Based on scientific research, springtails eat bacteria, algae, and fungi that can harm plants and this makes them garden-friendly. Springtails in the soil break down organic materials that improve the soils’ fertility which is healthy for plants. They are harmless to grown plants because they have internal mouthparts that cannot bite on tough leaves and stems.
Springtails are not harmful to plants because they add nutrients to the soil when they feed on decaying organic matter. Even though they may eat young plants and roots if there is a heavy infestation, springtails do more good than harm to plants. They are beneficial and are never classified under destructive garden pests.
A heavy presence of those jumpy bugs on a leaf is a sign of moldy plants. In this case, springtails are not harmful to the plant. They feed on leaf mold which can cause stagnated growth. Heavy mold on a plant’s leaf can reduce its ability to grow if it is not controlled in good time.
Do springtails eat plants?
Sometimes, springtails may eat and pick at soft young plants. This happens occasionally because their main diet is decaying matter, mold, and algae. Fresh plants are not part of their daily food and they only turn on them if there is no food. However, they will not cause much damage to plants.
Since it is very rare for them to lack food, you should not worry about the destruction of grown plants. Springtails cannot eat on grown plants because their mouthparts are not strong enough to bite on the leaves. Even though they may eat young plants that are weak, they will not do much damage to them.
Springtails eat dead plant leaves that are decaying on the soil’s surface. They do not like staying in the open and prefer to wait for the leaves to drop off. Dropped leaves provide shelter and moisture since they trap moisture from the soil. The feeding process is beneficial to plants since they speed up the decaying process which keeps the soil fertile.
Occasionally, springtails may feed on plant roots when they live in the soil. It happens when the soil is not fertile enough and there are no decaying organic materials in it. This is why springtails in houseplants are dangerous especially when they are young and the soil is not rich with organic materials.
Springtails are not a threat to established plants that are fully developed since they are full of strong fresh fluids. Their mouthparts cannot also bite on firm stems, roots, or leaves of grown plants. Never think springtails are the culprits if mature plants are damaged and the leaves are nibbled significantly.
Dangers of springtails to plants
Springtails are only dangerous to plant if they multiply in large numbers and the population exceeds their habitat. If their numbers surpass the plants and soil that they live in, they can become a danger. This happens because there will be no food for all of them.
This means that they are likely to be desperate for food at some point. They will turn to the plant roots or young plant leaves. The roots provide plants with all the nutrients from the soil and if damaged expensively, the plants are bound to die.
The leaves will begin to fall off and the stem will become weak due to a lack of adequate and sufficient nutrients. Eventually, the plant beds and falls to the ground, and other pests will also feed on them.
A large number of springtails can also kill young plants very fast when they attack their leaves and stem. Germinating plants are weak and soft and adult springtails can eat through them if their main meal is rare.
Signs that springtails have overwhelmed a plant include the plant’s ability to survive low temperatures. A large number of springtails attached under a plant’s leaf can also reduce the leaf’s ability to synthesize the plant’s foods. This can kill the plant after some time thus they should be removed from the leaves as soon as possible.
Springtails are often thought to be harmful because of their furcula which resembles a sharp stinger. However, they cannot sting or bite humans or pets because they do not have mouth parts that can penetrate the skin. That also makes them less dangerous to a mature plant unless they attack its roots in large numbers.
How to keep harmful springtails from plants
Springtails are only beneficial to plants if they are controlled and you may want to introduce them to your compost if the decomposition process is delayed. However, large numbers are dangerous especially if you have young plants and you may need to control them before the damage is escalated.
The first step is to turn the compost soil and the that in the garden to increase aeration. This will help in reducing moisture build-up in the soil which they need for survival. While turning the soil, let it dry and reduce the watering rate for the next month until they are significantly gone.
Controlling springtails is easy because they die very fast if there is no moisture. Bathroom springtails can harm indoor plants around the area and controlling them is difficult as long as the washroom is damp and moist. They should be removed until the infestation is under control otherwise the plants can be damaged over time.
The same applies to plants that are kept around the pool area. Springtails in the pool can attack them because as much as they need water, plants provide them with constant food which they cannot survive without. The pool should be treated and covered until the infestation is out.
Collombela which is their scientific name is derived from a Greek word based on the fact that springtails are recognized by a fork-like tail which helps in their movement.
It is wrong to think that springtails can fly because they do not have wings. However, they can jump and hop while moving thanks to their spring-like furcula which aids in their bouncing ability. Other springtail species may also turn and feed on their own as the last option if there is nothing for them to eat in their natural habitat.
Calina Mabel has over 15 years of experience in the field of journalism and communications. Currently, Calina Mabel is the Content Writer for categories such as Cockroach, Ants, Bed Bugs, Mosquito, Rodent, Termite, and Flies on Pestweek.com. She aims to build content for these categories with a focus on providing valuable and accessible information to readers, in order to create the world’s largest knowledge community about Pests.
All content written by Calina Mabel has been reviewed by Emily Carter.