Physical characteristics: Lucerne fleas, also known as varied-springtails, are round and have a distinct and well-developed "fork." They grow up to 0.1 inches (2.5 millimeters) in length. They have long, elbowed antennae (an-TEH-nee) and an irregular pattern of green, brown, and yellow coloring over the body.
Geographic range: Originally from Europe, springtails have spread worldwide.
Habitat: Lucerne fleas live in agricultural fields planted with alfalfa.
Diet: The larvae eat patches of leaves, while adults eat all of the leaf except the veins.
Behavior and reproduction: When disturbed or threatened, Lucerne fleas can jump as far as 12 inches (30.5 centimeters).
The male leaves a sperm packet on the soil or attaches it to low vegetation to be picked up later by the female. The female typically lays
clusters of up to forty eggs in the soil during winter. Up to three generations are produced each winter. Eggs that are laid in spring are capable of surviving hot, dry conditions. These eggs hatch the following autumn.
Lucerne fleas and people: Lucerne fleas are considered pests in fields of lupine flowers, lentils, beans, and field peas. Predatory mites are used to keep these pests under control.
Conservation status: This species is not endangered or threatened. ■
Lucerne fleas, also known as varied springtails, live in agricultural fields planted with alfalfa. (Illustration by Amanda Humphrey. Reproduced by permission.)
FOR MORE INFORMATION Books:
Tavolacci, J., ed. Insects and Spiders of the World. Vol. 7, Owlet Moth-Scorpion. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2003.
"Critter Catalog: Springtails." BioKids. http://www.biokids.umich.edu/ critters/information/Collembola.html (accessed on September 1, 2004).
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