FSC Springtails AIDGAP is an identification guide to all species of adult springtails (Collembola) in Britain and Ireland.
Springtails are small, wingless arthropods, usually no more than 6 millimetres in length. With around 250 species, springtails are one of the most diverse groups of arthropods in Britain and Ireland. They provide vital ecosystem services, particularly in decomposition, nutrient cycling and soil formation.
Like many soil invertebrates, there are relatively few biological records of springtails. But they occur in almost every habitat and all year round, including the depths of winter. Many springtails occur in domestic gardens, especially in soil, leaf litter and compost heaps. Other species inhabit woodland, grassland and on the seashore.
Although the identification of springtails may seem daunting, with practice the characteristics of the larger and more common species will become familiar. Indeed a few species can be identified in the field with a hand lens. However springtail identification can be challenging, and is more suitable for experienced naturalists. Some specimen preparation is generally necessary, followed by examination with a binocular microscope. A few species need to be mounted under a cover slip and examined at x1000 magnification with a compound microscope. The author has included detailed instructions.
This springtails guide is part of the FSC’s AIDGAP series (Aids to Identification in Difficult Groups of Animals and Plants). AIDGAP guides are accessible keys suitable for non-specialists from age 16+. Although written by specialists, all AIDGAP guides go through field tests in draft form. As with all guides in the series, the Springtails AIDGAP underwent extensive testing before publication, by beginners and specialists alike.