- Last updated on 2000.09.15 by Frans Janssens
Checklist of the Collembola: Culturing Sinella curviseta Brooks

Michael L. Draney, Department of Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Green Bay, WI 54311


This is the second iteration of a manual to culture Sinella curviseta, kindly provided by Dr Michael L. Draney.

Frans Janssens

Culturing Sinella curviseta Brook 1882 (Collembola: Entomobryidae)

Michael L. Draney
Dept. Natural and Applied Sciences
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
2420 Nicolet Dr.
Green Bay, WI 54311

Version: 13 September 2000


S. curviseta are cultured in numerous small jars with a plaster of paris/charcoal substrate kept moist with aged tap water. They are fed bakerís yeast. They should be fed and watered at least once per month.


Sinella curviseta Brook is an entomobryid springtail found in western North America (British Columbia to Mexico), Europe, and southeastern Asia ( It "very probably originated in China since there are many closely related species found there and none elsewhere." (K. Christiansen, pers. comm. 8/31/00). The species happens also to thrive in culture and so is a useful source of food for culturing small terrestrial predators of all sorts. Animals observed eating S. curviseta in the lab include spiders, centipedes, predaceous mites, and pseudoscorpions (pers. observ.).

These cultures were established by Louis Lipovsky, a graduate student at The University of Kansas, sometime prior to 1951 as food for postlarval chiggers (Acari: Trombiculidae)(Lipovsky 1951, 1954). D. A. Crossley, Jr., who is now retired but was Research Professor, School of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, was also a graduate student at U. Kansas when he obtained the culture in the mid-50ís. He recalls that Lipovsky originally obtained the animals from a greenhouse. Crossley should be credited with maintaining this culture from the mid-1950ís until the present day. I took a subsample of that culture in 1993 and have been maintaining it ever sinceÖthese are the animals you have now. Thus, this culture has been maintained for at least 50 years. These animals are certainly easier to culture than any other collembola Iíve collected.

I would appreciate it if the culture and its source to you (myself) were acknowledged in relevant publications. Also please tell me about others who want to acquire the culture, let me know how the culturing is going, and tell me about any problems/discoveries youíve had. If you email me with questions or discoveries, I can email such to all other culturers via an email distribution list.



These animals can be kept on moist soil or peat moss, but they thrive best and are most useful when cultured on a plaster of Paris/powdered charcoal medium. The charcoal makes the plaster of Paris more permeable to water. This substrate maintains the relative humidity in small containers near 100%, which is important for fast population growth.

These animals rear well at "room temperature." D. A. Crossley reports that he had two students, Clayton Gist and Virginia Merchant, work out life tables for the species. They found that the optimum temperature for reproduction is about 30o C. Refrigeration can kill these animals. Under optimal conditions, they report an r2 of 0.36 and a net reproductive rate, Ro, of 515 females/female (Gist, Crossley, and Merchant, 1974).

Use any plaster-of-Paris, and probably any kind of finely powdered charcoal will also work. Iíve used Fisherbrand activated coconut charcoal, 50-200 mesh, catalog number 05-690A.

Recipe: I mix enough for maybe 10 jars in a batch.

8 parts plaster of Paris (maybe a tablespoon per jar?)

4 parts activated charcoal (50-200 mesh)

5 Ĺ parts water

    1. Mix the plaster of Paris and charcoal together dry
    2. Sift the powder into the water
    3. Let sit for 5 minutes without stirring
    4. Stir to thick, soupy consistency (but not too much!)
    5. Pour immediately into jars about 1 cm deep.
    6. Smooth by gentle tapping on the tabletop and swirling.
    7. Allow to dry for about a week.

After the jars are completely dry, you need to re-wet them to saturation. I use regular tap water, but make sure it is aged at least 3 days to let the chlorine out.

Be careful when you pour water on the plaster of Paris that you prop the jar up at an angle so that some plaster is above the waterline. This enables air to escape as water is sucked in. Otherwise, the air gets blown below the plaster of Paris and it lifts the plaster off the bottom of the jar, creating an air space. It can sometimes crack the plaster, too.

Once the plaster of Paris is saturated (after about 5 minutes), pour off the excess water and tamp off the surface with a paper towel if you are adding spiders (so they donít get stuck on a water film)Öyou donít have to do this step for collembola, though.



Cultures seem to do best when maintained in numerous small containers. This is probably related to a reproductively inhibitory chemical which builds up in culture (Waldorf 1971). The bigger containers donít do as well, maybe because the humidity isnít as high. In any case, you should keep at least half a dozen containers going (I sometimes have 30 or 40 jars), because at any one time, some jars are doing well and some not. I maintain the metapopulation by supplementing low population jars with excess collembola from thriving jars.

I use polyethylene jars with screw-top lids for culturing the collembola, and I use the very same jars for rearing spiders. The only difference is that I put two plastic toothpicks (leaning on the side of the jar to form a toothpick "X") in the spider jars, as a web scaffolding. You can use glass jars, too, but I find dealing with hundreds of glass jars is asking for glass shards everywhere, plus my wrists get tendonitis from the repeated lifting of the heavier glass jars. Here are the jars I like best:

Fisherbrand 4 oz. Polypropylene jars w/ lids. 47 mm diameter. Cat. # 11-840A.

I also like the 50 mm diameter ones, but the 41 mm ones are a bit small.

Donít worry about airÖeither a little diffuses in, or else they have enough from when you open the jar up (which you should do at least once a month).

Jars do get oldÖthe mold and collembola waste seems to eventually plug up the pores in the p-of-paris substrate, limiting water uptake. Animals in these jars usually donít do as well. You can extend the life of jars by occasionally scrubbing the top layer off with a scrubby sponge or something and water, and re-inoculating the collembola.


Care of the collembola

Besides the right jar and water, the collembola only seem to need one thingÖbakerís yeast. I use Fleishmanís dry activated yeast. Crossley says they wonít reproduce on just brewerís yeast, though I have occasionally added that, as well. They also eat collembola eggs, collembola bodies, the bodies of other arthropods if they are available, and mold. Sometimes a mold species will become established which the collembola wonít eat, and youíll just have to wipe that jar out and clean it thoroughly. Otherwise, such a mold will eventually exclude the collembola.



Procedure: I unscew the lids of 8-10 jars at a time. I examine them and tap collembola from thriving jars into less dense ones. Then I sprinkle the yeast in: Just a few grains in low population jar, a few dozen in a high population jar. Donít add too much or else the yeast will use up all the oxygen, killing the collembola. If you want to make sure the collembola have lots to eat, feed them more frequently (maybe once a week). I usually care for them every 2-4 weeks.

After the yeast, use an eye-dropper to add aged tap water to each jar. After an initial squirt, I add water drop by drop until the substrate is no longer drinking it in. Collembola will survive even on top of a film of water, but they donít do as well when its that wet. The goal is saturation of the substrate until it you see a glossy film of water, but you want to minimize free water in the jars.


Use as food

Thatís all there is to it. For use as food, I turn a jar upside down and tap collembola into a funnel leading to a 1 dram glass vial. The collembola do fine in a dry vial for a few hours and you can tap them into spider jars. The excess collembola in the spider jars will continue to live just fine (donít add yeast to these jars, it could get messy)Öbut they will eat your spider as soon as it dies, be aware of that.

Culture Repositories

Crossley, D. A., Jr.
[Since early 1950ís]
School of Ecology
University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602

Draney, Michael L.
[Since 1993; primary distribution source after Crossley]
Dept. Natural and Applied Sciences
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
2420 Nicolet Drive
Green Bay, WI 54311



September, 2000 Recipients:

Bernard, Ernest C.
The University of Tennessee
Entomology and Plant Pathology
205 Plant Sciences, 2431 Center Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-4500

Cutler, Bruce
University of Kansas
Biological Sciences-Haworth Hall
Lawrence, KS 66045-2106

Edwards, Robert L.
Research Associate, USNM
P. O. Box 505
Woods Hole, MA 02543

Maelfait, Jean-Pierre
Laboratorium voor Ecologie der Dieren
Negende verdieping
Ledaganckstraat 35
9000 Gent, BELGIUM

Persons, Matthew
Susquehanna University
Dept. Biology, Fisher Hall
Selinsgrove, PA 17870



This culture would not now exist without almost 5 decades of continual effort and vigilance by my dissertation advisor, D. A. Crossley, Jr. I propose that this culture be referred to as "The Crossley Culture."



Gist, C. S., D. A. Crossley, Jr., and V. A. Merchant. 1974. An analysis of life tables for Sinella curviseta (Collembola). Environmental Entomol. 3(5): 840-844.

Lipovsky, L. J. 1951. Collembola as food for chiggers. J. Parasit. 37: 324-326.

Lipovsky, L. J. 1954. Studies of the food habits of postlarval stages of chiggers (Acarina, Trombiculidae). Univ. Kansas Sci. Bull. 36pt.II(14): 943-958.

Waldorf, E. S. 1971. Oviposition inhibition in Sinella curviseta (Collembola: Entomobryidae). Trans. Am. Micros. Soc. 90(3): 314-325.