11 Springtail Characteristics: 9 Facts You Should Know!

Collembola, or springtails, are tiny creatures. Let us discuss some of the major characteristic features of springtail and detailed facts around it.

  1. Springtails have six legs and are devoid of wings.
  2. The body of a springtail is divided into three segments- head, abdomen and thorax.
  3. Springtails are not true insects but belongs to an insect-related group called proturans (order Protura), which also includes diplurans (order Diplura).
  4. Springtails have mouthpieces that are held in a distinct pocket on the inside of their heads.
  5. Size of Springtails are between 0.008 and 0.4 inches long (0.2 to 10 millimeters).
  6. Scales cover their entire body which resemble flattened hair like structure.
  7. Major springtail species found under soil, caves, or dense leaf litter are typically white or greyish, while those found in open areas are typically darker or more vibrant in color.
  8. Springtails may have a single lens in each eye or may contain several tiny group of eyes.
  9. They usually have mouthpieces that contain grinding surfaces which helps in sucking liquid or chewing organic debris.
  10. Springtails typical food consists of fungal hyphae, spores, decomposing leaf detritus, and algae.
  11. At the end of abdomen, a tail like organ is present called furcula, which helps them in jumping.
  12. Reduced or absent moisture causes springtails to perish.

One of the smallest arthropods on the planet, springtails play a crucial part in our daily lives by converting decaying plant matter into nutrients that may then nourish the grass and garden plants.

Let us discuss if springtails are insects, if they are attracted to light, if they jump or if they are parasites and many other related questions in this article.

Are springtails insects ?

One must possess certain features in order to be an insect. Let us investigate whether springtails possess the characteristics of insects.

Springtails can be considered as insects but they are not true insects. Although springtails share many characteristics with insects such as having six legs, a head, thorax, and abdomen, they are not true insects since they lack wings, have soft bodies, and have mouthparts that are hidden.

The largest of the three groups of modern hexapods—which are no longer classified as insects are springtails. The three orders do not appear to be any more closely related to one another than they are to all insects, which have external mouthparts, despite the fact that they are commonly put together in a class called Entognatha because they have internal mouthparts.

Are springtail attracted to light?

Generally insects are attracted towards light. Let us explore if springtails are photophobic or drawn towards light.

Springtails are attracted towards light. Springtails can get inside homes through gaps and crevices like those surrounding doors, utility pipes, or window screens because they are drawn to light and are so little.

As springtails are nocturnal creatures, they usually target the residential house and garages as they are equipped with light. This is the reason they mostly inhabit houses. Turning off outdoor lighting when not in use can help keep springtails away from your home because they are drawn to light.

Are springtails attracted to water?

Springtails typically prefer damp environments for nesting. Let us find out if they are really drawn to water.

Springtails are not completely attracted to water but they usually prefer any location where there is high moisture and humidity. The still waters are home to surface-dwelling springtails, sometimes known as semi-aquatic springtails.

Most species of springtail have jumping organ called furcula which is present at the lower abdomen. These furcula are usually used by springtails to float or swim at the water surface.

Are springtails attracted to food?

Every living thing need nutrition to survive. Let us explore the preferable kinds of food for springtails.

Springtails are attracted to food and usually like to feed on organic materials. They only feed on dead and decaying parts of plants and animals. Pollen, algae, fungi and decomposing organic debris are some of the favourite food of springtails.

Do all springtails jump?

Hexapods that have six legs such as springtails, move by using their legs. Let us see whether they can actually jump.

Springtails can jump up to several inches with the help of a unique forked structure under the abdomen called furcula, but they cannot fly since they lack wings. The organism’s furca give rise to the term “springtail”. Springtails repeatedly turn over while jumping.

Many springtail species have an attachment on their abdomen that resembles a forked tail and gives them the ability to spring away from predators like tiny grasshoppers. They could leap over buildings up to ten stories. Springtails have a tube-like structure called collaphore that they employ to adhere to objects, allowing them to stay to the surface (like a leaf or stone) when they land.

Image Credits: Orchesella cincta, a common springtail image by Mvuijlst (CC BY-SA 3.0) from Wikimedia Commons

Are springtails mites?

Arthropods are a phylum that includes both springtails and mites. Let us find out if they share any features with each other.

Springtail is not a mite. They are wingless arthropods called hexapods that live in fertile soil all around the planet. They generally are not interested in searching for hosts to feed on, unlike mites.

While some mites feed on plants, some are scavengers, others parasitize humans in addition to other animals, and many are predators of insects and other arthropods.

Are springtails fast?

The six-legged springtail can also jump. Let us just find out how fast they move.

Springtails are quite fast. Despite being only one to two millimetres long, springtails have a quick movement of three to four inches per movement. This is around 100 times the length of their body. The furcula, a “springing” structure on the abdomen of springtails, allows them to move quickly.

When globular springtails jump from a standing position, they spin at a speed of 374 flips per second, or 22,440 rpm.

Are springtails more active at night?

Springtails used to rest and nest in damp places and their activity also depends on it. Let us find out if they are nocturnal or diurnal.

Springtails are nocturnal creatures which makes them active during night only. During daytime, they usually hide in the damp and moist places like soil, under the leaves, litter and moist pieces of woods.

When the environment around them begins to dry out, springtails become very active. They can go inside houses by hopping.

 Where are springtails found?

Springtails have the ability to withstand all climate. Let us get know where they are mostly found.

Springtails are frequently found in damp soil or rotting wood because they demand extremely moist environments. Springtails are typically found encircling the undersides of plants where snow has melted during the winter on sunny days.

Their body can resist all climates. They make use of a protein that is naturally present in their bodies to withstand the chilly winter weather. Springtails can be challenging to spot and locate due to their small size. In summer, springtails frequently swarm close to wet locations like a pool or an air conditioner drain line.

Are springtails parasites?

Springtails are decomposers and scavengers but their parasitic nature is still controversial. Let us find out the reasons.

Springtails are not parasitic on human beings since they are not known to actively infest living human tissue. Springtail species may have the ability to bite because they have been found to feed on the blood of newts and toads.

Conclusion

To wrap up this post, we conclude that springtails are smallest member of phylum arthropods. They are non toxic to humans, do not bite but can cause nuisance or problems as they are found swarms. They are drawn to lights and may readily climbs the sides of houses.

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