How to Manage Pests
UC Pest Management Guidelines
Scientific Names: Protaphorura fimata
(Reviewed 4/17, updated 4/17)
In this Guideline:
DESCRIPTION OF THE PEST
Springtails are minute, primitive insect-like organisms. Their bodies are less than 0.1 inch (2.5 mm) long, wingless, and with a forked appendage (furcula) at the tip of the abdomen used for springing into the air. Unlike other springtails, Protaphorura fimata lacks a furcula, and, when disturbed, does not jump but instead curls up. It also lacks pigmentation and eyes.
Springtails lay their round eggs in small groups in moist soil, especially where organic matter is abundant. The immature stage is usually whitish, and adults tend to be whitish, bluish, or lack the pigmentation. The immature stage differs from the adult stage only in size and color.
Most springtails are harmless scavengers and are considered as beneficial organisms because they aid in the decomposition of decaying plant material. However, some species may cause stunted seedling growth by damaging germinating seeds, roots and leaves of seedlings when present in large numbers. The seedlings may appear wilted and may die if damaged when young. Damage occurs as minute, rounded pits on young leaves or roots, or as irregular holes in thin leaves. Mature plants are typically not significantly injured.
Recent additions of organic matter (e.g., adding compost or incorporating a cover crop as green manure) as well as intensive irrigation (high soil moisture level for seed germination) can temporarily increase springtail numbers dramatically. P. fimata can be suppressed to a large extent with early applications of synthetic insecticides directed to the seed line. Pyrethroid and neonicotinoid insecticides or seeds coated with insecticide (e.g., clothianidin) typically targeted to manage other soilborne arthropods also reduce springtails.
Monitoring and Treatment Decisions
Monitoring is the key to determine the presence and population size of springtails. Threshold for treatment has not been established, but potato or beet slices can be used to monitor P. fimata presence or absence in the field, which will aid in reducing unnecessary insecticide applications.
UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines:
Insects and Other Arthropods
E. T. Natwick, UC Cooperative Extension, Imperial County
Acknowledgment for contributions to Insects and Mites:N. C. Toscano, Entomology, UC Riverside