Ent 462 - Orders of Hexapoda

Collembola - Springtails

(>6K spp. in ~20 families)

[no wings as adults; caudal appendage designed for jumping (consists of furcula & tenaculum); adults may continue to molt]

Side diagram of an entomobryiid springtail showing the three pairs of legs and furcula (tail spring).

Sminthurid collembolans have rounded bodies and a little knapsack like structure on the tip of the abdomen. They are commonly seen on the foliage of plants.

What other jumping insect might a home owner mistake springtails for?

Typical entomobryid collembolan.

Side view of an onychiurid collembolan showing furcula.

NOTES:

Springtails are generally very small insects that are elongate (except for the Sminthuridae which are round) and usually have a forked appendage, the furcula, that arises from the lower side of the fifth abdominal segment. The furcula is usually folded under the abdomen and the prongs of the fork are held in place by a clasplike structure on the third abdominal segment, the tenaculum. When the tenaculum is released, the furcula springs open to propel the springtail into the air. The underside of the first abdominal segment contains a barrel shaped structure, the collophore. This structure is believed to be either a holdfast organ or is involved with moisture absorption.

Springtails are extremely common in soils and in leaf litter. They can feed on decaying organic matter, fungi, algae, and some even prey on nematodes. Some live on the surface of water where they apparently feed on algae and others, called snowfleas, can cover the surface of melting snow. Snowfleas may feed on algae or simply surface to mate in the winter.

There are 300 to 400 species of springtails in North America and over 6,000 species worldwide. There are 12 families of springtails in the United States.

Want More?

Collembola.org (a very complete web site on all the families with references to all aspects of springtails).

Tree-of-Life Project (with some pretty good close-up pictures).