BugInfo is dedicated to providing you with FACTUAL information about the world of insects and other animals that might be defined as “pests”. Hopefully you recognize that not everything found on the internet is accurate, and in fact much of it may be there deliberately to deceive you into buying product s, services, or even someone’s beliefs. The world of insects is filled with a tremendous number of different kinds, many of which can cause us harm in some way. Perhaps this increases the potential for misinformation to sound believable. When we feel we are being bitten by something we cannot see it may cause us anxiety and desperation to find a cause, and the internet offers confusing information.
One of the non-facts that currently is spread on the internet is that of “Collembola Mites”, and you can find a great many references to this. One, for example, offers details about Collembola as “recently diagnosed” parasites on humans and pets, and even provides a link to a medical study on these insects that is claimed to support the premise that Collembola – commonly known as Springtails – are human parasites. A look at that article, however, does not substantiate this claim, but concludes only that in two isolated cases they were found on people who were having trouble dealing with their presence. The actual wording from this medical journal article states that springtails “leave no injuries of the skin” and are “only unpleasant due to its movements”. That certainly is not a conclusion that a springtail is a parasite capable of biting or burrowing into our bodies.
No one enjoys the feeling of something crawling on them, and springtails are equipped with a device on their tail end that enables them to quickly leap off a surface. If one of these harmless insects was on your arm and jumped, you might feel that action as a slight pricking on the skin, interpreted by many people as “a bite”. But, springtails are incapable of biting humans or animals. This particular website was so filled with errors regarding springtails and Entomology in general that it was difficult for an entomologist to read. As it turns out, the site exists for the purpose of selling a product that alleges to eliminate “parasitic” Collembola.
Other websites may be equally misleading. Some refer to springtails as a kind of mite, to which they are not even distantly related. Mites are much more closely related to ticks and spiders in the Class Arachnida, while springtails are insects. Some internet sites state that springtails will transmit a “virulent fungus” to humans that causes illness, and this has no basis in fact either. Others state quite emphatically that springtails burrow into our skin, or worse may find their way into our internal organs. Other internet opinions offer that these parasitic springtails are unknown to the medical or entomological communities, and suggest there is some cover-up in place to hide the information about them. This makes no sense.
So, what are some facts about springtails, which are extremely common insects in your landscape, and which often may be found indoors when there is some moisture source to support them? They feed on things that grow in damp conditions, including algae, fungi and molds, and decaying plant materials. In your home this might be the soils in your house plants, dampness found under sinks or inside walls where plumbing leaks occur, or they might be coming from the damp soils of a crawl space beneath your house. They may find their way inside through small gaps under doors, or be brought in on firewood, potted plants, or the morning paper. On BugInfo you can find a second article on springtails that will offer information on dealing with these insects. Outdoors they should be tolerated as beneficial insects with an important role in decomposition of plant matter. With over 7000 different species of springtails around the world it is likely that some oddities do exist, and there are species known to feed on the colorful lichens on trees as well as some kinds that feed on the eggs or nymphs of other springtail species.
The truth is out there, and one of your best sources of factual information on arthropods will be University websites. Nearly always these will be prepared by people who are knowledgeable on insects and who are not attempting to sell a product. Sites to avoid are those that are selling products and those that are social networking threads, where people with little knowledge of insects and parasites can offer their proposals and share their fears. In a recent newsletter from one prominent university entomological museum this topic of “Collembola Mites” as potential human parasites is explored. Here they tell us that “all the scientific and medical evidence makes it clear that this is impossible. Springtails lack the adaptations that would make it possible to live in or on our skin”. Without any doubt they may find themselves on our skin, and in their desire to leave as quickly as possible may jump by means of their furca, leaving us wondering just what it was that caused that little tickle. But, they are not mites, they are not parasites, and they cause humans no harm whatsoever.