Are you looking to breed springtails as feeders for your pets? Or perhaps you want to keep them as a cleanup crew for your vivarium? Here’s how to breed springtails in your home
Springtails are the tiny wingless insects you often find in damp and dark corners of your home. These bugs are perfect for feeding fish, small mammals, frogs, and other insectivores.
Springtail culture is a great way to ensure food supply for pets that can live on feeder insects. They are also a great way to clean up your bioactive vivariums. Springtails are a resilient bunch, which makes them easy to keep.
Although considered a nuisance pest, they are perfectly harmless to humans. Let’s figure out how you can breed springtails efficiently and without hassle.
How Fast do Springtails Reproduce?
One of the reasons why springtails are so easy to breed is that these pests reproduce very fast. They usually breed four times a year, laying up to 400 eggs during their lifetime.
This is one of the reasons why springtails can quickly become a nuisance unless you’re specifically breeding them.
Springtails can live for up to a year when indoors; while outdoors, they can live through a whole season. It takes springtails about five to ten days to hatch from eggs, after which they spend five to six weeks as nymphs, then living as adults.
Springtails molt about 50 times during their lifetime, and around the 15th time, they will grow bigger than their previous size.
Choosing an Appropriate Container for Breeding
Before you can start breeding any pest, you need to choose a suitable container for it. Ideally, a sealed container (but not airtight) that’s six quarts or larger should be alright for springtail breeding culture.
Remember, your container needs to be large enough to keep hundreds of springtails after the eggs hatch, along with the substrate and the food.
A simple plastic container is enough for springtail breeding, provided that it is large enough and has holes or a mesh for ventilation. In case it doesn’t have holes, you have to open the container every couple of days to let in some fresh air.
Breeding Mediums (Substrate)
You need to provide the springtails with a medium on which they can breed and live. There are several substrates for you to choose from:
A two-inch deep layer of peat moss at the bottom of the container would be a great breeding medium. However, make sure to boil it on medium heat for about an hour to sterilize it first.
Once the peat moss has cooled down to room temperature, drain away all the water except what’s necessary to keep the peat moss moist.
You may use activated charcoal or lump wood charcoal as substrate too. Charcoal is easy to handle as you simply need to place the pieces in a container and add water.
Moreover, it’s easy to transfer springtails bred on a charcoal substrate. You can just wash them into the new container or move a piece of charcoal with the springtails still on it.
You may also use any bagged potting soil as a substrate. The process is similar to that of using peat moss. Put two inches of the soil in the container after sterilizing the soil with heat.
However, instead of boiling the soil for an hour, you can just microwave it for 2-3 minutes or bake it at 350°F for 20 minutes.
Terrarium substrate mix
If you plan to add some springtails to your terrarium pots, just use the terrarium substrate mix. Not only is this a great substrate, but you can also add the substrate directly to your new terrarium later, along with the springtails.
One can also take some coconut fiber, wet it with water, and use it as a substrate. Like soil, two inches of coconut fiber should be enough. The water level should be negligible – just enough to keep the substrate moist.
As you may notice, it’s easy to find a suitable substrate for your springtails. These pests can easily make something as simple as potting soil in their habitat.
Once you have got the substrate ready, you can start breeding springtails. Just take the insects and dump them into the container. If you are just starting springtail culture for the first time and don’t know where to find them, you may buy them online.
There you can choose from different species of springtails and buy a pack of about 100 of these insects together. However, as springtails are very common and live in a variety of places, it’s easy to find them in or around your home.
Right Humidity & Temperature
Maintaining the correct levels of humidity and temperature in the breeding environment is crucial in helping the insects survive and multiply quickly.
I mentioned earlier that you need a sealed container for your springtails. This is to avoid moisture from escaping as springtails need a humid environment to live. Lack of moisture can kill them from dehydration.
You should also try to provide them with a warm environment because higher temperatures help them breed faster.
Especially if you have tropical springtails, a hot and humid breeding environment resembling the tropical climate is a must. However, keep them away from direct sunlight except for very short periods once in a while.
Giving Them The Right Food
Let us now take a look at what to feed your springtails with. Thankfully, arranging for food for springtails isn’t an issue as they feed on pretty much any organic material, including even the substrate itself.
You can provide them with various food sources, such as dead leaves, uncooked rice, decaying vegetation, boiled vegetables, etc.
Powdered brewer’s yeast is a great choice of food, too; springtails love feeding on fungi. This is one of the reasons why people keep springtails in their terrarium pots – so that the insects can remove mold by eating it.
Feeding the Springtails
Feed your springtails every day, but make sure not to overfeed them. Putting too much food in the container will only cause the food to rot and decay.
As you likely won’t be able to remove the decaying food, you’ll have to deal with its rotting smell. A good way to create a constant supply of food is to encourage mold growth in the container.
However, besides organic matter like vegetables, cereals, and decaying leaves, springtails also need food sources that offer protein.
This is why sprinkling some brewer’s yeast into the container every few days is a good idea. At the time of adding food to the container, also spray some dechlorinated water to help maintain the moisture level.
Making Sure There Are No Intruders
Lastly, you need to make sure that your springtails are left alone. There should be no intruders, especially those that are predatory to springtails.
Accidentally allowing in a species that might fight the springtails and potentially kill them can put an end to your springtail culture.
This is why you need to make sure not to mix up the springtails with any other insects that you might be culturing. Rotting food in the container may attract predatory mites too.
How to Transfer the Springtails to a New Container?
Once the springtails have reproduced and you have plenty of them, you can start taking them out to use them for the purpose you bred them for. For this, you’ll need a new container.
Transferring springtails is easy – simply fill their current container with water and pour them into the new container. As springtails are light and tend to float, you can transfer them without actually pouring a lot of water.
You may have to try it several times; it’s almost impossible to move all the springtails in the first transfer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are springtails easy to breed?
Yes, springtails are very easy to breed as they can feed on a wide variety of food sources and can live on various substrates.
In case you are breeding temperate springtails, they will need relatively lower moisture and heat as compared to their tropical cousins.
How long does it take for springtails to reproduce?
Springtails can go from a mere eggs to full-blown adults in anywhere between four to six weeks. They can start reproducing in about a month after you begin to breed them, provided that the conditions are ideal.
Regardless of whether you want to breed springtails to sell them or to feed your insectivorous pets, you now know how to go about it.
As you can see by now, breeding springtails isn’t too hard – you just have to provide them with food and a moist, warm, and undisturbed environment. Thank you for going through this article. Hopefully, you found all the information you were looking for.
Over the years, our readers have sent us several emails on this topic. Please go through them below!
Letter 1 – Probably Springtails
Subject: swarming black tiny bugs
Location: Southcoast MA
January 4, 2015 1:12 pm
wonder if these are springtails or something else?
There is not enough detail in your image, even when enlarged, to reveal the identity of individual insects, but we believe these are most likely Springtails. Springtails that become active on sunny days in the winter, even with snow on the ground, are called Snow Fleas. Since we will be out of the office for a spell, we are postdating your submission to go live in our absence later in the month.
Letter 2 – Springtail found in laboratory
Unidentified insect on an agar plate
Location: Albany, NY
November 29, 2010 2:47 pm
Howdy! So I have a giant insect book at home that I can’t access right now because I am at work, but we have an unusual little guy that I found a picture of online and cannot actually identify because it was found under ”aspen mite”, and it is not an actual mite. We work in a nematode laboratory and this guy is about the length of an adult nematode (C. elegans). He is the first and only one of his kind. Contamination possibilities are: us, the air from the ventilation system and some fungus gnats that were in my potting soil. Just wondering what he is and what he does and if he thinks that C.elegans eggs are like delicious caviar or that C. elegans themselves are like delicious little noodles. Thanks and I love the site!
Signature: Cara D
This is a Springtail in the class Collembola, and by many accounts, they are the most common hexapods on the planet. According to BugGuide which sites DiscoverLife: “Springtails are probably the most abundant hexapods on Earth, with up to 250 million individuals per acre.” It probably came from the potting soil.
Letter 3 – Springtails from the UK
Subject: 1,000 species challenge
Location: Brighouse, West Yorkshire, England
January 12, 2015 6:57 am
Hello bug man. I have set myself a challenge to get a good photograph of 1,000 species of animal life before I die. Occasionally, as would be expected, I come across a few I cannot identify. I have just identified an elongate bodied springtail from photos on your website, but there are still 2 photographs from the same date I have not yet identified. I was wondering if you could help me identify them. The first (evil brown looking thing) was discovered under a rock with 2 woodlice, the elongate bodied springtail and a garden slug. The second (little yellow bug) was discovered under a damp piece of wood less than 50 meters away. There were several individuals, all very very small. I understand that I may not get a response, but I thank you all the same. God bless,
Signature: I’ve no idea what this field means
First we hope you are planning a long life that would extend beyond the 1000 species goal as that is not a terribly large number of species. We believe both of your images are of Springtails, even the “evil brown looking thing” which somewhat resembles the large Springtail in the image on the Royal Horticultural Society site. The yellow critter looks like a Globular Springtail which is pictured on the Matt Cole Photography site.
Thank you for your help. Having looked at images of your suggestions, I believe you are most likely right 🙂 Thank you very much. Yes, I know there are far more than 1,000 species out there, and I’d shoot them all if I could 😛 With your identifications, I have now reached 201 species. Thank you so much for taking the time to identify the bugs.
– Jay Zeke Malakai
Letter 4 – Springtails we believe
What is this bug???
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
November 16, 2011 4:52 pm
These tiny black bugs appeared outside of our garage door today. They are black and wingless. About the size of a pin. I have no clue what they are. Can you please help?
Your photo does not allow us to make out details of an individual insect, but we are nearly positive these are Springtails in the class Collembola. Springtails are benign insects, though they may become a nuisance in certain situations when they are plentiful. Springtails feed on decomposing vegetation and they are important because they break down organic matter which contributes to the production of humus in soil. They can be very plentiful in a compost pile where they are beneficial. You can read more about Springtails in our archives as well as on BugGuide.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Elongate Bodied Springtail
Need bug ID please
I’ve been doing reptile rescue/rehab for close to 30 years now. I’ve seen every mite, springtail, tick etc there probably is in snake enclosures. However today, I found a film of "dust" floating on the surface (none sank that I could see) of a baby Amazon tree boa’s water bowl. The enclosed photo is of 2 specks of the "dust" at 1600x plus whatever the zoom of my digital camera might have added. I can’t find any good photos of larvae stages of various mite species. Plus it only has 6 legs. The only other "bug" I regularly see in the snake cages other than springtails and occasionally reptile mites is some type of very small fly that dies off when the cages are dry but come back when they stay damp for a few days or when bowels move or when a snake sheds, they stick around till the shed dries. (We lovingly refer to these flies as "shed flies". We use permetherin to kill off mite infestations. Permetherin does not kill these flies …anyway, that’s another topic. What is this little bug the larvae, pupa or adult stage of? Any idea? I observed the one on the right sloughing. It appears the one on the left had already sloughed. I can see them a lot better directly through the microscope than you can see in the photos. Sorry about that. It’s the best I can do with the equipment I have. Thanks
This is one of the Elongate Bodied Springtails in the suborder Arthropleona. In our humble opinion, this is Podura aquatica, which, according to BugGuide is: “Semi-aquatic. Often found floating on the surface of small bodies of standing water such as ponds, as well as on stream and pond banks.”
Letter 2 – Globular Springtails
What are these?
Taken today (12/29/07) in SE CT in woodsy area on my daughters swingset. A warmer day where all the snow is melting. Picture is taken with 1:1 macro so very small – couldn’t even tell how many legs with the naked eye. There’s thousands and thousands of them on the swingset on the wood, slides, etc. Thought they were ticks at first and was very worried about Lyme’s disease, but they’re not ticks, right? Know what they are and if they’re harmful? Thanks,
We have gotten many images of Springtails to our site, and countless letters, but this is the first photo we have received of Globular Springtails in the suborder Symphypleona. They match images on BugGuide of Dicyrtomina ornata. Springtails can be very numerous, and are more of an annoyance than a threat. Springtails are primitive, minute wingless insects. Most species feed on molds, decaying vegetation and fungus. Some species are found on the surface of the snow and are called Snow Fleas.
Letter 3 – Globular Springtails
Little spider looking guys that float on water
February 8, 2010
I have found these guys floating on some standing water around my house. They seem to be mostly on the water, but also around it a little bit. They are quite small, as the one by my finger is one of the biggest ones. They seem to have a slight reddish or yellowish color to them. And they can scoot along the water QUITE speedily. They look like spiders and don’t appear to have wings. Not sure what they are! Can you help please!
These are Globular Springtails in the class Collembola and the order Symphypleona. BugGuide has a wonderful series of photos of a species that was identified as Dicyrtomina ornata that is very detailed. Alas, we are unable to identify which species of Globular Springtail you have discovered.
Letter 4 – Globular Springtail in Hawaii
Tiny Purple Spotted Bug – Hawaii
Location: Koolau Mountain Range, O’ahu, Hawaii
October 26, 2011 12:17 am
Picture taken Saturday, July 16, 2011 9am
Went hiking one morning with a friend. I wanted to take some nice pics of the moss growing on the moist cliffs. Set my camera to macro mode and got as close as I could. And to my surprise this cute little guy walks into view! Any idea what it’s called? Thanks!
This appears to be a Globular Springtail, and it looks very much like a species represented on BugGuide, Dicyrtomina ornata. We are not certain if it is a related species or the same species. According to BugGuide, it is “Very common in the UK. Probably an introduced species” in North America where it has been reported in the Pacific Northwest and the areas around New York.
Letter 5 – Globular Springtails
Subject: Small bugs all over the place
Location: Rockland County, New York
December 8, 2012 2:52 pm
Any idea what these small bugs are? There are hundreds of them all over my deck, sidewalk, and nearby trees. Some kind of aphids? Are they harmful?
You have Globular Springtails in the order Symphypleona, and though they may be a nuisance when they are plentiful, they are quite benign. Since they help break down organic matter, they should be considered beneficial. See BugGuide for additional information. There is more information on the Class Collembola page on BugGuide.
Letter 6 – Globular Springtail
Subject: What’s this bug?
Location: Seattle, Washington, USA
December 9, 2012 5:20 pm
I noticed an infestation of these in my dog’s outside poop bag receptacle. I also recently took him to the vet and they think he might have been bitten by something carrying Lyme Disease. Could these tiny things be the culprit?
Signature: Thank you, CZ
This is a marvelous photo of a harmless Globular Springtail. The worst that can be said of Springtails is that they are a nuisance when they are plentiful. Here is a posting from our archives that might represent your species.
Letter 7 – Globular Springtail from Canada
Subject: Please help identify this insect
Location: Vancouver BC Canada
February 6, 2013 7:34 pm
This insect arrived last summer out of nowhere and still remains even in winter. There are thousands of them on my plants. They hop pretty far for such a tiny insect all of 4mm long. Touch the wrong plant or walk through our arbor and will have hundreds of these on your face, in your hair, clothes, their nasty.
All of my Contoneaster have died but no other plants are even slightest bit stressed? And there on every plant, even a small Cedar hedge.
I’ll post picks, their brown, very tiny, they walk pretty quick and hop if you try to touch one.
If anyone could guide me in the direction or know what this insect is called I would appreciate it very much, thank you…
Signature: Thank you very much, Jim.
This looks like a benign Globular Springtail.
Daniel, thank you so much for this. You nailed it, now after some searching of a couple university extension sites, I am able to control this pesty little fella without spraying. I don’t need to eradicate, just lower the population level. Will definitely donate to help keep this site going!
Hello again Jim,
That was very kind of you. We wrote a quick response to you last night, but we generally do postings in the morning and we planned a more thorough response that addressed the Cotoneaster. We suspect that there might be a relationship between the appearance of the Springtails and the demise of the plants, though the Springtails are not responsible for the plants dying. The conditions that resulted in the death of the plants might be related to the soil, or the dead plants might be providing organic material to support the robust population of Springtails. They are beneficial insects that help break down organic matter into humus, but they can become a nuisance when conditions support a population explosion.
Daniel, thanks again. We had an unusual 3 month hot drought, even though I watered, I think it may have been the main cause for the Cotoneaster to die. But…I am only guessing at this point.
Letter 8 – Globular Springtail from Japan
Subject: Tiny forest bug
Location: Yakushima, Japan
March 24, 2016 2:02 pm
Hello bugman folks!
I spotted this little guy last July in the rain forest at an altitude of around 1,000m.
(S)He was less than an 1/8th inch. At first, I mistook it for a spider or a mite and I didn’t realize how cute he was until –with my curiosity spiked by the spikes on his back–I took a closeup photo. Now all I can say is, what’s this bug with the funny proboscis?
Many thanks and love for all you do to promote little critters!
This is a Globular Springtail in the Order Symphypleona from the Class Collembola, arguably the most plentiful Hexapods on the planet. You can see some similar images of Globular Springtails on Matt Cole Macro Photography.
Sweet! Thank you so much bugman!!!! I’m going to keep a lookout for more Globular Springtails!
Letter 9 – Globular Springtail
Subject: Is this a mite of some sort?
Location: Langley, BC Canada
November 14, 2016 8:01 pm
These little creatures have been crawling around on our metal stairway railing for days! Not sure where they came from or if they bite….or really what they are! Please help!
You have Globular Springtails, benign creatures that can become a nuisance when conditions are right for population explosions.
Letter 10 – Globular Springtail
Subject: Strange bug
Location: Southeastern USA
January 22, 2017 12:15 pm
I have these bugs on my porch rail. The jump but don’t bite that I know of
How can I get rid of them or are they that helpful to me?
They are considered beneficial in that they help to break down raw materials into nutritious soil, but if they are too numerous, they may be a nuisance. We do not provide extermination advice.
Letter 11 – Globular Springtail
Geographic location of the bug: Jackson, New Jersey USA
Time: 05:07 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi! Its currently 45° here in NJ, I dont understand how I have these tiny bugs all over the side of my garage and all over my deck. I cant tell if they fly or just move really fast but its freaking me out! Help! Do I need to call someone to spray? Thanks ! -Katy
How you want your letter signed: Katy
This is a Globular Springtail, a benign creature that might become a nuisance if it is too plentiful. They tend to proliferate when conditions are ideal, and then they seemingly vanish.
Letter 12 – Globular Springtail
Subject: Teeny Microscopic Beetle?
Geographic location of the bug: Suffolk County, New York
Time: 10:11 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: The clear photos are in a yellow bug light. The blurry photos are best capture of the color. The size they are 1mm big. Not sure if they are babies. They were moving to fast to get a clear photo. They were active both during the day and at night. They are on everything not just on leaves or plants. The photos are them on the railings. They are tons of them and they are everywhere. The current temperature is 43 degrees at 10pm. We live about a mile from a large river. (Carmens River) We shined a light on them so they have shadows. 1st photo is a side view. 2nd is a sideview, third is best photo of markings.
How you want your letter signed: Nicole
This is a Globular Springtail, a benign creature that might become a nuisance if it is too plentiful, a phenomenon that happens when conditions are ideal for reproduction. Interestingly, we are catching up on unanswered identification requests and we received this Globular Springtail request from New Jersey and this Globular Springtail request also from New Jersey on the same day you sent your request.
Letter 13 – Globular Springtails
Subject: Very Small Mottled Bugs on Front Steps
Geographic location of the bug: New Jersey
Time: 04:22 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi! I’m hoping you can help ID these bugs for me. There are hundreds of them on my front steps and they seem to jump when you get close to them. I saw something similar in past years on the snow and thought they were snow fleas but these look different under magnification. The temperature now is 52F. The pictures show them without magnification and under a 30x handheld microscope. I’m hoping you can help ID them. Thank you!
How you want your letter signed: Dave W.
We suspected, based on your excellent description, your location, the time of year and the temperatures, that you were inquiring about Globular Springtails even before opening your excellent images. They are benign creatures that can be a nuisance if they become too plentiful. For the record, Snow Fleas and Globular Springtails are both members of the same primitive class Collembola. You can find additional information on BugGuide.
Letter 14 – Globular Springtails
Subject: What kind of bug??
Geographic location of the bug: Outside my house. In Maryland. Minth of January and it’s currently around 51 degrees outside. Also, we’ve had some rain and it’s gloomy outside and possibly raining.
Time: 04:55 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: So this bug was found in my stagnant fountain that hasn’t been used in years. They are on everything. My siding, chairs, propane tank but not in the house. They are a community bug it seems and when disturbed, they jump. They aren’t fleas and don’t look like springtails in my opinion. Please help. They freak me out and I have no idea of where they come from or how.
How you want your letter signed: With a name