Is it a bird, or is it a plane? No, it’s a springtail! That’s right, folks, we have a new superman in town, and it is about 8/100th of an inch in size! Let’s answer the question: how do springtails jump in the blog below?
Springtails are hexapod insects of the class Collembola. There are over 8,200 generic species of springtails classified under hexapods. They are also known as snow fleas because they can survive extremely cold environmental conditions.
These small black jumping bugs have an elongated body, six jointed appendages, and a distinguishing organ at the tip of their body called furca or furcula.
And yes, springtails can jump. These tiny black bugs that bite and jump have been an interesting test subject for entomologists around the world for this very reason.
While we still do not fully understand the mechanism of how they jump, many studies have tried to understand the motion and the mechanics behind it.
In this blog, we look at how springtails jump.
Do Springtails Jump?
Springtails can do many things, including walking, running, and climbing. But they are best known as tiny black bugs that jump fast.
They have a specialized organ called furca, which you can find in their abdomen (towards the posterior end of their body). This organ helps them jump.
If you are wondering why they need to jump, they most often do it to avoid predators.
How Do Springtails Jump?
But why is the furcula spring-like? Well, that’s still a mystery.
What’s clear is that springtails use almost their entire body to jump; they use the furca, the endoskeleton, the exoskeleton, muscles, and tendons in this process. Talk about coordinated acrobatics!
All body parts work together to make the body optimal for the trajectory motion. However, how exactly the jump happens is not quite clear yet.
When this tiny tan jumping bug is in the resting position, the furca is in a groove along its abdomen. When it wants to jump, the furca extends out, and its spring-like action causes the jump.
The insect compresses its furca like a spring till it reaches a critical point. Then the entire potential energy is converted into kinetic energy in the form of a high jump.
Some studies show that there might be the muscles and the springtail’s endoskeleton responsible for the spring-like property of the furca.
However, other experiments conducted by scientists Brackenbury and Hunt revealed that there is a phenomenon called hemocoel pressurization in the insect’s abdomen, which leads to the jump.
This substance creates a hydraulic force, which in turn creates tension in the outer abdominal plates of the springtail. This tension leads to a spring-like mechanism that helps the insect jump forward in the air.
Do Springtails Fly?
This tiny bug that jumps does not fly, but it does run, walk and even climb. You might get confused between their flight and jump because their jumps are quite spectacular.
Despite being about 8/100th of an inch in size, they can jump a distance of over several inches. That’s like a normal grown man jumping a ten-story building! To an innocent bystander, it sure looks like they are flying.
However, they cannot fly; they don’t have any wings. They are just jumping so high that it looks like they are flying. Springtails can jump both high and far.
Do Springtails Have Wings?
Like many other members of the phylum Arthropoda, springtails do not possess the two sets of wings attached to their thorax, which is necessary for flying. All they have is this amazing ability to jump, and they make the most of it.
Do They Bite?
Springtails do not bite humans. In the odd scenario, when they do bite, they do not cause any irritation to your skin. They love to live in those damp and moist places of your home, under the kitchen sink and in the water pipes, so you probably won’t even see them often.
However, springtails reproduce quickly, so it is possible to get a big infestation if your house is in an area where the air is humid.
Springtails do not damage potted plants but are attracted to organic matter such as leaf litter and moldy wood. Removing these can help you get rid of springtails.
To get rid of springtails, you need to clean near the area of anything that absorbs water, such as litter, wet wood, etc. You need to check your plumbing for leaks so that you don’t give these critters a comfortable home.
You can also call in pest experts, who eliminate adult springtails by vacuuming the walls, especially the damp ones.
They then follow it up by cleaning and drying the walls and floors of your house. They also spray chemicals to kill adult springtails and their eggs around the house.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do springtails jump on humans?
If you have a damp house, springtails will inhabit the walls, carpets, and even beds of your house.
But they usually do not jump on humans or bite them. They are not known to infest human skin or damage any furniture in a house.
Do springtails move fast?
Yes, springtails can move fast. They can cover a distance that is almost 100 times their length in one jump. They can do so by using their furcula.
Will springtails ever go away?
Springtails are pests, and removing them from your house is a tedious job. It’s best to seek professional help who might help you fix the moisture level of your house and plumbing and treat the infected area with chemicals.
How do you find a springtail nest?
Springtails do not make any nests for themselves. You can find them in clusters in any moist and damp area of your house or on leaf litter, moist wood and bark of a tree, and under the pots of plants.
Springtails are nuisance pests that might invade your home but will not cause skin irritations or damage your furniture.
They use their furculum to jump large distances (compared to their size). Scientists have been debating the mechanism of the jump for quite a few years now.
But all of them agree that an elastic element exists at the base of the furcula.
Most studies also agree that the entire body assists the springtail in its unique jumping motion. Thank you for reading about these marvellous creatures, and we hope you learned a bit about how they jump!
Over the years, our readers have sent us several emails on this topic. Please go through them below!
Letter 1 – Tiny Bugs That Jump When You Try to Kill Them May Be Springtails
Springtails are tiny bugs that love moist areas (your kitchen sink, bathtub or swimming pool). They jump when disturbed. So if you try to kill them, it will appear that they are jumping as a response to that.
Springtails are harmless.
But because of their nature to congregate (it is not uncommon to see thousands in damp places or on rotting wood), they can appear fearsome at worst and a nuisance at best.
While it is common to find springtails outdoors, they tend to move inside the home as their natural conditions outside become drier.
We received this email in May of 2004.
Subject – Flea like bugs that jump but are not fleas
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.
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.
Letter 2 – Springtail
Subject: What’s That Bug! — Super Small Edition
Location: Bay Area, California
February 5, 2016 4:49 pm
Hello! Thanks for all your passion of the field you share online. Thought I’d add one to the mix for fun.
We’ve been seeing two or three of these very small insects on our bathroom counter every day (second floor). Our apartment is surrounded by gardens, and within reasonable proximity to water.
I’ve seen the bugs jump quick magnificently, but I don’t think they can fly. For reference, my pointer finger is in the shot (30 year-old male). So yes, they’re small. Any guesses?
Thanks for your time!
This is an Elongate Bodied Springtail in the order Entomobryomorpha and probably the family Entomobryidae, the Slender Springtails. You can see some similar images on BugGuide. Springtails are considered benign creatures, though when they are plentiful, they may pose a nuisance, especially indoors.
Letter 3 – Orange Springtails
Subject: Tiny orange bugs
Location: Everett, WA
April 20, 2016 7:31 am
These are all over our garden boxes! What on earth are they?!(you have to zoom in on the picture……tons and tons of tiny orange bugs)
These are most surely Springtails in the order Collembola, and we did a search for orange Springtails in Washington, which led us to the BugGuide image of a single tiny individual in the genus Tomocerus. Springtails are benign creatures that can be a nuisance if they are too plentiful. According to BugGuide: “Springtails are ‘decomposers’ that thrive mostly on decaying organic matter, especially vegetable matter. They may also graze on spores of molds and mildews, especially indoors where there is a lack of other food sources.”
Letter 4 – Springtails
April 13, 2010
We were hiking the highest ridge in Friedrich Wilderness Park, just northwest of San Antonio, when we encountered a large swarm of small black insects covering the limestone rocks. This is the video I took of their swarming behavior: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALFe1ul5Qa4
This was in early January, but the weather was unseasonably warm, probably near 70 degrees F. It was late afternoon, and the trails were very muddy from recent rains. The altitude there is about 1200′.
The insects themselves were very small, maybe 1/8″ long. I couldn’t get any idea of their appearance until I zoomed in on the digital pictures I took–it should be Image 2 here.
I sent this same information to a local entomologist, but never got a reply 🙁
Northwest of San Antonio, TX
You had an encounter with Springtails, most likely in the genus Hypogastrura, which includes Snow Fleas and which can be viewed on BugGuide. Snow Fleas can be found on sunny days during the winter, often congregating on the surface of the snow. Entomologists are often quite busy with their jobs, but amateurs like us do this as a labor of love.
Letter 5 – Springtail
Location: Under dog’s water bowl
March 25, 2011 12:31 pm
What’s this bug & why do they live under my dog’s water bowl? This photo is 400 times magnification. How do I get rid of them?
You have Springtails which are often associated with moist or damp conditions. It is probably moist or damp under your dog’s water bowl. Springtails are benign creatures that feed on mold and mildew spores so they might actually be considered beneficial in the home, or at least they would indicate that there might be a problem with mold or mildew. We do not provide extermination advice.
Letter 6 – Springtails
Root Aphids or…?
Location: Madison, WI – USA
September 18, 2010 5:03 pm
First off, thank you for providing this service. I work at a hydroponics shop and recently I’ve been seeing more and more of these little white bugs in our reservoir. I’ve been told that they are Root Aphids or Root mites. I don’t believe they are root mites. I’ve looked online and in a few books but have never been able to confirm what they are. Any Ideas? The pic I attached is the closest img I can find. I tried to take a pic through a magnifying glass but had no success. They live in water and I’ve seen thousands of them in a res.
You have submitted a photo of what many people consider to be among the most common terrestrial creatures, Springtails. Springtails are quite primitive, and recent taxonomy has reclassified them by taking them out of the class Insecta and placed them in the class Collembola. According to BugGuide: “Springtails are probably the most abundant hexapods on Earth, with up to 250 million individuals per acre.” Springtails are benign creatures that will not harm plants and are actually beneficial because of the role they play in the creation of fertile humus in soil. BugGuide also indicates: “Springtails are ‘decomposers’ that thrive mostly on decaying organic matter, especially vegetable matter. They may also graze on spores of molds and mildews, especially indoors where there is a lack of other food sources.“
Letter 7 – Springtails!
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?
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.
Letter 8 – Springtails
They are everywhere.
April 17, 2010
There are thousands of these in the yard. I find them on the concrete, bricks, and in the soil. The larger ones are about 1.5mm long, by .5mm wide. Fast movers too. I spent 20 minutes waiting for one to stop long enough for me to get a decent picture.
Vince Grgas, San Pedro CA.
Southern Los Angeles area
This is a Springtail, and we applaud your patience and perseverance in getting this remarkably clear image of a tiny, rapidly moving creature. Springtails are primitive insects, though they were recently reclassified out of the class Insecta and into their own class Collembula which may be viewed on BugGuide. True insects, Springtails, and some other creatures with six legs are collectively called Hexapods, and the Discover Life website indicates: “Springtails have the widest distribution of any hexapod group, occuring throughout the world, including Antarctica. They are probably the most abundant hexapods on Earth, with up to 250,000,000 individuals per square acre. They are found in soil, leaf litter, logs, dung, cave, shorelines, etc. There are about 6000 known species.” Springtails are important components in the breakdown of organic matter into humus, and they are frequently encountered in compost piles in astronomical numbers.
Letter 9 – Springtails
What are these guys?
April 23, 2010
This morning, after a rain, I found these tiny insects congregating in or near puddles in the driveway and walk. They are little specks, gnat size. What are they? Never noticed them before. We are south of Fort Worth, TX.
Though we cannot make out the individual insects in your photograph, we are certain these are Springtails which sometimes congregate in great numbers after a rain. Springtails are not a cause of concern.
Letter 10 – Springtails
From searching on your site I believe the bugs I saw last week on Mt. Tamalpais, here in Marin County are springtails. They were clustered in a band about a foot wide in a circle about 8 feet in diameter. I took a short video clip that shows them springing about. If you can confirm the ID I’d appreciate it. Thank you,
You are absolutely correct. These are Springtails. We are not sure what family, genus or species however.