Spring Is For Springtails

Sunday February 25, 2007


Mr Pest Control


I am having a problem with springtails. Nothing I've tried seems to keep them gone for long. There is no apparent moisture source. Both homes with the ongoing problem have a slab foundation. We have taken off all the switch plates in the problem areas and dusted into the voids. It only helps temporarily. I have heard that you should treat up into weep screen(?), the point where the stucco meets the foundation. I plan on trying this on the next service. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Also, I have had 2 customers tell me that friends told them to place dryer fabric softener sheets around the yard to keep bees and wasps away. Have you heard anything about this? I have not personally talked with anyone who has done this. Thanks, Lee,

Mr Pest Control


Springtails become a major nuisance as the weather warms and all that winter dampness makes the landscape just dandy for them. Springtails love moisture, feeding on algae, fungus, and other bits of decaying organic material that can be found in moist locations. Inside a home they are not going to live very long unless they can find some moist situation to cling to, as the dryness of the home just is not conducive to their survival, and they certainly will not find anything to eat if it's too dry. However, they can run and bounce around for awhile indoors, and become just a bit of a nuisance. They also may be associated with potted plants, which we do keep watered and damp, so this resource should be investigated too. In my own bathroom - second floor - I am confident that the large potted plant next to the basins is the source of the regular onesy-twosy springtails on the counter in the mornings.

However, the problem generally begins outdoors, with springtail populations building in the spring and summer months in irrigated landscape. It's common as well for massive invasions of springtails suddenly to occur when their natural habitats dry out, and they all head to landscape or under structures to seek new moist habitats. The insects do manage to live through the winter in one stage or another, so the moment the weather warms they'll become active again, and after we finally got some rain this month in California, followed by some fabulous sunny days (sorry East Coast folks), why the bugs just couldn't wait to get out and get busy.

Chasing them down indoors, unless you can identify some sources, is probably a lot less effective than working from the outside. A lot of the fix will have to do with eliminating the habitats that allow them to survive and propagate, which means eliminating moisture and organic debris. Myself, I love a nice thick layer of mulch in my gardens, and guess what.....so do the springtails. So, we have choices to make, and if springtails are unbearable then eliminating the layers of mulch may be one remedy. Thick groundcovers, piles of lumber or firewood, yard debris, and anything else resting on the soil encourages springtails. Over-watered landscape makes them happy, and if there are low spots where water settles and sits this also provides springtails with food and habitat.

We probably do not want to eliminate springtails from the world, since they are vital components of a properly functioning environment. However, we do want to keep them out of the house, and this should be fairly possible. Create a cleared zone around the immediate structure so that these and many other insects and spiders are not comfy and happy right next to the structure. Keep it as dry as possible. Seal all obvious gaps and openings that do not need to exist. Then, treat with residual insecticides around the perimeter and into those cracks and crevices (like the stucco/foundation junction) to try to intercept any bugs that crawl into those places either to hide or to enter. Keep in mind though, that moisture control and habitat management are vital components of the control program.

On dryer sheets, yes I have heard before that they are touted as great ways to repel insects. I believe I heard it with respect to mosquito repelling. I have also heard a lot of other things that are outright frauds, such as the use of ultrasonic repelling boxes to chase away all manner of insects which, interestingly, are incapable of detecting such a sound. Almost seems like magic, doesn't it. I have no doubt that the odor of dryer sheets rubbed on the skin might be less attractive to a mosquito than skin that did not have that odor, but the hungry mosquito is not going to care. Pinning a bunch of these sheets around the yard, in my opinion, is not likely to make a noticeable dent in the presence of wasps or bees, and who knows - maybe the odor could even attract certain kinds of bugs. I believe this is one more effort to come up with home remedies for difficult problems, but it would not hold up to accurate and substantiated testing. The slight odor given off by some dryer sheets would probably drift away rapidly in a light breeze outdoors. Maybe if you used a LOT of them.....?

Mr. Pest Control

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