Do not confuse springtails with other pests
Kyran Brooks (Nutrien Ag Solutions) recently found springtails in a canola crop near Jerramungup. The canola was at the cotyledon growth stage. The springtails were identified as members of the Poduridae family. They are purple in colour.
Other springtail species can be white in colour. A grower at Buntine has found springtails from the Family Entomobryidae in a freshly sown canola paddock. These springtails are also known as slender springtails.
Springtails belong to the order Collembola. Although they are in the same group as the pest lucerne flea, they are not a pest and feed mainly on micro-organisms such as fungi, bacteria, algae and yeasts on the soil. They do not normally feed directly on sterile, dead or live organic matter, and decomposer micro-organisms are necessary to stimulate feeding.
Springtails are wingless insects with antennae on their heads, three pairs of tiny legs, and a springing organ on their underside. This acts as a defensive organ, allowing springtails to evade predators and flick them quite large distances. They have softer bodies than other insects and this makes them vulnerable to desiccation. They react to dry conditions by going into a state of suspended animation or survive as drought-resistant eggs.
The forked springing organ can be seen on the rear of the body behind the last pair of legs.
Springtails live in air-filled pores, mainly in the top 10cm of soil, in the leaf litter layer, dung pats, compost heaps, and any rotting animal and plant matter.
They can occur in very high numbers. Heavy rain flushes springtails out of their air-filled pockets in the soil.
For more information on springtails refer to the CSIRO Collembola: springtails page.
How to identify insects
Growers and consultants can use the PestFacts WA Reporter app to take clear, close up images of unknown insects found in crops and pastures, and plant symptoms, if applicable, and request a diagnosis.
DPIRD has a range of trained entomologists and taxonomists to assist growers and consultants with identifying insects.
Incorrectly diagnosing a non-pest insect as a pest may result in unnecessary spraying if there are no other damaging pests present.
For more information and tips on identifying insects refer to GRDC’s I SPY manual.
For more information contact research scientist Svetlana Micic, Albany on +61 (0)8 9892 8591.
Article authors: Cindy Webster (DPIRD Narrogin) and Svetlana Micic (DPIRD Albany).