No, it wasn’t me sitting on the lichen on the fence posts. If you have keen eyes, you may have been able to spot a tiny creature in that last image I posted. It was a Springtail – not an insect, but a hexapod and, with around 250 species found in Britain, Springtails form the largest group of hexapods, the Collembola.
These creatures are tiny – no more than 6mm long, but extremely abundant. They mostly eat rotting leaves and bacteria so, as well as being found amongst the lichen on fence posts, they can also be discovered, in their millions, in the soil, in compost heaps, in fact anywhere there’s rotting vegetation. According to the Naturespot website, it’s estimated there can be as many as 100,000 Springtails in each cubic metre of top soil. (Some species also eat live plants and so are considered pests by farmers and gardeners.)
Springtails are so named because they have a tail-like appendage (the furcula) under their abdomen. This ‘tail’ is held in place with a latch, which, when they think they’re in danger, they can simply release to catapult themselves into the air and escape.
The Collembola are of two types, the round-ish ones (globular) and long-ish ones (linear), and, as you can see from my photos here, I’ve managed to find some examples of both types.
My fascination with these miniscule creatures has only just begun so I shall probably blog about them again when I’ve found a few more species.