As their name indicates, springtails have the ability to jump several inches in the air due to an appendage tucked under their abdomen that functions as a spring-like mechanism thrusting them into the air. This mechanism is typically utilized to escape danger or when they are disturbed. Springtails jumping action often causes them to be confused with fleas; however, they will not bite humans or pets and do not carry or transmit any known diseases. Miniscule in size, springtails are only approximately 1/16 of an inch in length. Springtails feed on decaying plant materials, fungi, molds and algae. The natural habitat of springtails is in soil, compost, leaf litter and organic mulches. Eggs are laid in the moist soil where organic matter is plentiful. Typically harmless scavengers, some species may cause plant damage by chewing on the roots and leaves of seedlings. Seedlings may appear to be wilted and may even die from the damage if they are young. Adults vary in color from dark gray or black to a whitish or bluish. Springtails require a moist environment and when their environment outdoors becomes too dry they often invade homes as they search for moisture.
Entering homes through open doors, damaged window screens, inadequate weather stripping or improperly sealed pipes, gaps or cracks, springtails inside the home will congregate around sources of moisture. Sink, shower/tub and floor drains are all common places for springtails to cluster along with the soil of well watered house plants, pet water dishes and in areas of plumbing leaks. Unfinished crawlspaces and basements that are not properly sealed against moisture often provide an ideal moisture source for springtails. Continuous indoor infestation typically indicates a moisture related problem such as improper drainage away from the foundation or plumbing leaks within the home. Without moisture in a home, springtails rarely live more than a few days, therefore, moisture reduction both in and around the home is important in resolving a springtail infestation as is the removal of organic debris, around the home including under decks and in window wells. Exterior soil should be allowed to dry slightly before resuming watering; the same goes for the soil of houseplants. Properly sealing any gaps, cracks or crevices around the perimeter foundation of the home including pipes that penetrate the walls is of extreme importance in excluding springtails from the home. Springtails are also attracted to light sources, so reduction of light within the home will assist in alleviating the springtail infestation.