Springtails are tiny, soft-bodied arthropods related to but different from insects. Insects and springtails both have six legs and belong to the same superclass of Hexapoda, but springtails branch off and belong to the class Collembola. The main difference is that insects have external mouth parts whereas springtails have internal ones. There are two general body types: elongated and spherical. Springtails are wingless but as their name suggests, they have a spring-like appendage under their abdomen called the furcula, which they engage when disturbed, enabling them to ‘jump’ up to 75 mm. They are usually white, but different species can be red, orange, yellow, green, blue, black and even violet. The nymphs are mini versions of the adults. As well as being able to jump away from predators, they exude toxic chemicals when attacked.

Adult size: 0.25mm-3mm

Out and about

Generally they like moist-to-wet conditions as they lose moisture through their skin. Because of this, they will be found under leaf litter or mulch, especially after rainy periods or heavy watering where the soil remains moist. In these conditions, they are found all year round. A few species, found in temperate regions will live in trees. There are thousands of species of springtails worldwide in many various habitats. In Australia they are concentrated in the temperate regions of the east coast and to a lesser degree in Western Australia and tropical Queensland.

Reproduction and Life cycle

They live their entire lives in the top layer of the soil and reproduce very quickly. Males deposit their sperm in the soil where the female will pick them up and the eggs will be fertilised as she lays them. The eggs are tiny (0.2mm), round and are laid singly or in clusters. Females can lay up to 400 eggs over their lifetime. From egg to adult takes only 3-5 weeks. Springtails can moult up to 50 times continually moulting their entire lives.

To deter

To control

If they are proving to be a problem they could be controlled by methods which work on their soft bodies and the fact that they respire through their skin: - Drying out their environment will make them seek out wetter areas - Diatomaceous earth - Neem oil spray may help

Plants to repel

Plants to attract


Why they are both Beneficial & Pest
They aid in the general decomposition of organic matter by feeding on dead animals (such as earthworms and flies), bacteria and fungi, in a way that ‘shreds’ the material and enables other organisms to feed on it. They also help to distribute beneficial, symbiotic fungi through the roots of plants and feed on harmful bacteria and fungi that are around the roots. The presence of springtails is an indicator of good soil health as they are sensitive to the quality of their environment. There are species which are predatory as well as pollen-feeders and some which prefer plants, such as Sminthuridae viridis (Lucerne flea) that can be a crop pest, but on the whole they don’t cause any serious damage and are beneficial to the garden. I took the photo of the black springtail on an olive tree.