Springtails in my Compost Bin!

Answered by Harrod Horticultural Posted in Category Composting

Dear Martin

My compost bin has become infested with tiny white bugs, no more that 2mm long. I've had a good look around on the web and I'm pretty sure they are springtails.

There seems to be a lot of conflicting information out there about springtails. Some say they are a pest and will feed on the roots of young plants and seedlings and should be avoided at all costs. Other say that they are a beneficial part of the eco-system feeding only on rotting organic matter, aiding the composting process, helping to retain nitrogen and even keeping fungal disease in check.
 
What do you think? Are they good for my compost bin or not?
 
Thanks

Pete

Dear Pete

Many thanks for your recent enquiry concerning the presence of springtails in your compost bin. Their potential for causing plant damage in the garden is most certainly a grey area as many different species of springtail exist; most will happily feed on dead plant material and fungal spores so are a real benefit to any compost heap, but there are a few types which can cause problems to young vegetable and ornamental plants.
It’s the garden springtail which gives the insect a bad name in the garden as they will feed on the leaves of young bean, lettuce and tomato plants along with chrysanthemums and conifers but the effect of springtail damage can easily be countered by improving drainage and regular soil cultivation – springtails love wet conditions and this technique can be partly use to reduce numbers in the compost heap.

There are reports that the aggressive predatory mite used in the control of sciarid fly, Hypoaspis miles, will happily feed on springtail larvae in the soil and the Fungus Fly Killer we supply, which consists of the nematode Steinernema feltiae, will also give a degree of control. This information can be kept in the locker should the springtails start to make a nuisance of themselves!  On balance, I really wouldn’t be too concerned about the springtails in your bin as springtails are only likely to be a minor garden pest at worst and control, as we’ve seen above, is relatively simple and effective.


I do hope the above information proves to be of help and my advice would be to let the springtails continue to enrich your compost and deal with any secondary problems if they occur.


Martin