These Minuscule Wingless Springtails are Easily Mistaken for Fleas

published Aug 5, 2018
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(Image credit: Kath Nash)

I’m not typically squeamish when it comes to bugs. Until they get inside my house where they don’t belong, that is. The creepiest are usually those teeny tiny ones—like springtails—that are so hard to see I start getting paranoid that they’re everywhere.

Springtails are minuscule wingless bugs found all throughout North America that thrive in dark, damp places. They’re about the size of a flea and jump like fleas, so it’s easy to mistake them for one another, and that on its own is more than enough to want them gone. An important distinction: Springtails don’t bite like fleas do. In fact, they’re pretty harmless aside from the ick factor.

The good news is that, if you do have springtails in your house, you don’t need to call in a professional to get rid of them (and pesticides aren’t really effective against them anyway). Springtails wind up indoors because they’re seeking moisture, either because there’s a drought going on, or because you happen to have a particularly attractive habitat somewhere in your house, like a potted plant. Tackling the dampness will solve the issue.

How to Get Rid of Springtails in Your House

First things first: Vacuum them up. This won’t solve the problem completely, of course, but it will make the infestation more manageable. Next you’ll want to tackle the dampness that’s attracting them indoors in the first place. Run a fan or dehumidifier and be extra vigilant about mopping up water around the sink and bathtub. Also, examine your plumbing for leaks. Then, after you’ve done your best to eliminate moisture, sprinkle diatomaceous earth in spots where you’ve seen the springtails and near possible entry points like baseboards and window sills. The insects should disappear within a few days once you’ve disrupted their preferred habitat.

How to Rid Your Houseplants of Springtails

If springtails set up shop in one of your houseplants (this is common as they are soil dwellers), immediately quarantine your plant, preferably outdoors, and cut way back on watering. If springtails find it an attractive home, there’s a good chance you’ve been over-watering your plant in the first place. Allow the soil to dry out completely, then sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the soil surface. This combination should kill off the insects. Once the insects appear to be gone, resume regular watering (with the caveat that you’re only watering when the top inch of soil is dry) and carefully monitor the plant for springtail activity for several days before moving it out of quarantine. Apply more diatomaceous earth as needed.

How to Keep Springtails Out in the First Place

Springtails are more likely to make their way into your home if there’s a lot of dampness around the exterior of your house. To prevent this, you can do things like:

  • Ensure your rainspouts aren’t blocked and are carrying water away from your home
  • Refrain from spreading mulch right up to the edge of your house; leave a barrier of several inches
  • Clear away dead leaves and other debris that collects along outer walls
  • Check porches and window frames for rotting wood

Have you had problems with springtails in your house? What did you do to control and prevent them?

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