Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Guide to New Zealand's freshwater invertebrates

Springtails ( Collembola : Collembola )

Diagnostic features

Collembola springtails are 6-legged invertebrates that are now recognised as a separate group to the insects. Collembola have a small soft body, 6 jointed legs, conspicuous antennae and (often) a fleshy tail structure (furcula) that may be folded under the abdomen. The furcula can be used to flick the animal away from danger, hence the name “springtail”.

Typical habitats

Collembola are not really aquatic, but they are very common along the margins of freshwater habitats and often appear in stream invertebrate samples.


They feed on plant detritus and the microscopic organisms found in leaf litter and soil.

Indicator value

Collembola appear in samples taken from all sorts of streams, and may not be useful indicators of water quality. They have tolerance values of 6 (hard bottom sites) and 5.3 (soft bottom sites).