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Welcome to this subsection of our Postal Microscopical Society web site. The springtail (Collembola) Group was started by Peter Bruce of Lutterworth at the 1996 Annual General Meeting of the Society. Its aims were to use microscopes to explore life in the undergrowth, concentrating on springtails, and to help in testing a first identification key to the British and Irish Collembola which was being assembled by Dr. Steve P. Hopkin, formerly senior lecturer at Reading University School of Animal and Microbial Sciences.

At this time only Arthur North of the P.M.S. and John Smeathers, in the Midlands locally, had worked seriously on these tiny and often beautiful arthropods. Thanks to Mike Woof, several members had attended a short illustrated talk on Collembola by Steve Hopkin at a meeting in Reading. No one in the P.M.S., I suspect, had any idea that Oxford University Press were about to publish a springtail monograph by Steve Hopkin; the first one in English for 124 years. Now we know he was already the leading collembolist in the U.K. Sadly, he died in 2006 shortly before his key became available early in 2007.

At first most members of the group must have had doubts about joining – perhaps they had been advised springtails were a little known class, so finding unrecorded species might be frequent. Insects were familiar: but these were not insects, many now asserted. And there was no available key to guide identification; not in readily available form for all anyway. Progress and finding the way was slow until we were helped by Dr. Arne Fjellberg of Norway who, on Peter Bruce's plea for help, I believe, made available copies of his 1980 issue of A key to Norwegian Springtails. This included many of our U.K. genera and species and was full of clear line illustrations. We had also had the benefit of viewing the remarkable paintings by Hollick of springtails in Arthur North's copy of the rare Ray Society Monograph of 1873, which gave us an easy lift to some identifications. Then we laboured with temporary mounts of detailed microanatomy and attempted to spread information with Springtail-of–the-Month displays on the P.M.S. web site run by Mick Chaplin, our html expert.
Keith Brocklehurst


Lubbock J. 1873 Monograph of the Collembola and Thysanura. Ray Society, London.

Salmon J.T. 1964 An Index to the Collembola. Roy.Soc.of N.Z.Bulletin 1-651.

Fjellberg A.1980 The Identification Key to the Norwegian Springtails.

Hopkin S.P. 1997 Biology of the Springtails (Insecta: Collembola) 330pp. Oxford Univ.Pr. With selected references, post 1962.

Hopkin S.P. 2007 A Key to the Collembola (Springtails) of Britain and Ireland.> Aidgap, F.S.C.A4 format, 245pp. Many labelled colour images, vast amount of data; Key and line drawings on facing pages; sets new standards; almost a text book! Amazing. View the P.M.S.Library copy – you will then want to own one!

Why Not Join In?
Have you got a microscope, or access to one, and are wondering what to do with it? Why not get involved with springtails. Collecting specimens is really easy as they are everywhere and some 50 species are available in most urban gardens.They are small - 0.25 to 6.0 mm. in length in Britain - but your microscope(s) and a few simple home-made tools will take you a long way in studying these delightful animals. You could also apply your expertise to photographing them in culture with that digital camera. Of course there is a learning curve involved, but we have an introductory CD-ROM which is available for a small fee to cover costs. It includes Powerpoint slide-shows of 'Springtail Images', 'How to Collect', 'Classification of Collembola' and 'Handling Techniques'. A freeware Powerpoint viewer application is also included and a Readme file , which should make it user friendly. We hope this might lead to increased interest in the Collembola and new original results appearing on the PMS website. If you have any queries, comments or contributions to make then please use the e-mail links, either on the e-mail page if you want the material to appear on the site, or to the links on the Study Group page for individual contacts.

What’s New
With the sad death of Keith Brocklehurst in October 2011 the Springtail group has lost its most active member. Anyone interested in springtails is still welcome to communicate but there will be less expertise to call upon.

In the Correspondence section there is a recent letter from Peter Shaw, the new Collembola recorder for the UK. Peter is willing to help in identifying and recording any 'tricky' specimens.

Last Updated
9 February 2012

WelcomeThe PMSThe Study GroupWhat are Springtails?Collecting TechniquesObservation Techniques Cultures Identification Springtails of the MonthPhoto GalleryCorrespondence Related SitesE-mail PMS Main Site