Are you trying to understand whether the infestation in your home is because of a springtail or a flea? Here’s how to differentiate springtail vs. flea in your home.
Dealing with pests at home can be a major indication that your home is damp. Of all the pests you need to worry about, fleas stand out as being the most annoying.
But most people confuse fleas with other insects such as springtails, flea beetles, and bed bugs. The most common of these are the springtails.
Actual fleas are a potential health hazard that you should immediately control. Springtails, on the other hand, are relatively less dangerous and do not transmit any diseases.
Today, we will look at these two common insects that every homeowner should be aware of.
How to Tell the Difference between Springtails and Fleas?
Springtails, more commonly known as snow fleas, are a common type of house insect. Springtails are small, wingless insects that are typically less than 1/8 of an inch in length.
They are normally white or gray but can also be black, brown, or yellow. Springtails have a spring-like appendage on their abdomen that allows them to jump long distances (hence the name “Springtail”).
Actual fleas are similar to the size of springtails. They are brownish-black in color and wingless with sharp piercing mouthparts, known as a proboscis.
They use this to pierce the skin of their host and feed off of them. They are also able to jump long distances because of their strong hind legs.
Biology and Habitat: Springtails
Springtails undergo simple metamorphosis, meaning that they do not have a pupal stage. Immature springtails (called larvae) look similar to adults but are smaller in size. After a few molts, the larvae develop into adults.
Springtails reproduce sexually, but some species can also reproduce via parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction). In most cases, males and females produce eggs that hatch into larvae. However, some species of springtails are capable of giving birth to live young.
You can find springtails in almost every habitat on Earth. This includes the Arctic tundra, deserts, rainforests, and even under the sea.
In a domestic environment, damp environments such as leaf litter, soil, plumbing leaks, rotting wood, and compost piles make the ideal conditions for springtails. These pests feed on any dead matter and plant materials that have fallen on the ground.
Biology and Habitat: Fleas
The biology of fleas is also quite fascinating. These small, wingless insects are also well-known for their ability to jump long distances and bite humans and animals.
Fleas use a different mechanism to jump than springtails. They release an elastic pad made from a protein called resilin to jump into the air.
Fleas can live anywhere from two weeks to two years, depending on the species. The female flea lays her eggs in soft, dark places where her host sleeps or rests. The eggs hatch into larvae within a few days.
The larvae then spin cocoons, and at the pupal stage, they are sheltered inside their own cocoon. After about two weeks, the adult fleas emerge from the cocoons and begin looking for a host.
You can typically find fleas in warm and humid environments, just like springtails. They often hide in cracks and crevices or carpeting and bedding. You can also spot fleas in leaky pipes and potted plants, where they tend to thrive.
Damage and Health Implications: Springtail
Springtails can multiply quickly in damp environments and organic matter. This is why homes with damp walls and places are the perfect place for them.
These insects damage insulation, carpeting, clothing, and other fabrics by feeding on them. They can also contaminate food and cause allergies in some people. They do not, however, transmit any harmful diseases to humans.
Damage and Health Implications: Fleas
Fleas can be more damaging than springtails, given that they are bloodsucking parasites. These insects pierce the skin of their host to feed on their blood.
This can cause irritation and discomfort for the animal, as well as anemia, if a large number of fleas are present.
You can find fleas in potted plants, which makes it easier for them to jump between plant leaves. If you find your pets scratching themselves too much, it could be a sign that they have a flea problem.
Flea bites can be painful and itchy and may even lead to secondary infections. In some cases, fleas can transmit tapeworms to both pets and humans.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do springtails jump like fleas?
Yes. The name springtail comes from the spring-like appendage that helps them jump long distances. Similar to fleas, they can jump from one surface to another quickly.
However, their mechanism of jumping is very different from that of fleas – they use a spring-like appendage called furcula to jump.
Fleas, on the other hand, use a different mechanism, a spring-like pad made of protein that can propel them forwards.
Are springtails hard to get rid of?
Springtails can be fairly difficult to get rid of once they have become established in an area. This is because they can reproduce very rapidly and can quickly jump from one plant to another.
Do springtail fleas bite?
There is no scientific evidence that springtail fleas bite humans. However, some people report experiencing a sharp pinch when a springtail flea comes into contact with their skin.
Do springtails jump on humans?
No, springtails do not jump on humans. These tiny creatures are quite harmless and are more likely to be found in moist conditions such as gardens or near sources of water.
Be it springtail or flea; if you suspect an infestation, there is no reason to wait around for it to get worse. Both insects can cause harm to your home and health.
It is important to keep a check and take care of your home. Thank you for reading, and look out for the signs under the corners!
Over the years, our readers have sent us several emails on this topic. Please go through them below!
Letter 1 – Mite and Springtail
Subject: Bug Identification
Location: Bronx, New York
October 2, 2016 10:21 pm
I just had a issue with my dog and fleas.. I took him to the vet and had all the appropriate procedures done. I also sprayed petlock indoors spray around his bedding area and all corners of the bedroom under the bed and in cracks and crevasses. While inspecting the area I saw these two types on insects near the crevasses on my wood floor. I’m hoping you can help me identify the species, are they harmful and what can I do to eradicate them.
I’ve included some macro shots and zoomed in at 300%. Hope that helps.
Signature: Rick G.
One of your tiny creatures appears to be a Mite. Though many Mites are considered harmless, and some predatory species are considered beneficial, there are also many species that can cause problems to people and pets. Bird Mites proliferate in the nests of birds like pigeons that may be in your eaves, and once the fledglings fly off, hungry Mites might enter the home in search of blood or other food. Other Mites infest stored foods. Scabies are a type of Mite. We have also received reports of Mites on computers. Alas, we are unable to provide you with a species identification on the Mite. You second creature appears to be a benign Springtail, though when they are plentiful, Springtails can be a nuisance in the home.
Letter 2 – Springtail, NOT Booklouse
Please help me figure out what these bugs are! I recently moved from NY to NC and was warned that there are alot of bugs down here – I just didnt thing I would be dealing with them so quickly! I moved into a new-build house about a week ago and the day before yesterday noticed these tiny tiny little blackish bugs on my laundry room floor. I now also have them along the back wall in my kitchen. Upon inspection of my patio, which is on the other side of that wall, I was appalled to find hundreds of these bugs. They do not fly and they stay on the floor – they dont crawl up on table legs, walls, cabinets etc. I initially thought, after looking through your site, that they might be springtails but these bugs do not jump like people were saying springtails do. Please help me find out what these are and how to get rid of them – the bug spray i bought did nothing! I am getting the weeby-geebies!! Thank you!
Ed. Note: We incorrectly identified these Springtails as Booklice, but then the following letter arrived and corrected our error.
Correction: (05/26/2008) not a book louse
After looking closely, I think that your book louse is a collembola. … at the top of the page, the dark bug facing left on a white background. I think this because I’m looking at both under a scope at the moment. Check out the antennae – lots of medium-length segments, like a collembola, rather than a short scape and long thin flagellum like a book louse – and the shape of the head, which seems much more like a collembola as it is not wider at the base than the tip, the way a book louse is. FWIW,
Liz D. (small bug newbie)
Letter 3 – Springtails
Subject: Tiny purple flea like bugs
Location: Gold Bar, WA
January 15, 2013 1:01 am
These tiny flea like bugs show up each winter, trillions of them! They collect in large clusters seemingly attracted to light colored objects, hopping on them. They creep us out and we wonder if they can be harmful to us or our animals. When clustered up they appear a very dark purple color. Hope you can help us identity these things. Thanks
Signature: Eric Inan
You have Springtails, and population explosions like this might be a nuisance, but they are not dangerous.
Letter 4 – Springtails
Subject: Miniscule Purple Water Bugs Congregation
Location: Palos Verdes, CA
March 20, 2013 5:12 pm
Hi, it’s Darlene, the insect wrangler from last year’s moth night. I found these bugs in January in Palos Verdes, CA at the Forrestal Reserve. It was a chilly and foggy day. They were chillin’ in a depression / hole in a sulfur-covered boulder. They jumped when touched. They were so small that I couldn’t identify any characteristics. Are they water fleas or maybe springtails?
How nice to hear from you again. These are most certainly Springtails, and they resemble the individuals from this posting on BugGuide which were found in nearby Torrance. We are beginning to plan another National Moth Night event and we hope you can join us again. Stay tuned for details.
Oh, they’re at the marsh. I’ve never seen them there before. I was there yesterday as a docent in training. I live in Torrance. I know the man who took the picture; Emile Fiesler.
We are happy we are able to act as a bug networking source. Perhaps Emile can show you where he took the photograph and you can see if there are any Springtails there this year. When conditions are right in a region, insect populations will appear in predictable patterns.
Letter 5 – Springtails
Subject: Thousands of bugs on forest floor
Location: Eatonville, Washington
August 17, 2013 2:17 am
After a long hot dry spell…. Our normal Northwest rain returned for a few days (not unheard of in August in Washington) bringing with it stifling humidity. Living in the foothills of Mt. Rainier on a piece of densely forested land, we often walk the trails on our property… Finding interesting thing along the way.
Initially we thought the purple/gray patch we saw on the forest floor was a ”new” fungus and bent down to take a picture for ID (we often do this)…. Well, upon closer inspection it was not a fungus at all but thousands of little purplish gray ”bugs”. We have never seen them before and have know idea what they could be. I have searched the Internet with no luck. Please Bug man help me ID these little creatures 🙂
While we cannot make out any individual insects in your photo, your description indicates that this is most likely a Springtail population explosion. Springtails are benign creatures that feed on decaying organic matter and they are important decomposers in the ecosystem.
Letter 6 – Springtails
Subject: Bug ID needed
Location: Northeast Wisconsin
October 6, 2013 1:47 pm
We live in NE Wisconsin and after a full day of rain there are these tiny, tiny black bugs crawling along the siding and cement patio. They don’t fly, but they do smell. When you try to sweep them up, they swarm back together. They constantly look like a black spot is moving. I tried hosing them down, but they don’t seem to drown. I tried sweeping them away from the water and drying them out in the sun with no luck. I don’t want them in the house.
What to do and what are they?
It is impossible to make out individual creatures in your photos, but we believe these are Springtails, primitive hexapods that often appear in prodigious numbers when conditions are ideal. They like damp conditions. Springtails are benign creatures that can become a nuisance if they are plentiful. They help to break down organic matter and they are actually beneficial.
Letter 7 – Springtails
Subject: millions of tiny black bugs, what are they?
Location: northwest washington, USA
February 20, 2014 11:00 pm
Recently i found an infestation of bugs outside, and i have never seen anything like it. A log appeared to be black, and i didn’t know why. When i got closer to it, i discovered that the entire log was covered in tiny black bugs.
they appear to have 6 legs, and antennae. All over the internet i’ve been unable to find any answer as to what these are.
Roughly 2mm in size, found in february – 2 different occasions in the past two weeks, but during freezing weather, snow, and rain. They showed up in areas that were rained on – logs, ground, sidewalk – and i didn’t find any on the dry logs underneath the shed’s roof.
i was unable to get the best quality photos, but these are two macro shots of the bugs. Just imagine a solid layer of poppy seeds when viewed at a normal distance.
You discovered Springtails, and though they are benign, they can become a nuisance if conditions are right and they multiply.
1 thought on “Springtail vs. Flea: Explained”
I love that I get called “gentle reader” every time a post pops up.