Springtails (Collembola spp.)
Springtails (Collembola spp.) are a common insect species found all over the UK yet are so small that few people ever notice them. When they gather in large numbers inside buildings, though, they can prove to be a major nuisance.
Key Facts About Springtails (Collembola spp.)
Springtails are incredibly common, with a single square metre of soil potentially housing up to 10,000 of them. However, they are also extremely small, measuring an average of just half a millimetre in length. This means that they are rarely spotted by humans apart from when large groups are disturbed. Yet while these creatures are tiny, they have the remarkable ability to leap up to ten centimetres into the air- the equivalent of a human jumping over the Eiffel Tower.
To do this, springtails possess a unique body part- the tail which gives them their name. Most of the time, this long tail is tucked neatly under their bodies. When the springtail detects danger or simply wants to get from one point to another quickly, they flick this tail out from beneath them and propel themselves through the air. On their own, leaping springtails are hard to spot, but when large numbers of them jump all at once, they can be a surprising sight to the unwary individual. Should they end up landing on their backs, springtails also have a pair of appendages which they can use to right themselves. When not being used for this, these appendages are also used to spread a special liquid over their bodies so that they do not dry out.
Strictly speaking, springtails are not insects; true insects must have external mouthparts, whereas springtails chew their food inside their mouths. However, like many insects, they prefer dark, damp locations and will actively seek out such spaces to breed in. They also have positive phototaxis, an attraction to light, meaning they are all the more likely to make their way inside buildings.
Due to their size and jumping mechanism, many people confuse springtails with fleas. Even those who understand that they are two distinct species may nonetheless assume that springtails are capable of biting humans. In reality, though, this is simply not the case. Not only can springtails not bite humans, but they are significantly different in body structure to fleas. While fleas are tough to crush, springtails have a softer, more rounded body that is far from robust.
Springtails (Collembola spp.): The Significance of Control
In some rare cases, springtails may cause damage to crops on a large scale. For the most part, though, they are merely a nuisance pest, and do not pose any danger to humans. So long as they remain outside, springtails should be no problem whatsoever. That being said, a springtail infestation can still be an irritating presence inside homes and businesses. They commonly enter buildings either after heavy rainfall or during long dry spells in search of a more suitable location for breeding. Springtails also tend to gather in enormous swarms, and while these can be hard to see in grass, they are an obvious presence inside buildings where they have nowhere to hide.
The main consequence of a springtail infestation is the fact that they form a large mass which many people will find unpleasant, and when they die their bodies can quickly accumulate and cause a mess. What’s more, these bodies can harbour harmful bacteria which could help the spread of disease. That being said, a springtail infestation is usually a sign of a more serious underlying problem with your drainage system. As mentioned earlier, springtails seek out moisture, and will therefore be more attracted to buildings with damp issues.
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