As of this writing, in July of 2023, we are having a bumper crop of springtails here in New Jersey. While seeing many of these insects may be unsettling, they are benign and will not cause physical injuries or damage to your home. Springtails are attracted to moisture and decaying vegetation so removing moisture where possible will help in their control.
Why are Springtails and Snow Fleas confused with Fleas?
Fleas are known for being ectoparasites that feed on the blood of mammals and birds, including humans and pets. In contrast, Snow fleas, a species of springtails, are primarily decomposers and feed on organic matter, fungi, algae, and bacteria.
What can be unnerving to local homeowners is that Springtails and Fleas share similar appearances, including coloring and size, and both jump due to their lack of wings. However, springtails are harmless and do not threaten furniture, humans, pets, or food. They may occasionally affect very young plants, but such instances are rare.
Since both springtails and fleas can jump, which is impressive considering their small size, this jumping behavior may further contribute to their confusion.
The name of a specific species of springtails, known as the Snow fleas, also adds to the confusion. They have specific adaptations to survive in cold environments, such as antifreeze proteins that allow them to lower their body temperature. Hence, they remain active in freezing temperatures, even on the surface of snow. This adaptation helps them exploit food resources available in winter.
Despite their resemblance, there are clear distinctions between springtails and fleas. Springtails have a unique appendage called the furcula, located at the end of their abdomen, which they use to propel themselves forward when jumping. Additionally, fleas have a hard shell that is difficult to crush, while springtails have a relatively soft shell that can be crushed easily.
Springtails and snow fleas are both small arthropods belonging to the class Collembola. Snow fleas are a specific subgroup within the Collembola order and are classified in the genus Hypogastrura or related genera. Springtails are found in a wide range of terrestrial habitats worldwide, including soil, leaf litter, decaying organic matter, and even water bodies. They are highly adaptable and can be found in both natural and human-altered environments. On the other hand, snow fleas, as their name suggests, are predominantly associated with snow-covered habitats, such as forests or areas with snow accumulation.
Springtails are decomposers and feed on organic matter. They primarily consume decaying plant material, fungi, algae, and bacteria. Springtails also consume living plant material, while snow fleas have been observed feeding on pollen and spores found in the snow.
I have a springtail infestation! How do I get rid of them?
To address a springtail infestation, prevention is key. Since springtails are attracted to moisture, it is important to eliminate sources of moisture and standing water in your home. Fix any leaks, seal basements, and attics, and ensure proper functioning of water heaters and AC units. Seal any entry points that springtails can use to enter your home, such as cracks in caulking or siding.
Outside, focus on removing breeding areas for springtails. Clear excessive vegetation, mulch, and wet leaves from your yard. Dry out low, moist areas and crawl spaces. Avoid overwatering plants in your landscaping, and be cautious with birdbaths, as they can attract springtails.
If you have a pool draining it is advisable to eliminate standing water. If draining is not possible, use a high-powered filter or regularly skim the pool's surface to remove dead springtails.
Once an infestation occurs, in addition to eliminating moisture and food sources, regularly sweep and vacuum springtails. While insecticides may have some effect, it is generally more practical to crush and remove them manually. Seal the collected insects or their bodies in a trash bag and dispose of it promptly. If springtails converge on your porch or patio, reduce moisture levels and maintain regular sweeping.
Remember, the best approach is prevention, followed by thorough cleaning and elimination of favorable conditions for springtails.
DIY For Springtail Control?
Should you want a more aggressive approach, borax will kill springtails
Borax can be an effective treatment to control springtails, but its success may vary depending on the severity of the infestation and the specific conditions of the affected area. Borax is a natural mineral compound that has insecticidal properties and is commonly used as a household cleaner and pesticide.
To use borax for controlling springtails, you can follow these steps:
It's important to note that while borax can be effective against springtails, it is not a silver bullet solution and may not completely eradicate the problem in some cases. It is always recommended to address the underlying moisture issues and implement preventive measures to discourage springtails from returning.
If the infestation persists or becomes unmanageable, it is advisable to seek professional pest control assistance for a thorough assessment and targeted treatment. If you are located in the Morris County are of New Jersey, call Permakill Exterminating for all your pest control needs.