- Last updated on 2007.12.15 by Frans Janssens
Checklist of the Collembola: Experiences with Culturing Collembola

Frans Janssens, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, B-2020, Belgium
Magda Rost, Department of Animal Histology and Embryology, Silesian University, Bankowa 9, 40-007 Katowice, Poland


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Keywords: Collembola, culturing

Contineously being revised.


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Brachystomella parvula

Adams & Salmon (1972:271) used plaster of Paris/charcoal screw top culture jars, one third filled with a mixture of nine parts of plaster of Paris and one part of charcoal, kept moist with a little distilled water. Adams & Salmon (1972:274) pointed out that the food must be supplied in a liquid medium. The food was moistened with a drop of water each day. The following soil bacteria: Corynebacterium sp., Bacillus sp., Erwinia sp., Pseudomonas sp., Xanthomonas sp., and Agrobacterium sp. and soil yeasts: Cryptococcus albidus and Candida curvata were cultured on nutrient agar and applied as food.

Cryptopygus thermophilus

Al-Safadi (1988:334) kept specimens on the upper surface of white filter paper in small covered glass dishes, 4 cm in diameter x 3.5 cm in depth. The dishes had a substratum of plaster of Paris of about 1 cm and were kept at room temperature, 20°C, and at relative humidity of about 100% (maintained by moistening the plaster of Paris and by addition of drops of water as required).
The specimens can survive on yeast, wheat germ, decayed matter and suspended organic matter (Al-Safadi, 1988:336,338). Similar results were recorded by Christiansen (1964) for some species of Isotomidae, Onychiuridae and Hypogastruridae (Al-Safadi, 1988:338).

Proisotoma minuta

Fig.Pm3. Adult Proisotoma minuta
feeding on a bakers yeast pellet
Specimen from Belgium.
2007.12.15 © Janssens, F.
Fig.Pm2. Egg cluster of Proisotoma minuta.
Hatching juvenile at arrow.
Specimens from Belgium.
2007.12.10 © Janssens, F.
Fig.Pm1. Proisotoma minuta
culture container (8x5x3 cm lxwxh).
Specimens from Belgium.
2007.12.15 © Janssens, F.

Specimens of Proisotoma minuta, collected from extractions of soil samples from Belgium, near Leuven, 2007.11.12, were kept in culture at room temperature, in a small transparant plastic container (8x5x3 cm lxwxh). The substrate is made of some pieces of charcoal that were kept moist with hard tap water (to compensate for the acid charcoal). Sparcely, dry bakers yeast pellets were served as food.

Folsomia candida

Dave McLay (2005.01.21:in litt.), University of Washington, USA, uses a 2 liter plastic shoebox half filled with moist coco-fiber. Then a small amount of bakers yeast is mixed throughout the culture and some springtails are added. Then a paper towel is placed on top. Wait a week stored at 65 °F. In that short amount of time the cultures are loaded with adults and offspring. A bit of yeast is added every week and the culture will do well.

See also Reader, N. (1994).

Isotoma viridis

See Reader, N. (1994).

Sinella curviseta

See Draney, M.L. (2000).

Tetrodontophora bielanensis

To prepare the culture of Tetrodontophora bielanensis one should catch females after fertilization, that is in Poland in November, and put them into the fridge for the oviposition. Hatching occures after 4 months (thus during March). Hatched juveniles are put in petri dishes and reared in the fridge with agarose.

Tomocerus flavescens

Aitchison (1986:237) devised a method for keeping Collembola in test tubes on agar inoculated with fungi. Test tubes of 200 x 20 mm were filled to a third full with liquid potato dextrose agar, plugged with cotton, sterilised in an autoclave and left to cool and harden with the agar slanted. Then the agar was inoculated with a fungus from the family Dematiaceae and left to grow over the agar at room temperature for one week, after which a few animals were introduced. The tubes were kept in a sealed plastic container with a cotton plug in a small vial of water, maintaining a constant high relative humidity. Whenever water droplets began to form on the fungal mycelia and collembolans, the animals were transferred to a fresh tube. Every 2 months the animals were transferred to a fresh tube by tapping them free of the old substrate.


Experiences with the pH of the plaster of Paris/charcoal mix

Chamberlain (2004:in litt.) has in his laboratory cultures of Folsomia candida, Folsomia fimetaria, Proisotoma minuta, Protaphorura armata and Ballistura filifera, all of which apart from Ballistura filifera have been in culture for many years. But he had very little luck with getting new species from the field and culturing them in the lab, despite repeated attempts.

When the last attempt failed, it was decided to go back to first principles and work out what the problem might be. It is known that the pH of the plaster of Paris/charcoal mix on which Collembola are cultured is important, but as the lab colonies had no problem with the plaster bases provided, the pH was never checked before. The plaster bases were checked multiple times with both a pH metre and pH paper, and the results were the same: 2.7!
The pH of the plaster of Paris and charcoal have been checked separately, and they are both ca. pH 2-3. It is not just the added charcoal that is making the pH so low - it is both plaster and charcoal.

To counteract these extremely acidic conditions, sufficient calcium carbonate was added to get the pH up to 5. Since then some new individuals from the field were collected, and after a few weeks they still seem much happier on the new bases (laying more eggs, eating more, not trying to climb up the sides of the plastic tubs as much).


We would like to thank Drs Paul Chamberlain and Dave McLay for their contribution.