Collembola (Springtails)

Description

Adult: Minute, soil-dwelling (primitive) insects that have a bi-forked appendage called a furcula that is folded underneath their body and used, by snapping downward, to propel them through the air when disturbed. Body color ranges from white to pale brown to red to purple.
Egg: Tiny spherical eggs laid singly or in clusters.

Life History

Springtails are most common in heavy, organic soils during very wet, cool spring conditions. They overwinter primarily as resting adults below the soil surface.

Damage

Collembola (springtails) can be a pest of young greens in moist grow boxes and tunnels, especially if there is a high level of organic matter). They cause reduced stands and loss of vigor in surviving plants as they feed on germinating seeds or roots of small plants.

Hosts include multiple vegetables but spinach and beets are most commonly damaged.

Management

Cultural

  • Reduce moisture and excess organic matter.
  • Avoid planting in fields with high levels of organic matter.
  • Till soil before and after planting to facilitate soil drying and discourage collembola populations.
  • Select greens varieties with a more upright growth habit to reduce contact between the leaves and soil.

Chemical

Insecticides are not generally necessary for springtail management but there are home and commercial options available.

Biologial

Natural enemies of springtails include rove beetles and predatory mites.

More Information

Springtail
Springtail

Springtails as bycatch in an earwig trap
Springtails as bycatch in an earwig trap

Springtail damage on leafy green seedlings
Springtail damage on leafy green seedlings