It’s usually this time of year we get many calls for tiny masses of bugs that are covering bathroom or kitchen floors. We hardly need to even go out to take a look once the caller says they think they are fleas because they ‘hop’. Immediately we know that these are most likely springtails and it’s a call that can prove to be very difficult to deal with. Second we dread the call, these things can be very difficult to locate and even if we find them, it is at times just as hard to treat.
First a few facts;
Springtails get their name because they do indeed hop or “spring” away when approached. They do not fly but they have a tiny appendage called a furcula which propels them with a catapult type motion when the sense danger. The hopping resembles that of a flea so this is where some confusion comes in. They do not bite and are harmless however their sheer numbers cause panic for the home owner who suddenly finds tens of thousands of these tiny creatures all across their bathroom floor. They spread no known disease and they eat things like mold, fungus, spores, organic material and little children. Naw I made that up they really are harmless:) Springtails do NOT come up from a drain unless of course yours has a crack or is broken and allows them to enter the home this way. You may see many of them in the drain or in a tub or sink but that’s because they are attracted to moisture and were looking to get back to it. It’s not uncommon to find many different sized and shaped springtails even in the same colony as this is how they develop. This tiny creature is very hardy and can withstand cold temperatures and has been known to emerge on warm winter days and is sometimes called the ‘snow flea.’ Sringtails can live in mulch, in your walls, in your soil or under the slab. When the moisture dries up the springtails simply move toward another more suitable location. Basically anywhere moisture is plentiful and constant is susceptible to a springtail colony. Hint; They are very adept at living under slabs.
Locating the springtail colony
Finding the colony is key and that’s usually not to far from where they’ve emerged. If you can narrow down your location you may be able to take simple steps to eradicate this bug. Looking for the moisture source near the infestation site will help but it is not always so easy to find. Pipes under the slab often times offer moisture with condensation and you may need a moisture meter to detect it. Wood siding may ‘wick’ up moisture if it is to close to the soil and this may lead to an infestation in the wall voids. A/C drip lines often produce a steady stream of water especially during the summer months. Heavy mulch or peat will hold moisture and give them a food source and sprinklers that are misdirected to hit the home can provide this all important need as well. It is not always obvious and at times can be very frustrating and you’ll swear that you have no moisture problem at all but the bugs keep coming. Let me assure you, they are there because of the moisture and unless you find it, treat the colony or dry it out you will be fighting a losing battle for years to come.
Treating the springtail
Obviously the best option is to dry them out whether it means dialing back the sprinkler system, turning the mulch, diverting the a/c line or what have you, this will always be your best option. Along with the moisture modification you can treat the inside area with a residual insecticide which should work rather nicely. (almost anything you’d use for a roach will suffice-read the label of course) Outside you should use a granule barrier such as Talstar or Bifen and that may be your best bet. Pro’s might rod or probe the soil with special tools to create a deeper barrier for more immediate relief.
If however you determine they are under a patio or bathroom slab you may be in for a more costly and dramatic treatment which is much
like treating for termites. A hammer drill can be used to drill holes in the slab and then injectors would treat the soil beneath. This approach is risky because getting the wrong spot is useless and any remaining springtails may just move to another location under the slab and it’s back to square one. Most customers do not opt for this approach because of the cost and our sometimes futile attempts can go on year after year.
Caulking small cracks in the baseboards can sometimes seal them out and make sure to pay special attention around the tubs and showers as this is a very common spot. Pointing a fan towards the area will sort of keep them in check and also helps to dry out the room and dehumidifiers can be helpful to draw moisture out as well and with any luck your springtails may just move on. You could even try to saturate a spot with water just outside the home just away from the foundation. This may lure many of them out to your wet area and you could zap them with your granule or lawn insecticide. Mean trick I know but it has been known to work.
I’m sure some of you reading this have tried almost all of these things but to no avail. This is a testament of the hardy little springtail that can be so difficult to get rid of. Make sure that when the exodus comes to an end for the season that you don’t give up trying to make life as dry as possible for this hoppy little bugger.