An abundance of springtails

Very few species of springtails are regarded as crop pests around the world.

There have been numerous enquiries regarding springtails from growers and advisors this season.

The same autumn-winter conditions that have favoured the build-up of lucerne flea, has also resulted in large numbers of other springtails.

What are springtails?

Springtails (Collembola) are one of the most abundant of all macroscopic invertebrates.

They are frequently found in leaf litter and other decaying material, as well as gathering in rafts on the surface of puddles.

Springtails are wingless, soft-bodied and have antennae.

Their body shape can range from globular to elongated.

The common name springtail is attributed to the forked-appendage underneath their abdomen, which enables them to jump off vegetation when disturbed.

Mostly detritivores

The most infamous springtail in broadacre crops and pastures is the lucerne flea (Sminthurus viridis), known for creating holes and windows in leaf foliage.

Despite the notoriety of lucerne flea as an agricultural pest, most springtail species are primarily detritivores (they feed on dead organic matter) and are generally no cause for concern.

In previous years, we have identified the springtail, Entmobrya unostrigata, feeding on legume and oilseed seedlings. This species belongs to the Family Entomobryidae and is known to be an occasional pest of field crops and pastures. It is a slender insect, approximately 2-3 mm long when adults. We have not yet seen this species in samples sent to us this season.

Those species (except lucerne flea) that occasionally feed on crop seedlings are very unlikely to cause economic injury and should not be­ a concern to growers.

Diversity, diversity, diversity

There are thousands of springtail species, which come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours.

The most commonly observed in crops and pastures in south-eastern Australia is the ‘purple scum’ springtail, from the family Hypogastruridae. These elongate purple springtails are reported every year.

This season globular purple-blue springtails have also been reported to us from Victoria’s Northern Country in a rye and shaftal clover pasture.

Very abundant critters

Under the right conditions, the population size of springtails is quite staggering. It is not uncommon to find populations exceeding 100,000 per m2 in some paddocks.

While these numbers can at first seem ‘alarming’, the vast majority of species do not feed on plant material.


Field reports

Alistair Crawford – ADAMA Australia (Wimmera, VIC)

Ellen Grinter –  Advanced Ag (Northern Country, VIC)

Tony Kelly – Advanced Ag (Northern Country, VIC)

Matthew Sparke – Sparke Agricultural & Associates (Mallee, VIC)

Cover image: Photo by Andrew Weeks, Cesar Australia

What is Pestfacts south-eastern?

PestFacts south-eastern keeps growers and advisers informed about invertebrate pests and beneficials in broadacre crops and pastures during the winter-cropping season in Victoria and southern New South Wales.


Never miss a beat. Get articles, advice and more straight in your inbox.

Since 2019 PestFacts south-eastern has been running through IPMforGrains: Best Practice Insect Pest Management, a project delivered by the National Pest Information Network (Cesar Australia, DPIRD, QDAF, NSW DPI, and SARDI). This project aims to provide grain growers and advisors with information on invertebrate grain pest occurrence and equip industry with the knowledge needed to implement integrated pest management practices. This initiative is a GRDC investment and includes in-kind contributions from all project partner organisations.

The online PestFacts south-eastern collection also includes a selection of articles published between 2015 – 2018 when the service was run through a previous GRDC investment, The National Pest Information Service.

PestFacts south-eastern is supported by