Imagine you are carrying an laundry basket that is overflowing with your dirties (and let’s be honest, the laundry basket is ALWAYS overflowing), down the steps to the basement where your washer and dryer are set up. Flicking on the light, you go about your merry business until you step in something. Something a bit crunchy, a bit squishy. All of a sudden, you notice tiny little specks jumping and twitching all over you, your laundry, the floor. Springtails.
What the hell is going on?! You scream as you see the mass of these creatures on the floor erupt like a geyser after the chain reaction began. They are flying everywhere at this point. What is this madness?!
You, friend, might quite possibly have a problem with Springtails. Do they look like this?And they aren’t biting you and making you itch? Yes and yes? Yep. You have Springtails. So, now that you know the problem, how are you going to get rid of all these Springtails infiltrating your home? Hopefully you’ll find the solution you’re looking for here.
But, first, some intel on these invaders of your abode – that way you know what you are going up against.
What are Springtails?
These little buggers are one of the most common bugs in the world – they live in almost every single environment that has periods where the dirt is damp and there is an abundance of organic material that needs help decomposing and breaking down. Springtails are not normally seen as a nuisance – quite the opposite actually, when they are found indoors. These insects help to break down organic matter like leaves, dead plants, fully decomposed animals and to integrate them into the soil they live in. You can guarantee that if you see fungus and moss on the ground, that these nifty little composters are there too, since all three work to break down organic matter in the soil.
Springtails get their names from a fork shaped little appendage at the end of their 1/16 to 1/8 inch long bodies called a furcula – it’s like the spring, set and ready tucked under their tiny bodies until it is needed. Once the Springtail is aggravated in some way, the furcular releases and the impact of it hitting a surface propels the bugger forwards upwards of several inches to near a foot in distance.
Like most buggies, Springtails have sectioned bodies, antennae, and multiple legs. They vary in color and shape – from dark brown, grey, or black to white and nearly translucent and from slender, elongated to round and chubby. [insert image titled springtail1 here, please]
Just be sure to not confuse Springtails for fleas. While both insects are small, fleas are a bit on the flattish side and are very hard-bodied, making them very difficult to crush. Springtails have a more rounded soft body and are easily crushed. Plus, Springtails don’t bite and make you itch.
Causes of Springtails indoors
So why the hell are all these Springtails doing in my house? Was I cursed with a plague by some one? Not likely, no. Springtails like to stay outdoors where they have amble food to process to enrich the soil they live in. If they are invading your home, you can turn to a couple of avenues to explain the infestation.
One main cause is dampness occurring in the home. Springtails love water since they absorb and expel water through their skin. If they are drying out, they seek out any source of water. Are the Springtails congregating in the basement? The laundry room? The kitchen, by the sink? Or in the bathroom? Yes? You might have some dampness issues or mildew damage that has enticed the little beasties into your home for a perfect Springtail smorgasbord.
Another way Springtails might be in your home is if you’ve recently brought some damp organic material in. Organic material – huh? Think logs if you have a fireplace or wood burning stove, or potted plants from a garden or patio. These are also prime feasting opportunities for Springtails – and you just accidentally brought them into your house while they were busy munching away.
Now that we have a possible idea on how the Springtails got INTO your house, how does a person get them OUT of their house?
If you are looking for the easiest solution for you, especially if you do not have extra time in your day to be on the hunt for Springtails in the jungles of your home, turning to professional exterminators in the way to go. Companies like Orkin will not only identify the problem and remove the Springtails, but they will remedy the reason for the infestation in the first place – by locating, drying, and treating the damp, possibly mildewy and moldy places where the Springtails congregated in the first place. If it happens that the leak and dampness is coming from pipes within the walls, you will have to work with a contractor to fix the problem, or if you are handy and watch an excessive amount of DIY or home improvement television and think you can handle the task, you can attempt to fix the problem.
Now, what if you don’t want to pay a person to come in and rid your house of Springtails for a crazy fee when you feel like you can do it yourself? What are the best solutions? Good questions.
Best Steps to remove Springtails
First, be sure to vacuum up the Springtails that you see. Some might be dead, some might be alive but that doesn’t matter. Be sure to vacuum up as many as you can and dispose of the contents of the vacuum outside (otherwise you’re just asking for the problem to persist if you empty the canister into the trash). If you have figured out that it was either logs or a potted plant or two that caused the appearance of the Springtails, take it all back outside until either it dries out or bring in dry replacements. That’s the easiest solution. Even moss covered pots can track in Springtails – a handy reminder is anything that has been outside in the damp can bring Springtails into your house…even your shoes if you’ve been tromping through mossy area
But what if you find that it is dampness and mildew and even mold that attracted the Springtails? Well, get ready to clean and use some elbow grease. After vacuuming, take a look at the dampness. If it in a basement, it probably means that the concrete is damp. A short term solution (until you can seal and protect your concrete from further water damage) is to point fans in the direction of the wet places, and to use a dehumidifier if you have one.
If you found mildew or mold, now is the time to scrub it clean with a bleach cleaner and a brush so the solution gets deep into the pores of the concrete. Once the area is dry and free of mildew, it is important to keep it dry – so until you are able to fix and seal the sources of the water leaking through the concrete, keep fans and the dehumidifier handy so you can be proactive about keeping any dampness that springs up at bay.
What if the dampness and mildew is somewhere else? Like in your kitchen, or bathroom, or laundry room where there are pipes? We’ll tackle the kitchen and the laundry, since they are potentially the easiest fix. First, clear out everything from under the sink (or from around the washing machine) so you can see what you are dealing with. Did you find that the pipes are leaking? Try tightening the connections and sealing them with a leak preventing solution like LeakGuard of the Rust-Oleum products, which you can get at Amazon. Then, go about the same process as with the wet concrete – clean really well with a bleach cleaner, and point fans on the area until it is dry. Easy fix!
If it turns out that the Springtails congregated in your bathroom, there might be more work involved, as I stated earlier when talking about the option of having professional exterminators handle the situation.
In bathrooms especially it is a fair chance to expect the leakage and mildew problem to be behind the walls that surround the tub – particularly the wall with the shower head. If this is the case, it will be difficult to fix the problem without opening up the wall. Ouch…talk about expensive. If you are up to the work yourself, you will cut a major portion of the price off – and there are many resources online and at the library or people at the home improvement or hardware store that can help you figure out how to do it by yourself. But, if using professionals, expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars to fix the leak properly and to prevent any more Springtails from becoming your roommates.
You could also try Bifen Granules to prevent springtails from getting into your house. Amazon sells them in a 25lb bag.
Springtails, while annoying when they get into your home in mass quantities, are harmless little bugs. They are easy to get rid of thankfully, especially if you follow these tips and advice.
University of Minnesota Extension Office
University of Michigan