If you’ve never heard of Collembola, you’re not alone. Until recent years, it was thought that these soil borne creatures were essentially harmless. Even doctors vehemently denied that springtails were likely to infest human hair and skin. Folks who suffered from chronic itching, biting and crawling sensations were often considered delusional, but that mindset is slowly changing. Mounting evidence suggests that these micro-tiny pests can be surprisingly invasive.
Thanks to the tenacity of folks like Dr. Frans Janssens and his colleague, Dr. Kenneth A. Christiansen, the scientific community is beginning to recognize that springtails can pose a very real threat to human comfort when present in large numbers. The two researchers collected scores of reports from homeowners, doctors, and pest control operators in several countries, including many regions of The United States. Within the gray areas between casual testimony, scientific observation and concrete medical documentation, a startling picture emerged. Collembola are everywhere, and it’s not impossible for them to latch onto humans and animals.
As inhabitants of fertile soil, springtails are likely to be found just about anywhere. The more you water the lawn and apply fertilizer, the happier they’ll be. They are considered the most abundant arthropods on earth. Since prehistoric times, they have survived frigid winters and very hot summers, but their numbers decrease exponentially under dry conditions.
Pet owners are particularly vulnerable to collembola infestation. Dogs and cats who trample through moist soil or wet grass can pick up springtails and transport them into the home; however, it’s not likely that springtails will stay attached to pets like fleas unless an animal’s immune system is compromised (for example, if there’s a fungal infection of the skin.) Springtails are easily transferred between humans and animals. Close contact isn’t necessary. These acrobatic creatures can jump three to four feet. You may not always notice them catapulting through the air. They can be smaller than the head of a pin.
If the thought of a few springtails in the house makes you paranoid, relax. Their ability to divide and conquer will largely depend upon environmental factors. Do you enjoy growing potted plants indoors? Does your basement tend to flood after a good rain? Can you smell mold behind the bathroom wall? Are you still waiting on a plumber to fix that leaky pipe under the kitchen sink? Who was president the last time you cleaned your air ducts? A moist, moldy…