Springtails are tiny, wingless arthropods, measuring from .25 to 8 millimeters long. Their bodies can be cylindrical or spherical, and they have six legs and eight simple eyes. Springtails (Collembola) have forked tails, called furculas, tucked under their abdomens. When disturbed, springtails will flick their furbulas against the ground, causing them to spring into the air. Springtails can't bite humans or their pets. More than 6,000 species are found worldwide.
Springtails reproduce prolifically, developing from egg to adult in just a few weeks. Male springtails distribute packets of sperm cells, attaching them to the substrate. Females pick up the sperm sacs, and the eggs are fertilized as they are deposited on or in the earth. The eggs may be laid either singly or in batches. A female springtail can lay 400 eggs in her lifetime.
The springtail eggs hatch in about 10 days. Warmer temperatures lead to shorter incubation periods. Hatchlings look like tiny adults, but they have no reproductive organs. The juvenile springtails will go through five to eight growth stages and will molt during each one, before reaching maturity.
Springtail juveniles become sexually mature adults within six weeks after hatching. Adult springtails continue to molt, up to 50 times during a lifetime, but do not continue to grow. Springtails can live for up to one year, reproducing at a rapid rate.
Diet and Habitat
Springtails inhabit humid, moist areas near abundant food sources. They live in decaying logs, mulches and moist soil, including potting soil. During dry conditions, springtails may find their way into damp bathrooms, laundry rooms and basements to find moisture. Springtails eat algae, bacteria, decaying plant material, fungi and pollen.
Karen Mihaylo has been a writer since 2009. She has been a professional dog groomer since 1982 and is certified in canine massage therapy. Mihaylo holds an associate degree in human services from Delaware Technical and Community College.