Alliums Pest Management

Springtails on Garlic

Just be aware that springtails have been noted in some garlic patches. This information below was taken from a 2009 HortMatters article (Vol. 9, Issue: 8).

Globular springtails are tiny (1 mm/ 1/16th inch), primitive wingless insects (Fig. 1).  Females lay their eggs in moist soil, with a preference for areas of high organic matter.  The young often only differ from the adults in colour.   Why are they called springtails? Both lifestages spring away when disturbed using a structure called a furcula, located on the underside of their abdomen (hence the name springtails).  As an aside – these little critters can propel themselves a distance of up to 20 times their body length!

Adult garden springtail – actual size (left) and 15x magnification (right). Special thanks to Bryan Mailey for all garlic photos.

 Most springtails are considered beneficial soil scavengers, feeding on decaying matter, fungi, moulds and other soil microbes; however, there are a couple of species, which feed on plants.  An example is the garden springtail.  Young garden springtails are orange in colour, while adults are reddish-black. 

 In general, springtails thrive in moist soil environments where there is an ample supple of decaying plant material (e.g. leaf litter, decaying wood, high levels of organic matter, soils amended with compost).  Species that spend most of their time in the soil are very susceptible to desiccation.  Based on what I’ve observed, this may not be true for the garden springtail.  In garlic, both immature and adult springtails were happily feeding in the heat of the day under a clear blue sky with temperatures reaching 28˚C.  With that said, they could leave the plant at any time and take refuge under ground cover.  

Springtail feeding damage on garlic leaves.

 Damage caused by the garden springtail can be seen in Fig. 2. In most cases, damage is only observed on the oldest leaves.  Feeding sites are pale yellow in colour, and appear as though the springtails have ‘sucked’ out the chlorophyll.  Lesions may be mistaken for botrytis leaf blight.  Botrytis is often found throughout the field and affects young and old tissues alike.  Also, botrytis lesions are often larger than those caused by the springtails.  And finally, springtail feeding removes the chlorophyll but doesn’t appear to change the leaf texture.  Botrytis lesions cause death of tissue and have a different texture than healthy leaf tissue.

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