British Wildlife 12.6 August 2001

Springtails – in search of Britain’s most abundant insects

Springtails (Collembola) may be found in almost any habitat, from the littoral zone to the Scottish and Welsh mountains, in fields, woodlands, on the surfaces of ponds and lakes, and in our offices, houses and greenhouses. They are the oldest known group of insects, having inhabited Earth for at least 400 million years. Collembola are also the most abundant of our British insects, with numbers in excess of 40,000 per m2 not unusal in soil and leaf litter. Yet springtails are given only scant mention in most entomological textbooks and insect field guides. Because of their small size (the largest UK species is 6mm in length), people have, understandably been discouraged from studying them. Even Charles Darwin appears to have been unimpressed by these 'wingless, dull-coloured minute insects' (Darwin 1871).

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