Common springtails are small, 1-2mm in length and grey or cream colored. They have a unique adaptation at the base of their abdomen which folds under and "springs" out that allows them to jump when threatened or startled.
Symptoms and Damage:
No real damage to healthy established plants but may be some trouble for seedling or transplants. Look for stunted growth if you see these critters hopping around your pots.
Habitat and Life Cycle:
Springtails need moisture and will often go in search of it if the climate turns dry. This leads them inside our homes and they will often be found in bathroom, kitchen and overly damp house plants.
Springtails feed on organic matter just below or on the soils surface .
They breed quickly, living an entire life cycle in 3-5 weeks, and can quickly become a major nuisance.
Control and Prevention of Springtails
There are many benefits to avoiding chemicals when dealing with insect invaders. The harsh chemicals in some insecticides may cause more harm to an already injured plant not to mention the possible harmful effects to you or your loved ones.
✔– First choices for attempting insect control.
✔– Used when green don't solve the issue.
✔– Only use when blue options have failed and the plant cannot be discarded.
Prevention✔- The simplest form of prevention for springtails is to control moisture. Allow the top 2" of soil in your house plants to dry out before watering again and empty drip trays. Keep screens repaired and long grasses and weeds away from windows with house plants in them. Always remember to thoroughly inspect any potential new additions to your house plant collection. That means the leaves, the stem and the soil. Don't bring home more that your bargained for.
Manual✔- Removing the top 2-3" of infested potting mix/soil with a vacuum and replacing it with fresh, sterile compost-free soil.
Organic✔- Oil and water spray.
Biological✔- None available to the house plant gardener.
Chemical✔- Insecticidal soap for soil applications works best of these critters.
More information on Springtails:
Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Springtail
Insects and Their Allies - http://www.ento.csiro.au/education/hexapods/collembola.html
Springtail fact sheet - http://www.uri.edu/ce/factsheets/sheets/springtails.html