We have a mulched bed outside by the patio of our classroom. When it rains very hard these very tiny flea-like bugs come out in droves. From far away they look like patches of blue-gray clay. From close the patch is moving with millions of tiny shiny little bugs. What are they? Thanks for any help you can give us.
-Ms. Urso’s Class

Dear Ms. Urso’s Class,
I’m guessing you have Springtails, a group of primitive insects that resemble fleas. According to Essig in The Insects and Mites of Western North America, "Some are very small, almost microscopic. They are found in rotten logs, wet leaf mold, and in the soil where the immature stages live mostly hidden from the light. The adults appear usually during the winter months when great numbers may be seen on the surface of standing pools of water or on the snow from whence comes the name snow fleas. So abundant are they at times as to completely cover and color the snow."

(5/12/03)This just happened recently with the oncoming of Spring I think. I recently moved into my apartment a few months ago. I have seen no sign of bugs in my house, except for fire beetles, which really don’t upset me, they are in the trees outside of my bedroom window and are natives to the area. I had some plant insect spray that took care of them, I haven’t seen any in my house since.
But just the last few weeks, there are little bugs in my bathtub, about the size of small black ants, if not smaller. This bothers me. I have been spraying them with insect spray, they will go away for a short period, but then there will be more in there. I sprayed some of the insect spray down the drain. When I spray them, they hop, they don’t fly. They don’t have the ability to seem to fly, but they can jump a fairly large distance for their size. I have a window that is in the wall of my shower/bathtub and I am wondering if they are coming from the outside. When I sprayed the cracks of the window they seemed to be gone for a few days, but just today and the day before they seem to be back. There are usually two or three of them just crawling around in the bathtub. Whatever they are, I don’t like them and I was wondering if they are baby roaches or something. I am in Salt Lake City, don’t know if they are some native mite to the area. Our building is made of brick. I am in an apartment building. The landlords are neat freaks that do inspections for cleanliness, so I don’t think that anyone would stand for roaches here. The building is older though. There is no bugs in my kitchen area or the rest of the house. I did noticed that the window is facing the same side as my bedroom window where the trees are that the fire beetles were getting in, they live on that tree out there. It also faces that tree. But in any case, I am trying to kill them or get rid of them. Do you have any tips for me?
Thank you,
Tamara Wright

Dear Tamara,
You might have springtails, order Collembola, which are minute insects, less than 1/8 inch long, that according to Hogue, "derive their name from the curious method of locomotion of many species, in which the furcula, a tail like appendage on the underside of the abdomen, is extended and snaps against the substratum, propelling the insect upward." They are usually. seen in a group, and resemble fleas when they spring into motion by sudden exposure to light. They like damp places, are common in lawns, in the soil, in grass clippings and compost piles, wherever it is damp and humid.

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