What Are Springtails?
Springtails (Collembola) commonly occur in soil and compost. They are not actually classed as an insect anymore, being more closely linked to Crustaceans. There are two commonly occurring species, one that lives underground, and one that lives on the soil or compost surface. The species that dwell under the surface tend to be white, while the surface populations can be green to dark brown.
When on the surface Springtails can jump up when threatened or disturbed. The switch to peat free compost has led to many composts being very rich in organic matter. This is ideal for the development of springtails, which can reach very high numbers.
Springtails are not classed as insects but as Crustaceans. A diverse family of animals that include Krill, Lobsters & Woodlice.
Springtails Break Down Organic Matter But Can Harm Plants If Present In Large Numbers
Springtails feed largely on organic matter, so when they are situated in a compost heap, or amongst leaf litter, they actually help with the breakdown of organic waste such as leaves.
In large numbers, however, they can feed on plant roots. In severe cases this can cause young seedlings and plants not to develop, or to die. Springtails enjoy wet conditions and thrive when lots of organic fertiliser is present.
Springtails will feed on organic matter and can aid in the breakdown of organic waste. In large numbers, however, they also present a danger to plants as they feed on plant roots.
How To Deal With Springtails
If Springtails are found in low numbers, or present in compost heaps, it is best to leave them alone and tolerate their presence. In high numbers, especially in growing media, you will need to take some action.
Try not to overwater your plants, or soil, as this provides an ideal environment for Springtails to populate, and try not to over feed with fertiliser. Some soil borne predatory mites will feed on Springtails including our very own Hypoaspis and Macrocheles (Mighty Mite) predators.
Dragonfli natural predators, such as the Macrocheles robustulus (Mighty Mite) can be used to control large populations of Springtails.
Apply either of these predators to the soil or surface of the compost. These predatory mites will feed on the eggs or young stages of the Springtail life cycle. They will also feed on other pests they locate in the compost such as Fungus Fly larvae and Thrip pupae. This makes the predators a good investment for protecting young plants, especially at the propagation stage.
You can purchase our Hypoaspis miles & Mighty Mite predators from the new dedicated Springtail Pest Page by clicking here.