Springtails are the cleanup crew of nature. They eat dead vegetation, bacteria, fungus, and a lot more. But do springtails eat mold too? The answer is yes, they do. Learn more in the blog below.
You probably already have many springtails in and around your surroundings, such as in the backyard, kitchen garden, and even in your house.
You might never have seen them, but they are there, gently munching away on many things, such as dead plant materials, organic matter, decaying wood, and mold.
Yes, you read that right – springtails can eat mold. Mold is a major problem in many American homes, and it can cause severe allergies, itchy and runny noses, headaches, and a lot more.
Are you interested to know how to use springtails to get rid of mold? Read on to find out more.
Do Springtails Eat Mold?
Yes, among the many things that springtails feed on, they also eat mold. By eating mold, these insects help to fertilize the soil and keep your home safe.
Springtails usually feed on slime molds. In fact, if you leave out food for springtails, they won’t eat it – they will wait for mold to settle on it and munch on it then!
Springtails belong to the Entomobrya genus of the Entomobryidae family. This family of insects has internal mouthparts that can eat bacteria and fungi off any surface they are on.
How To Use Springtails As Mold Control?
If you have a bioactive terrarium or a paludarium, you may have encountered a common problem in these environments – mold. Mold grows in any damp place, so these places are constantly getting mold.
But this is where you can bring springtails into the picture. Firstly, you have to collect a few springtails or else buy them from the market.
You will need to let them grow for some time in an amenable environment so that you have a large enough population to help you in your job.
Once you are ready, you can introduce them to your terrarium. Springtails will start consuming all the mold from your terrarium immediately.
One good thing is the springtails can self-regulate their population in a closed terrarium; you don’t have to find ways to get rid of them once they complete the job.
When there is enough mold to go around, springtails will quickly lay eggs and multiply. When the molds reduce, many springtails will die due to a lack of food.
However, these dead carcasses become an excellent food source for the remaining springtails, so some of them can survive. Over time, when the mold grows back, the springtails are still there, waiting patiently.
What Do Springtails Eat Other Than Mold?
Other than mold, springtails also eat bacteria, fungi, algae, lichens, and decaying vegetation. They are basically the cleanup crew of nature.
Springtails love to be in moist environments. They thrive in leaf litter, dead plants, soil, decaying wood, terrariums, paludariums, and even aquariums.
How To Use Springtails
So now that you know that these creatures can be very useful, you would be itching to find out how you can use them, right?
Well, you need to know the basics of housing and feeding them before you let them loose in your house. So let’s talk a bit about these aspects.
When housing springtails, it is important to avoid other predatory pests that can eat them.
Keep them in a container such as a plastic shoebox. Make sure the container is not completely airtight because they will need oxygen to live.
Fill it out with soil and about a liter of water. Open the lid twice a week (apart from the times you feed them) to let in enough oxygen.
Keep the container in a cool and damp space that does not let direct sunlight shine upon it. Direct sunlight is bad for springtails. Let the container be at room temperature.
Lastly, don’t mix up the container with other pests or insects like thrips. Springtails proliferate quicker when it is just them around.
It would be best if you fed your springtails in small but regular doses. While they love to eat mold, but they also need an additional food source.
Avoid feeding fish food because fish food is also attractive to mites. Here’s what you can feed your springtail culture:
Yeast is an excellent supplemental food for springtails. Sprinkle small amounts of yeast two to three times a week. You can increase the amount as the number of springtails in the ecosystem grows.
Adding in a few grains of brown or white rice is another good option. The rice will eventually develop mold, which is also a great food source for springtails.
However, keep a regular monitor on the rice grains, and replenish the culture when you don’t see many of them left.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do springtails eat black mold?
Like other molds, springtails are also likely to feed on black mold. However, black molds may be poisonous, and you should ideally remove them immediately if you have any of them in your house.
Springtail might take a while to finish it off. You can use chemicals or baking soda and vinegar to remove black mold.
Do springtails eat fungus?
Yes, springtails feed on fungi. Fungal hyphae and spores are like a staple diet for springtails. They also help to carry beneficial fungi near plant roots, which fertilize the soil around them. Apart from fungi, they also eat bacteria, algae, lichens, and dead vegetation.
What eats mold in a terrarium?
Mold grows on organic matter. Ecosystems such as terrariums and paludariums are full of organic matter, so mold can easily develop in these places.
What do springtails need to survive?
Most springtails need moisture to survive, which is why they prefer wet environments such as watered soil and potted plants that you regularly water.
If you are growing a culture of springtails, you should add a little bit of brown rice or yeast flakes every few weeks which will help the springtails survive.
To sum things up, yes, springtails eat molds, and if you have a terrarium or paludarium, springtails are a natural and easy way to control molds in these ecosystems.
You just need to feed them a few yeast flakes or some rice every few weeks, and they will do the rest for you.
Over the years, our readers have sent us several emails on this topic. Please go through them below!
Letter 1 – Springtails
Tiny red specks
This winter has been exceptionally warm in the Atlanta, Georgia USA area, so some bugs may be hatching out of season. This morning I looked outside to see my back cement patio covered in what I thought was a fine mist of water…millions of tiny specks. Then I noticed that the rug at the back door had a small red pile on it as if someone had spilled half a bottle of paprika or chili powder….I looked closer to notice that it was moving – these little specks were tiny insects – so tiny that I couldn’t see any legs. They couldn’t have been any bigger than a grain of salt but there were literally millions of them. They were a rusty-red color. Any idea what they were? I didn’t get a picture because I was afraid my dogs would track them into the house so I hosed them off of the back patio immediately. Oh yeah, one more thing I forgot about – the bugs jumped like fleas…maybe they WERE fleas but I’ve never seen any that tiny and have never seen a pile of them like that.
The jumping and aggregation leads us to believe you have Springtails.
Thanks for the quick response- today (just a few minutes ago, actually) I went out and looked for them and found just a couple of them crawling around – again, these are so tiny – about the size of a pinhead…maybe smaller. I was able to get some pictures. I had to put a magnifying glass in front of my camera because even my camera’s macro mode wasn’t good enough to get a picture. Do these look like springtails (images attached)?
Hi again Blaine,
This is definitely a photo of a Springtail. .
Letter 2 – Springtails
What’s those bugs on top of the springtails?
Location: Tonasket, WA, or… MY BACKYARD! HAHAHAH
March 25, 2011 9:39 pm
I know, it’s annoying when the location is ”My backyard/car/house”, yet it makes me laugh every time I see it. And I wasn’t embarrassed enough to change the picture title once I figured out they were springtails. I hope the legs, segments and antenna come thru for you. I’m thinking babies floating on a raft of adults! They definately move and squirm, and they didn’t appear to be eating the purple ones. It’s been in the mid 40’s/day and high 20’s/low 30’s at night. They are in a wanna-be-bird bath somebody tried to make, really just a 1/2 gallon or so of water. Lots of leaves in the bottom. Please crop and blow up whichever one is best for you, because I know you can do it better! Thank you for all the delight, education and beauty your dedication gives to all of us!
We are happy to hear that our sometime ornery responses to people have amused you. We agree that you have discovered a mass of Springtails, but trying to identify Springtails beyond the class Collembola is a challenge for us. We believe your specimens are probably in the order Poduromorpha based on photos posted to BugGuide, though BugGuide does not have any photographs that illustrate the light and dark individuals that your photograph clearly represents. Our best guess is that these are all the same species of Springtail in the famly Hypogastruridae (see BugGuide), but that the freshly molted individuals are lighter in color. Perhaps one of our readers will be able to add to that explanation or dispute it.
Letter 3 – Springtails
What are These Larvae?
Can you please tell me what these are? They appeared overnight, gathered like bubbles in little puddles, on my stone walk after a rain. Are they something that needs immediate attention? There are so many of them! I have cats who like to drink from the puddles, if I let them. Are they a major pest? How can I get rid of them? Thank you,
Camarillo, CA USA
These insects are adult Springtails in the order Collembola. Springtails are minute numerous insects that are found in conjunction with moisture. They can get very plentiful. They will not harm your cat.
Letter 4 – Springtails
These springtails were in a water dish in my hermit crab tank. They maybe still in the larva stage and thought you’d enjoy the image.
What a wonderful and artful photograph. We are thrilled to post it.
Letter 5 – Snow Fleas, AKA Springtails
Subject: Termite alates?
Location: Southern Vermont
March 11, 2015 6:20 am
Dear Mr. Bugman,
I just returned from traveling the past week to find a swarm of these small, wingless insects on my firewood stack. It’s been relatively warm (in the 30s to 40s) and wet here the past week. I’ve been trying to identify them. They look like de-winged subterranean termite swarmers, but they’re tiny! (1st pic.) The section of my finger showing is one inch long at most (2nd pic), so I’d say these little fellas are a couple mm long at most. They’re also just hanging out all over certain sections of the walls of my shed (3rd pic). Curious to hear your thoughts.
Thank you very much!
This would have been an easy identification for us even without your excellent close up image, and we are thrilled to be able to post a nice quality image of a single Springtail. Springtails are arguably the world’s most common hexapods, and they are benign creatures, though they can become a nuisance when conditions are favorable and their populations swell.
Thank you very much for your help, and I’m very glad to hear you enjoyed my photo! (I took it through a hand lens, which evidently works.) I didn’t notice this before I e-mailed you, but after being outside more I can see that they are *everywhere*. I can understand why they’re known as snow fleas.
Letter 6 – Springtails
Subject: Small white bugs in garden
April 25, 2015 11:22 am
These seem to have arrived with a bag of compost. Are they useful or harmful?
These are Springtails, common benign primitive insects that are beneficial in the garden where they help to break down organic matter.
Letter 7 – Springtails
Subject: Small, slow bugs
Location: lancaster, pa
May 1, 2015 6:37 am
We recently found these bugs on some old railroad ties that border a large tree in in our backyard. Both the tree and the wood they are on have been there for MANY years and this is the first we have seen them. They are small and VERY slow moving. We live in Lancaster, PA and it’s early spring so the temperatures are mild/moderate. Any idea?
Signature: Danielle DeGroft
You have benign Springtails, common creatures that generally escape notice unless they are aggregating in large numbers. Springtails will proliferate when damp conditions are favorable, and though they are no cause for alarm, they can be a nuisance when they are numerous.
Letter 8 – Springtails
Subject: Need help with identifiyng bug
Geographic location of the bug: California
Time: 05:51 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello, we have an issue with this little bug all over our yard. They mostly hide in dark areas like under leaves , wood what ever they can find. They are now starting to come into the house and they jump all over and are very tiny. They do not seem to bite however I’m not 100% sure.
How you want your letter signed: Justin
These are benign Springtails in the order Collembola, and they are arguably the most common creatures on land. When conditions are favorable (generally damp conditions) they can get so numerous as to be a nuisance, but they pose no threat to humans. In our opinion and the opinion of many, they are actually beneficial because they help to break down rotting organic matter so that it can be incorporated into fertile soil.
Letter 9 – Springtails in Tanzania
Location: Amani Nature Reserve, Northeast Tanzania
May 26, 2011 8:56 am
These little guys have taken over the forest floor in the last week or two. It’s about two months into the rainy season here, and these tiny white insects have appeared all over the forest floor. They’re almost exclusively on dead plant matter (leaves, logs, dead tree trunks), and it is difficult to convey just how many of these things are out there. I would say that there are several for every dead leaf in the forest. In some areas I don’t see any, in most areas they’re around, and on some leaves or logs they reach remarkable densities.
You sure know how to catch our attention with a subject line. These are Springtails, generally considered the most numerous hexapods on the planet. They are important because they help break down organic matter into humus.
We love your entire series of photos which establish the scene, demonstrate scale, and finally, provide a revealing close-up.