Springtails And How They Damage Plants

Springtails are minute, grey-white, wingless insects that live off rotted plant matter and organisms in the soil. They thrive in damp conditions and their presence indicates that a plant has been overwatered. You can easily tell whether they are present if you run a finger over the top of the mixture. This, like watering, will set them jumping. Tiny Springtails react to danger by using their springtailsfork-shaped tails for propulsion, jumping about on top of a plant’s potting medium. They are comparatively harmless, but an infestation is a sure sign that a plant is not being kept in the best conditions. These are comparatively harmless pests, but some may gnaw the stems of young plants and leaves that touch the potting mixture, or nibble at the fine roots.

Why springtails appear

These pests are usually a sign of one of two problems. First, they are commonly found in unsterilised soil or peat, and the existence of pests in ordinary soil is the reason for growing house plants in sterile potting compost.

Secondly, if plants are overwatered or drainage is poor, the compost can remain constantly soggy and become sour,

When you water your plant Spring-tails will start to move vigorously, propelled by their forked tails near the soil’s surface. Although damage will be small, wounds of any size can lead to further problems for the plant such as fungus or virus infections.

Preventing the springtail problem

It is not difficult to keep this insect at bay. First of all ensure that house plants are always grown in sterile potting compost (this will also help keep away the diseases that the soil can contain).

If there is insufficient drainage, the compost can become waterlogged, so, next, always ‘crock’ a pot with a layer of grit or clay pellets before adding compost. If the compost to be used is too compact, coarse sand or perlite can be added to make it more free-draining.

springtail-magnifiedIf you find it difficult to assess when to water use a moisture meter, a self-watering cone or a container with a reservoir. In the latter cases, the compost takes up water gradually as it dries out, ensuring an even supply.

Combating springtails

  • First of all, stop watering the plant and allow it almost to dry Out before re-watering. ‘This may be enough to eradicate these pests. It not, then you will need to use a chemical.
  • Use a suitable chemical, in granule form or diluted with water, to soak the potting mixture.
  • Insecticides containing diazmon, lindanc, malathion, pyrethrum or resmethrin are suitable. Make sure that due ingredients of an insecticide are listed on its label. One application of the chemical should be enough but repeat the application after 8 days to ensure eradicating ideal conditions for springtails.
  • If your plants are infested with Springtails, you will know as soon as you water them, as these tiny insects will start jumping about on top of the potting mixture.
  • Springtails will thrive in waterlogged soil so always water very carefully and ensure that the plant has good drainage.

First aid for an overwatered plant

  • Remove plant with potting mixture from its pot to allow air to circulate around and dry the mixture.
  • Check that drainage holes are clear and that the pot is clean.
  • When the mixture has dried out but has not yet become crumbly, replace plant and mixture in the pot, having first crocked the pot with a layer of drainage material.
  • Keep the plant out of bright light to help it recover, and water carefully,

Watering tips to prevent springtails

  • Most plants need humid surroundings, hut this doesn’t mean constantly wet potting compost which will – except in a few special cases– destroy roots, and promote problems like Springtails. Follow the tips below to ensure that the compost never gets waterlogged.
  • Place pots on a saucer filled with pebbles, and keep the water level in the saucer to just below the tops of the pebbles. In this way, plants are surrounded by high humidity, but any excess water can still drain from the pot after watering.
  • Provide good drainage by placing a layer of grit, small pebbles or clay pellets at the bottom of a pot before filling with the recommended potting mixture.
  • Carefully follow instructions for watering and, if you find it difficult to judge just when to water, use a moisture meter or indicator card.
  • When you go away, use a simple self-watering system, rather than standing pots in water, to ensure plants get a supply of water when needed.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.