Collembola
Springtails (Order Collembola) Image: Andrew Howells
Australian Museum

Springtails belong to the Order Collembola.


What do springtails look like?

Size:

  • Usually 1 mm - 3 mm in length, though some grow to 10 mm.

Body:

  • Globular or column-like.
  • Has a siphon tube just behind the rear legs. This tube is prominent in springtails that a reduced springing organ.
  • Appears soft.

Antennae:

  • Bead-like, or thread-like.
  • Rarely longer than body.

Eyes:

  • Absent or very small.

Mouthparts:

  • Enclosed within the folds of the head (difficult to see).

Wings:

  • Absent.

Limbs:

  • Six legs usually short and stumpy.

Abdomen tip:

  • Forked springing organ or anal spine (often folded under the abdomen).

Where are springtails found?

  • Anywhere.
  • Most are found in soil, amongst leaf litter, or around decomposing logs, dung or root zones.
  • Often seen after heavy rain as a dark purple scum on the top of puddles.

What do springtails do?

  • They often group together in large numbers.
  • When disturbed they spring (jump) erratically, sometimes over large distances.
  • Most springtails eat microflora such as bacteria and fungi, decaying plant and animal material or graze other plant related surfaces.
  • Some are also known to eat waste products from other insects or even their own.
  • A small number are predators, pollen-feeders, or plant feeders.
  • They are active during the day and night.

What looks similar?

  • Springtails are very distinctive so are not generally confused with any other animal.