Springtails (or Collembolans) aren’t insects like most houseplant pests. Whether being insects or not, in this article you are going to learn everything you need to know how to get rid of springtails.
At least, they’re not anymore. They were moved from the classification of an insect due to their chewing mechanism. Instead of insects, springtails are now hexapods.
These pests are everywhere. They can be hiding in your garden in your backyard or your favorite houseplant.
But most of the time, plant owners have no idea there’s even a springtail infestation in their plant. At least until their plant shows symptoms.
Since these creatures are microscopic, it is hard to see them with your eyes. The closest you’ll get to seeing springtails is when they jump. It’s a quick flying blur.
If you suspect you have a springtail infestation, the good news is they don’t kill plants.
In gardens, springtails actually have major benefits for the plants.
These pests are just an annoying pest infestation to deal with. They fling themselves around your plant and grow as a group.
You shouldn’t have to deal with springtails if you don’t want them in your plant’s soil or pot.
However, in moderate numbers they can be beneficial and many terrarium owners are using them to keep the soil and terrarium plants happy.
This way people are creating bioactive vivariums. You can read everything about bioactive vivariums in my extensive article about the topic.
So, we’re going to share all our information on the little buggers.
We’re also going to show you how to get rid of springtails you might be struggling with.
- 1 What are Springtails?
- 2 How Springtails Reproduce
- 3 How Springtails Attack Your Plant
- 4 How to Prevent Springtails
- 5 How to Get Rid of Springtails
- 6 Springtail Frequently asked questions
- 7 Conclusion
What are Springtails?
Springtails are hexapods. Hexapods are arthropods with six legs.
There are two major hexapod groups, the insects and the springtails (or Entognatha).
They have three segments to their thorax. These segments include the pro-thorax, mesothorax, and metathorax. Each segment has legs, which totals up to six legs.
Springtails grow between 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch in length. And they’re wingless creatures.
You can find springtails in colors like brown, gray, white, and black. They’re cylindrical in shape.
All springtail species have mouths that retract within their heads. Some of the species have needle-like mouths. And they have eight creepy eyes.
But these aren’t their only quirky features.
Springtails can jump a long distance using only their tails. Their tails sit underneath their abdomens. These tails are fork appendages, referred to as furculas.
If something frightens a springtail, fluid rushes to the furcula. To be specific, it rushes to the base of the furcula.
The pressure from the fluid pushes the tail down to the ground. This flings the springtail quite a distance.
They’re able to jump 100 times their body length. Of course, this special jumping ability is where they get their name from.
On a springtail’s abdomen is a tube that secretes a glue. This glue allows the pest to travel on surfaces they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
Springtails gravitate towards damp areas and damp soil. They can’t stand dry environments. That is important to note when you are thinking about how to get rid of springtails.
This is because they breathe through their skin. They need constant moisture or they’ll dry out.
They contain a special protein that allows them to live through the coldest of winters.
There are more than 6,000 springtail species. North American holds 700 of these species.
How Springtails Reproduce
Springtails have an ametabolous life cycle. Pests with ametabolous life cycles don’t go through metamorphosis.
Instead of metamorphosis, they shed their exoskeleton several times. As they get bigger, they have to molt to accommodate.
Springtails reproduce quickly. It only takes around four weeks to grow to the adult stage.
And their reproduction works differently than many other houseplant pests.
Many springtails reproduce sexually. Male springtails drop packets of sperm in the soil. The female springtails come along and pick up the packets.
The sperm fertilizes the eggs as the females drop them into the soil. She will either drop one egg or several eggs at a time.
It takes five to 10 days for the eggs to hatch. The warmer the temperature, the faster the eggs hatch.
They live as nymphs for five weeks. During these five weeks, they go through several molting stages.
After five weeks, the nymphs transform into adult springtails. As adults, they molt up to 40 times during their lifetime.
There are species of springtails that reproduce asexually. The females don’t need their eggs fertilized by the males.
Female springtails will lay up to 400 eggs in their entire lifetime.
Potting soil with lichen or moss can encourage springtails to reproduce. Which means more pests to deal with.
How Springtails Attack Your Plant
Wherever springtails are found, you can be sure that they’re feeding on the roots of a plant. This is why most people will look for ways about how to get rid of springtails. But they prefer decaying roots most of the time.
Springtails also feed on fungi, algae, and mold.
The truth is springtails can’t kill your plant. They can’t damage your plant for good either.
They can hurt your plant but it can always bounce back once the infestation is gone.
Since they feed on roots, there are a few side effects for your plants. The roots do most of the work for your plant.
They absorb water and nutrients to pass around to the rest of it. So, when their roots are being dined on, the leaves turn yellow and sometimes wilt.
Most plants can recover from root damage as long as it’s not over 1/4th of the roots. Springtails won’t create this much damage.
How to Prevent Springtails
It makes your life easier if you prevent springtail infestations before they start a then you do not have to look at articles about how to get rid of springtails. They multiply like crazy. It doesn’t take long to have large clusters attacking your plant.
The first way to prevent springtails in your plant is to check every plant you buy before you bring it home.
You should quarantine your plant if you have any suspicions it’s infested.
You don’t want the possibility of transferring an infestation to all the plants in your home.
Plus, if there are leaks or mold in your home, springtails will inhabit your home too according to the University of Maryland.
Springtails find ways into your home. They’re sneaky pests.
As the ground dries up outside, springtails start looking inside for damp environments. They come in through your windows and doors.
If you know there are springtails in your yard, there are ways to stop an invasion.
The best way to keep them away is to make sure you don’t have any damp areas around the outside of your house. This includes piles of leaves or mulch.
Seal any unused windows. Make sure you shut all windows.
It’s super important to make sure you aren’t over-watering your plants. You should also look for potting soil that doesn’t have high amounts of peat in it.
You can even try running a dehumidifier in the same room as your plant. It stops humidity from overtaking the room and dries out the air.
Once the air is dry, the springtails are on their way to another home.
How to Get Rid of Springtails
It’s important to make sure you have springtails before you treat your plant for them. There are a few signs to keep your eyes peeled for.
Springtails feed in clusters. When a group of them gets big enough, you can see them. You’ll see a ball of pests.
They can be found along the rim of your plant pot as well as the drainage holes.
If you see one of these clusters, surprise them. Springtails will fly into the air when they’re scared or surprised.
Since springtails feed on the roots of your plant, they’re going to cause leaf stippling. This means the leaves start to turn yellow and lose that healthy green glow.
The feeding from your plant can also lead to fewer leaves.
The more severe cases of root damage from springtails cause wilting of the leaves. And the entire plant won’t have that look of health anymore.
Mildew can be another sign of springtails. They often find areas with mold and mildew to live.
If you suspect springtails are jumping around and you find mildew, you’re probably right.
Small Springtail Infestations
How to get rid of springtails? Getting rid of small springtail infestations is easy. There are several methods you can try and you’ll see results.
The first method is simple. As we’ve discussed, springtails like damp environments. So, you want to make your plant’s soil unlivable.
Let the soil dry out at about two inches deep. This will send them away to find another plant or damp area.
You should also water your plant less. Less water means dryer soil. Don’t water your plant until the potting soil has dried out.
We also discussed that they like soil with high amounts of peat. If you have an infestation, try switching out your potting soil for another kind will less peat.
When there isn’t a large number of springtails, take a wet sponge and wipe away the clusters of them. Toss the pests in a garbage bag and get rid of it right away
If any of the springtails ended up on your floor, vacuum them up with your hose. You’ll need to empty the vacuum bag into a garbage bag too. Take it outside right away.
You can use bleach to get rid of small infestations. But not any bleach will do. You need oxygenated bleach (sodium percarbonate).
Chlorine bleach will harm your plant. It causes chlorine toxicity in the potting soil. It also raises the pH level of the soil to an absurd amount that stunts growth.
But since concentrated oxygenated bleach isn’t caustic, it won’t hurt your plants. But it will kill some springtails.
To make it easier, pour the bleach into an empty spray bottle. Then you can go ahead and spray the soil. Don’t forget the rim of the pot, where springtails like to hide.
As always, neem oil is a great method to get rid of a small springtail infestation.
The neem oil extraction will burn the springtails. But that isn’t all.
It also suffocates them. Since they breathe from their bodies (or cuticles), the oil will stop their breathing. It’s heavy oil and it’ll soak them, covering their bodies.
First, you need to mix neem oil and water in an empty clean spray bottle. Make sure you shake them well.
Before you apply the neem oil, test an area of your plant. Some plants don’t do well with neem oil, despite it being all-natural.
Wait 24 hours before you check your plant to see if it had a bad reaction.
Once you know the neem oil is safe to use, spray the potting soil and pot. You have to soak it. Don’t be afraid to use the oil.
It won’t take long before you see those clusters of springtails start to die. Even so, let the neem oil soak for a few minutes before you do anything else.
You’ll need to wipe out the dead springtails.
Repeat this process a week later to make sure you have all the springtails. There could have been springtail eggs that had hatched since then. Better safe than sorry.
Large Springtail Infestations
Large springtail infestations aren’t as difficult to get rid of as you would think. We’ll walk you through the different methods for the bigger pest problem.
If you have carpet, you want to vacuum your carpet to get any hiding springtails. You need to do this after any of the methods on this list.
The first method involves apple cider vinegar. Cider vinegar has very high acidity, making it great for killing springtails.
You’ll need a sponge and apple cider vinegar. Soak the sponge with the apple cider vinegar.
Now, you’re going to wipe down all the areas that contain springtails. This includes the potting soil and rim of the pot.
Don’t worry, the cider vinegar won’t hurt the potting soil or your plant. There are actually many benefits to using it.
When the springtails come into contact with the apple cider vinegar, they burn and die.
You’ll have to remove the dead pests from the plant once they’re all dead.
To be on the safe side, you should repeat this method a week later. This makes sure you get every single springtail, even the young ones.
Diatomaceous earth is one of our favorite methods to get rid of large infestations.
You can buy food-grade diatomaceous earth online or in garden shops.
To use, all you have to do is dust the potting soil and the rim of the pot with the DE dust.
The DE removes the protective waxy coating that covers springtails. This coating holds onto needed moisture for them.
When that coating is gone, the springtails will dehydrate. This leads to their death.
Another method to rid your plant of springtail infestations happens to be a simple soap mix.
The soap mix does two things to the pests. It suffocates them and it burns them.
Now, keep in mind that springtails love and need damp areas. You don’t want to overdo it too much when you apply it to your plant.
Otherwise, you’ll bring springtails right back to it.
To make this soap mix, you need:
- 1 tablespoon pure soap (you can substitute with liquid dish detergent)
- 1 teaspoon of clove oil (not the aromatherapy kind)
- 1 quart of water
- Spray bottle
You’re going to mix the pure soap, clove oil, and water in the empty spray bottle. Shake it up well.
Since the pure liquid soap can be thick, you might need a utensil to mix the ingredients.
It’s time to test the soap mix out on your plant. Apply the mix to a small area and let it sit for a day. Then check to see how your plant did.
If everything is okay, it’s time to apply the mix to your plant. Spray your plant enough to coat only the potting soil and the rim of the pot.
It takes a few minutes to see the results. But if you sit around and watch, you’ll see the clusters die off.
Remove the dead springtails from the plant. Place them in a garbage bag and take it outside right away.
Since this soap mix isn’t as strong as essential oils, you’ll need to repeat this process.
Try doing this twice a week for at least four weeks. If you need to, continue after that. The mix isn’t going to hurt your plant.
Essential oils do wonders when it comes to houseplant pests. For springtails, cedar oil is the best choice.
Springtails have a horrible reaction to cedar oil. It burns them until they die. If they don’t die from cedar oil’s burning nature, they’ll die from suffocation.
They won’t be able to breathe through the heavy oil coating their bodies.
Don’t buy aromatherapy cedar oil. Real cedar oil has the perfect formula to kill all houseplant pests.
You want to dilute the cedar oil. It’s stronger than even neem oil and there’s a possibility it could burn your plant too.
To dilute it, add equal parts cedar oil and water into a spray bottle. Shake the spray bottle to mix everything up well.
Like with the neem oil, you want to test the cedar oil on your plant before applying it to the entire thing. It’s strong stuff.
Let the cedar oil sit on your plant for a whole day before you decide to use it on your plant. Check to see if it scorches your plant.
The next day, spray your plant’s potting soil and rim of the pot down. Use enough cedar oil so it covers everything.
Wait for the clusters of springtails to fall apart as they die. Then you should remove all the dead pests from your plant as soon as possible.
Put the dead pests in a garbage bag and take the bag outside right away.
For large infestations, you want to do this process more than once. Do it once a week for three or four weeks.
When all else fails, you can try to use chemical pesticides. This should be your last resort because they can harm your plant.
Most chemical pesticides won’t do anything to springtails or their eggs. Make sure you’re using pesticides that are for indoors.
Now that we have learned how to get rid of springtails no matter how big or small the infestation is, we are now going to move forward and look at the most commonly asked questions related to springtails.
Springtail Frequently asked questions
What is the purpose of springtails?
Springtails aren’t all about damaging plants. They assist in decomposition and help with cycling different nutrients. Since they feed on fungi, they prevent plants from getting the many plant diseases.
Can springtails bite humans?
Nope. Springtails can’t bite you. They also can’t bite pets either or tear up your home. But some species make you itchy on contact.
Why do I have springtails but I don’t have any plants?
Excessive dampness attracts springtails. If there are springtails in your home but you don’t have a plant, you have an issue in your home. Make sure you don’t have any leaks in your home and look for mildew.
Springtail infestations aren’t the end of the world. You don’t have to get rid of them unless you see unwanted changes in your plant.
They do get annoying though. They multiply so fast, you’ll have a swarm of springtails before you know it. Check out our solutions to this pest problem.