Spring Tails: Q & A

By Chris Williams on December 15, 2010.

Q. We had a roof leak that apparently dripped unnoticed into a little used closet. When I opened it the other day, there was a strong musty smell and a bunch of tiny insects in the corner that seemed to hop! We don’t have any pets. If they’re not fleas, what are they and will they invade the rest of my house?

A. You are probably dealing with one of our common “moisture pests.”  These tiny insects are called springtails because they do jump. They have a tail-like appendage at the back of their abdomen that they use to launch themselves into the air—not very high for us, but high for a springtail!

Springtails develop in very damp areas where they feed on mold that grows on surfaces. In most cases, they go unnoticed, until large populations build up from a long-term moisture problem. They don’t bite and they won’t damage any of your furnishings, but their presence can be disturbing. They won’t be moving to other areas in your house unless you have moisture problems elsewhere. Typical indoor sites for springtails are plumbing leaks around sinks, sweating pipes, damp or newly plastered walls, overwatered houseplants, and damp basements and crawlspaces.

The moisture-loving springtails can’t survive dry indoor conditions so when the site dries out, the springtails will be gone. I assume you’ve repaired your roof, the source of the moisture in the closet. To speed up the drying process, leave the closet door open (and the light on if there is one), and place a small fan, heater, or dehumidifier in the closet for a few days.

Hopefully, the springtail problem was isolated to the one roof leak above the closet. If, however, you’ve had more extensive leaking, you may need to look for and dry out other sites such as wall or ceiling voids that may also have springtails or other moisture pests. In some cases, if springtail populations are large or the area can’t be dried out, you many want to have a pest control professional treat the infested areas to provide immediate knockdown of the springtail population.

Call us at Colonial. We can help you check your home for springtails and moisture problems, and our trained technicians can eliminate the springtails quickly and safely.

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