfaces, etc. They enter the home where dampness occurs such as in basements, cellars, bathrooms, and kitchens, especially near drains, leaking water pipes, sinks, and in the soil of over-watered houseplants. They usually appear in the spring and early summer but can be found all year round. These very small, leaping insects do not bite humans, spread disease, nor damage household furnishings. They are usually a nuisance by their presence. "A nuisance indeed," exclaimed Ms. Smith, "I have them all over my basement and first floor levels."
I went onto explain, "Springtails are minute, wingless insects about 1/16 to 1/8 inch (1 to 2 mm) long. They get their name from the ability to catapult themselves through the air three to four inches by means of a tail like mechanism (furcula) tucked under the abdomen. When disturbed, this appendage functions as a spring, propelling them into the air away from the danger source. Sometimes they may become a pest by their presence when very abundant. They will enter homes through doorways, screens, or other openings. Buildings with constant high humidity may be overrun with springtails. "
Springtails occur in nearly every climatic condition throughout the world, such as in high mountain regions, pools, streams, snow-covered fields, forest floors, etc. They live in the soil, in leaf mold, under bark, in decaying logs, on the surface of freshwater pools, in organic mulches, in termite nests, in snow, in greenhouses, in mushroom cellars, etc. Most feed on algae, fungi, and decaying vegetable matter and they are abundant only in damp, moist or very humid locations. Others feed on plant roots or nibble on young plant leaves and germinating seeds in hotbeds. Actually, they are beneficial by reducing decayed vegetation to soil (they are good recyclers). Some can reproduce at temperatures as low as 40F.
Springtails are commonly found where there are sources of moisture. Any means to provide a drying effect in the home is very effective, such as the use of a fan or dehumidifier, or repairing plumbing leaks and dripping pipes. Avoid over-watering potted houseplants and allow the soil to dry between watering, if possible. Outside the home, remove excessive mulch, 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. Since springtails are attracted to light and may pass under lighted doorways at night, use good light discipline. "
With all that said Ms. Smith said she would clean the debris from around her exterior of her home and I was to perform a treatment on her interior and exterior of her home. I spoke with Ms. Smith and she was pleased that she had not seen any of those spring-whosits for quite a few days; I am also. Thanks for letting me share this whosit story with you.
Mark Dieter is a certified inspector in Maryland and Pennsylvania with Enviro-Tech Pest Services, which he is an owner and operator. firstname.lastname@example.org