Description of springtails

Springtails are tiny, insects frequently found in houses, although they occur more commonly outdoors. They are wingless, and move by crawling or jumping. The jumping motion is made possible by a forked tail bent forward under the body and attached to the underside of the abdomen. The tail can be then released, launching the springtail into the air. 

A springtail. Actual size approx. 2mm.
A springtail. Actual size approx. 2mm.

Damage caused by springtails

Springtails feed on algae, fungi, and decaying vegetable matter and are abundant only in damp, moist or very humid locations. Indoors, this includes places such as kitchens, bathrooms, moist basements, soil of potted plants, and around window frames. Springtails are harmless; they do not damage anything within the house. They are annoying as pests only by being present. Springtails may be abundant in overwatered, potted houseplants. However, they do not harm established plants.

Management of springtails

Since springtails are generally restricted to moist or humid habitats, one means of obtaining control is to lower the humidity or remove excess moisture. The actual procedure to accomplish this will depend on the situation, although fans or dehumidifiers may be of some benefit. Eliminating moist places of concealment will be the best control for springtails. Insecticide sprays can be used to control springtails. Residual sprays can be applied to surfaces, cracks and crevices where the springtails occur. For more information on insecticides please see this article.

The number of springtails in houseplant potting soil can be reduced by avoiding overwatering. Allow soil of potted plants to nearly dry out between waterings to prevent springtails from flourishing. Houseplant insecticide sprays can be applied to the soil surface and to cracks around and under the pot to control springtails. Appropriate sprays are the aerosol or pump dispenser ready-to-use products from garden centers and similar stores that indicate on the label that the product is specifically made for use on houseplants. Read and follow label directions. 

To see additional images of springtails, please visit our insect image gallery.

Do you live in Iowa and have an insect you would like identified?

The Iowa State University Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic will identify your insect, provide information on what it eats, life cycle, and if it is a pest the best ways to manage them.  Please see our website for current forms, fees, and instructions on preserving and mailing insects.   

Contact information for each states diagnostic laboratory for U.S. residents.  If you live outside of Iowa please do not submit a sample without contacting the Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic.  

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Yard and Garden, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on September 13, 2016. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.