Mites or springtails?

uscpsycho

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I have a baby tortoise and today discovered microscopic white bugs have cropped up in its enclosure. I immediately thought the worst and assumed they were mites. But then I read that springtails are often confused for mites, and that springtails are common in humid enclosures and not harmful to torts.

So are there any easy ways to tell if they are mites or springtails? My camera isn't good enough to get clear photos of them but to the naked eye they are tiny white dots in the substrate, with heavier concentrations under the food dish. The magnified photos I have seen of springtails make them look oblong rather than round dots. How do I identify them?

They remind me of the tiny white mites that live on Madagascar hissing roaches. Those are common on hissers and pose no harm to the roaches.

The enclosure substrate is Zoo Med Repti Bark (fine grade orchid bark) and it is very humid at 80% humidity and very warm at 90 degrees. There are two shallow terra cotta plant dishes in the enclosure, I did not notice a cluster of these insects under the water dish as I did the food dish. Could the bugs have come from the bark? The dishes? The food?

I've had the tortoise for about a month, is it possible the tortoise had these when I brought it home?

The enclosure is not new to me, I bought it used but gave it a good cleaning including disinfecting it. The enclosure had housed a snake but hadn't been used in awhile. Could they have come with the cage?

Any guidance would be appreciated. Specifically, identifying these as mites/springtails and then how to handle the situation if they are mites (assuming I have nothing to worry about if they are springtails).

Thanks!
 

uscpsycho

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I saw some tiny bugs in my enclosure today and not sure if they are mites or springtails. I'm sensitive to cross posting so I'm not going to repeat all the same information here, but I did ask for help identifying these bugs in another sub-forum: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/mites-or-springtails.203307/

What I want to know here is how to handle the situation if it turns out I have mites. Please advise.

If they are springtails, I've seen conflicting information. On the one hand people say they are harmless and/or beneficial. On the other hand I've read people suggest introducing "rollie pollies" to control the springtails. Specifically to star torts, should I do anything if I've got springtails?

Since those are normal, might be good for @Tom to mention them in his guides. As a longtime reptile owner, when I see tiny bugs crawling around I panic because mites are usually very bad. I might have been a little less alarmed if I knew to expect these critters. If they were on my radar I would even be on the lookout for them rather than be shocked by my discovery. Hoping they are in fact springtails and not mites. Just want to have a plan of action if I've got mites.
 

Tom

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I saw some tiny bugs in my enclosure today and not sure if they are mites or springtails. I'm sensitive to cross posting so I'm not going to repeat all the same information here, but I did ask for help identifying these bugs in another sub-forum: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/mites-or-springtails.203307/

What I want to know here is how to handle the situation if it turns out I have mites. Please advise.

If they are springtails, I've seen conflicting information. On the one hand people say they are harmless and/or beneficial. On the other hand I've read people suggest introducing "rollie pollies" to control the springtails. Specifically to star torts, should I do anything if I've got springtails?

Since those are normal, might be good for @Tom to mention them in his guides. As a longtime reptile owner, when I see tiny bugs crawling around I panic because mites are usually very bad. I might have been a little less alarmed if I knew to expect these critters. If they were on my radar I would even be on the lookout for them rather than be shocked by my discovery. Hoping they are in fact springtails and not mites. Just want to have a plan of action if I've got mites.
Tortoises almost never get any kind of mites. I've only recently heard of any cases of tortoise ticks, but all of those have been in FL. I've never seen a single case of tortoise mites in all of my decades raising them.

The most common bugs to "invade" our warm damp tortoise enclosures are the springtails and also phorid flies, which most people refer to as "gnats" or mistakenly call them "fruit flies". Both the springtails and the phorid flies are harmless detrivores. The maggots of the phorid flies can be a problem for baby tortoises as they hatch, so I would keep the incubator area free of them.

Rollie pollies (aka: isopods) do the same thing as springtails. They don't do anything to the springtails, but they do compete with them for the same resources.
 

uscpsycho

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Thanks for the reply. I took another look today and was actually able to get some decent video, and in the videos it seems to me like they are springtails. Can someone take a quick look and confirm? There are two short videos here (they'll expire in a few days): https://linksharing.samsungcloud.com/cKULNvqsaiGe

Looks like a post I made in the Star sub forum was moved here.
 

uscpsycho

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Nobody commented on the video I shred before it expired, but I will assume what I have are sprintails.

My question is if there can ever be too much of a good thing? There are tons of these things crawling all over the substrate and in especially high concentrations on the end of the enclosure where the food dish is. I imagine their numbers only increase and don't decrease. Does there ever come a point where there is reason for concern?

Also, when I clean the enclosure, I imagine there is a good chance some of these will be released into my home. There are so many of them, and there is so much substrate, that I think it would be impossible to prevent. Is there any concern with them getting into the home? Danger for my dog? Risk for other reptiles I have?
 

Tom

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My question is if there can ever be too much of a good thing? There are tons of these things crawling all over the substrate and in especially high concentrations on the end of the enclosure where the food dish is. I imagine their numbers only increase and don't decrease. Does there ever come a point where there is reason for concern?

Also, when I clean the enclosure, I imagine there is a good chance some of these will be released into my home. There are so many of them, and there is so much substrate, that I think it would be impossible to prevent. Is there any concern with them getting into the home? Danger for my dog? Risk for other reptiles I have?
They aren't necessarily a good thing, but they aren't necessarily bad either. They do no harm and I consider them neutral.

They tend to come on strong and then die off to a more sustainable level depending on the food that is available. They balance out in other words.

They are already in your home. That is where they came from in the first place. They are also all over the world outside your home, in your potted plants, etc... I don't think there is any reason for concern.

No danger to your dog or other reptiles unless they are carrying a pathogen from one reptile enclosure to another.
 

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