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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

I have these flea-like bugs in the thousands that thrive on my outside window sills (which are rotten and soon to be replaced) but these nasty little guys have found their way into my house! And every night I have to do a mad spree of "containing" them (trust me, I don’t even pick flowers because I don’t believe in hurting living things! But these guys are smushed habitually! if they don’t jump away first!). They are found all over my blinds, on all window ledges and even on my baseboards next to the floor. They seem to like crevices. They are about the size of a flea, rather flat, and long, and jump like a flea but do not have an exoskeleton. They are grey with small antenna. They range in size from tiny almost microscopic to about the size of an adult flea maybe a tiny bit larger (the largest ones that is). Their size is rather inconsistent. They stay rather motionless until you knock where they are standing and then they all scatter and/or jump. There are thousands on the outside of my windows and i usually kill at least a hundred per night. They seem to come out more at night. They really gross me out and I even found a few on my pillow lately, as my bed backs up to a window…gross!!! My two exterminators over the last three years have no idea what they are. I live in Alabama. Do you have any idea what these could be? Any leads would be greatly appreciated. I found you through google by searching "flea like bugs that jump but are not fleas"!!! Can’t believe I got any hits from that! My biggest fear is that I replace my windows (which has to be done anyhow, they’re 65 years old) and they will still be here, cause they’re on my baseboards too! Yuck! Thanks you so much for your time and knowledge.
Anna

Hi Anna,
I’m guessing Springtails, primitive insects from the Order Collembola. They can get extremely plentiful and like damp conditions. We have a page devoted to them. Go to the left side of the www.whatsthatbug.com homepage and click Springtails in the alphabatized list. Sorry, we don’t have extermination advice, but at least now you know what they are.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Can Silverfish hop?
First, I’d like to compliment your site – very well done and informative!
My husband and I have a recent infestation in our bathroom of a small bug that we thought could be Silverfish. After reading your page on Silverfish and looking at the photo, however, I’m not certain that this is what we have.
These bugs are about 1/8 of an inch long, have antennae on the front and shorter antennae on the back – as best as I can tell there are only two on the back end. They have lighter colored stripes running horizontally across a very thin body. And these bugs hop, as much as about a foot. We find that they congregate near water – especially under and around wet flip flops worn in the shower. Could these be Silverfish? Or are they another bug?
Thanks for any help you may be able to give,
Julia Bell
Columbia, SC

Hi Julia,
There is a relative of the silverfish known as the Jumping Bristletail, Family Machilidae, but my money is on a type of Springtail, Order Collembola. They like damp areas and can get quite numerous.

Thanks for your quick response! And thanks for what seems to be the right diagnosis. Now we’ll get to work on getting rid of these guys!
My husband and I are very impressed with your website – our new "house and garden field guide."
All the best,
Julia Bell

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hi, Bugman. I’m writing in regards to an insect problem I have with a few of my houseplants. In two of my larger pots, I have what appear to be extremely small mobile grains of rice crawling through the dirt. I would have attached pictures, but I couldn’t get a decent closeup. After searching around on the net, I suspect they could be mealy bugs, but all of the pages I viewed describe mealy bugs in conjunction with African Violets. Citing a website dedicated to homemade pesticides, I concocted a dish soap/jalapeno juice solution to spray them with, and minutes after using it, I discovered what appear to be miniature white night-crawlers swarming to the surface for air. The plants that are infected with all of these bugs aren’t having any problems growing at all. In fact, my ficus tree is among the most forgiving, as he’s been moved several times, and he doesn’t seem to care where he is, as long as he’s got bright light. I’m not sure what to do about the bugs, however, and if you could help, I’d greatly appreciate it.
Jace

Hi again. I sent you an email earlier about tiny white bugs in the soil of some of my plants. I managed to get a picture of two of them for better i.d. I can’t find my jewelers lupe to magnify them. Let me know.
Thanks again.

Dear Jace,
While it is impossible to be perfectly accurate based on your amusing photograph, I will venture an educated guess. My money is on the maggots of a Black Gnat, Bradysia impatiens. This is a type of root gnat from the Family Sciaridae. The adults are the tiny black gnats that flit in your face while you are watching television and that always seem to get stuck in fresh paint, writes Hogue. He continues “The larva lives in decaying plant material, such as compost, peat, and sphagnum; it also commonly infests the roots and stems of various herbaceous plants. The insects may develop in the media used for potted plants, which explains its mysterious appearance indoors.”

Hmm. That’s a good guess, but I can make out legs on these. I found my lupe at work, so when I get home, I’ll attempt another photo shoot.
Thanks for your time. 🙂
Jace

Beetle grubs can often be found in soil and they have tiny legs. Perhaps it is a species of flea beetle or a weevil. It would be nearly impossible to make an exact identification based on a photo.

Thank you so much for the input. They don’t seem to be hurting the plants, but I just wanted to know if I should start a program of mass annihilation. This picture is probably going to be the best I’ll get of one of the little farts. Beetle grubs? Wouldn’t there be adults all over too? These pots have had these bugs for a while, one of them I can remember as far back as March of 2002 having these in it. Oh well, thanks again for all of your time, and keep up the great work on the website; its been severely educational.
Jace

Ed. Note: Before we could even respond to this photo, Jace sent the following proper I.D. from a website.

Bugs: Discovered!

I have scoured the internet for these bugs, and I believe I have identified them! Thanks to you and the Missouri State University Entomology Department, not only have I IDed the first insect, I found out that I have two different species living in my plants. The first one (that I kept sending pictures of) are Onychurius pseudofimetarius. These did not jump and moved slowly so as to be the only ones I could catch.


Onychurius pseudofimetarius
Onychiurus pseudofimetarius is eyeless, and has an unpigmented, translucent white body. The body shape is fusiform, or torpedo like, the antenna are not longer than the head, and there is no apparent furcula. It lacks spines on the tip of the abdomen, a feature which distinguishes this species from Onychiurus ramosus #362. (Family: Onychiruidae)

After digging around more in my plants, I captured that much more active, hard as hell to catch version called Isotoma nigrifrons.

Family: Isotomidae
This group typically has neither scales nor a furry appearance. The third and fourth abdominal segments are about equal in length along the middle of the back or are about the same size as the other abdominal segments. The third antennal segment is not considerably longer than the fourth.

Isotoma nigrifrons

These bad boys were very fast, and jumped like fleas, so I wasn’t able to catch any before. A Q-Tip dipped in Raid ant killer was used to get one to slow down long enough for inspection. That’s when I found his distinct furcula, and was able to identify him and his cousin as springtails, or part of the Collembola family.

I’ve never been really all that interested in entomology, but If I didn’t find out what these were, it was going to drive me insane! At least you’ll know what they are if anyone else decides to ask you after staring at their potted soil and noticing minute ecologies living there.
Jace

Awesome sleuthing Jace. Here is some additional information. From Essig: "Springtails inhabit moist localities and are found in rotten logs, wet leaf mold, and in the soil where the immature stages live mostly hidden from the light." Essig call Onychiurus pseudarmatus the Seed Springtail, and writes it "is a shite slender species 3mm. long and with the antennae shorter than the head. It has proven to be a pest by destroying germinating purple vetch seed in Humboldt County, California." Hogue states that these ancient and primitive insects "are among the most numerous of animals found in the soil and are also commonly encountered in compost piles and grass cuttings, in turf, under flower pots, in cellars, or among stored plant bulbs — wherever it is humid and dark.” I have a great book, The Encyclopedia of Natural Insect & Disease Control by Roger B. Yepsen, Jr. that recommends an infusion of garlic in water to help rid the soil of springtails. Try crushing the garlic in water and letting it sit before watering your houseplants.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

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.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination