Springtails are known to feed on fungi, algae, or decaying organic matter. If you have a closed terrarium with live plants, springtails can be helpful in keeping the ecosystem clean and healthy. They also aerate the soil thus making air, moisture, and nutrients easily available to the plant roots.
Terrariums are typically enclosed, which means that the humidity level inside them can be very high. This provides a perfect environment for the growth of fungi. Mold in the terrarium can also result from decaying plant materials, overwatering and poor ventilation.
Springtails are small soil microorganisms about 1/12 -1/18 inches long. Since they chew their food internally, they are no longer classified as insects but as hexapods. They exist in a wide range of colors, from white, gray to black. Springtails do not have wings, so they hop like fleas.
Springtails prefer damp conditions and are often found in overwatered houseplant soils. Because of their small size, it can be difficult to spot or control them. However, springtails do not cause any serious damage to the plants and they don’t bite nor spread any disease.
It’s not common to see springtails during winter. They become active as soon as the ground begins to warm up in early spring and you can spot them around the bottom of the plants where snow has thawed. During summer, they tend to sneak into homes or gather in cool moist areas such as along the drain lines.
Springtails in terrariums benefits
Springtails are considered beneficial soil microorganisms and are often used in gardening programs. They are a popular addition to potting containers to help in improving the soil structure. However, not all tiny white bugs in houseplant soil are springtails.
Springtails are also introduced into terrariums to prevent the growth of mold and fungus. Their main source of food is the decaying organic matter, and this is where mold typically grows and thrives. Since they prefer moist conditions, this makes it easy to care for them while in a terrarium.
Springtails also aerate the soil as they burrow through it. They create tunnels and chambers in the soil allowing air and water to circulate more freely. This helps in improving the drainage and aeration of the soil, which is important in preventing root rot problems, especially in succulents.
As springtails break down decaying organic matter, nutrients are also released into the soil. This improves the soil fertility for better growth of plants. Therefore If you are considering adding springtails to your terrarium, I would recommend doing so.
Here are important tips for adding springtails to your terrarium:
- Purchase springtails from a reputable source. You can find them at nearby gardening centers or from most online retailers.
- Prepare your terrarium by adding a substrate that is suitable for them. You can use a mix of peat moss, sand, and perlite.
- Add the springtails to the terrarium a few of them at a time and increase their number as needed.
- Monitor the springtails regularly to make sure that they have enough food and water. You can add some decaying organic matter.
While springtails are beneficial in indoor gardening, they are not essential when creating an open terrarium for cacti and other succulents. With good draining soil and minimal watering, mold will hardly grow in such types of terrariums.
Can springtails get out of a terrarium?
Yes, springtails can climb out of a terrarium if it is left open. They are small and can easily squeeze through small openings in the jar or container. If you have a terrarium with springtails, it is important to keep it tightly sealed to prevent them from escaping.
If you notice that springtails have escaped from your terrarium, you can try to recapture them by placing a piece of damp cloth near the mouth of the container. The springtails will be attracted to the moisture and will likely get back into the terrarium.
While springtails are not harmful to humans or pets, they can be a nuisance if they start to multiply and spread throughout your home. When in large numbers, they spring into the air when disturbed creating visible clouds like the whiteflies.
However, their presence commonly indicates a moisture problem. In this case, you might need to make structural changes to correct the moisture issues and the bugs will disappear on their own. There are also other ways you can explore to get rid of springtails in your home.
How to get rid of springtails
There are a number of ways to get rid of springtails in your home. They include the following:
1. Remove sources of moisture
Springtails are attracted to damp conditions, so the first step to getting rid of them is to remove any sources of moisture in your home. This includes fixing leaky pipes, cleaning up water damage, clearing any decomposing organic matter, and dehumidifying the air.
2. Stop watering your plants
If the soil of your houseplant is the main source of springtails, cut back on watering to allow the soil to dry completely. Since springtails thrive in moist conditions, they will feel uncomfortable when the soil becomes dry and they will be forced to get out in search of a wet territory.
3. Use diatomaceous earth
Springtails are soft-bodied bugs and diatomaceous earth will easily kill them. This natural substance is abrasive and thus works by cutting through the insects’ exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate and die. You can sprinkle diatomaceous earth around your home, especially in areas where you have seen springtails.
4. Use organic pesticide
If you have a severe springtail infestation in your home, you may need to use an organic pesticide. I recommend neem oil or insecticidal soap. Neem oil will burn up the springtail’s outer coat and blocks its respiration. You may choose to add a few drops of the neem oil into your insecticidal soap for the best results.
5. Use bug screens
Springtails may enter your home through open windows, doors, and vents. They are attracted to cool indoor climates, especially as the outdoors dries. They may also be attracted to light in your homes. So be sure to keep these areas screened especially if you are in areas where infestations are persistent.
Since springtails are common in the soil of potted plants, always inspect the potting mixture of every new plant you intend to bring home. If the infestation persists, contact a professional pest control agency for further help.
Springtails are beneficial creatures that can be added to a closed terrarium or plant pot for the purpose of preventing mold. However, they can become a nuisance when their population gets out of control. Since they are attracted to moisture, keeping your home dry will discourage them.
PESTICIDES & PEST MANAGEMENT – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
How to Create and Care for a Terrarium – IOWA State University Extension
Guide to Growing Houseplants – University of Nebraska
My name is Diane M Lewik, and I am the founder of this website. I am a degree holder in plant biology from the University of California – Berkeley. Over years, I have cultivated a vast collection of succulents and I have learned a great deal about how to grow and care for these unique plants.