Experimenting with detritivores

Ponerinecat

Arachnoknight
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So last year I started keeping springtails, alongside their other detritivore peers. Success was low except among a few select species, which introduced me to just how challenging some springtails can be. Particularly, globular springtails. I've wanted to keep these for 2 years now, and with large populations under wood in winter I thought I'd give it a try. None of the species collected lasted more than a week. The poduromorphs collected fared just as poorly, with the notable exception of Neanura muscorum(not very surprising considering how widespread this tramp is.) Entomobryomophs were the easiest to raise, and I got considerable success with Entomobrya unostrigata until the population collapsed in the summer. Despite being the "easiest" group, many species like the wild Isotoma sp, Entomobrya atrocincta, undescribed Siera sp, and Tomocerus sp did poorly. After noticing that the springtails in my other animal enclosures actually did better than the ones in their own isolated cultures (the most notable example being a small blue Lepidocyrtus sp, there were thousands with all my other invertebrates) I decided to mix all my compatible springtails when I got the chance. It's cooling down now, and some of the local springtails are surfacing, so I thought I'd give this a try. Using a 13" by 7" container, I filled roughly 5/6 of it with a layer of plaster and the other empty portion with soil. This was dotted with assorted dead mosses, grass cuttings, wood pieces, and bits of leaves. So far it's looking good and I'm not seeing any obvious decline in any of the current species. So far I have cyphoderidae sp, Entomobrya unostrigata, Entomobrya atrocincta, Lepidocyrtus sp, undescribed Siera sp, hypogastruridae sp, onychiuridae sp, Neanura muscorum, and 2-3 more collembolans I haven't bothered identifying yet. Also included are symphylans and diplurans as well as oribatid mites and 2-3 other mite species which I also havent identified yet. I'll add more as they begin to apear and will likely make 1-2 more boxes with different layouts for different habitats. For example species that live in decaying wood or entirely subterranean conditions will mostly need different setups.

Only glob I've seen this year, not bothering with these yet.
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Oribatid mite. These are common under rocks and logs.
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Entomobrya atrocincta. A gorgeous sexually dimorphic species. Males are orange, females striped.
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Tiny pink hypogastrurid springtails. Never had much luck with these despite being very common.
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A cyphoderid springtail next to a small symphylan. Symphylans get pretty big for soil fauna.
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A trio of diplurans. Two are missing cerci from rough collection.
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Stunning red and white mites. Very fast runners, these are normally found under wood so I'm not certain how well they'll do in here. I have seen them occasionally under rocks though so might as well try it until I start a wood bin.
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Ponerinecat

Arachnoknight
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The familiar "tropical springtail." Still not sure what these actually are.
With a couple of beetle mites.
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Watching over a small Lepidocyrtus.
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Undescribed Siera, or as I like to call them, zebra springtails.
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Onychiuridae and a beetle mite.
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The setup itself. The soil portion is smaller than it appears, as it slopes towards the plaster to provide varied depth. the sides of the plaster are sealed off with silicone to prevent larger springtails getting trapped and squished.
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schmiggle

Arachnoking
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Huh, always thought of springtails as straightforward. This is very interesting. For what it's worth, springtails are major consumers of fungi, so maybe that's part of what's missing. Not sure how that would affect your keeping methods, but maybe worth a shot.
 

Ponerinecat

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Huh, always thought of springtails as straightforward. This is very interesting. For what it's worth, springtails are major consumers of fungi, so maybe that's part of what's missing. Not sure how that would affect your keeping methods, but maybe worth a shot.
It depends on the species, heh. Most wood dwelling species will graze on microscopic spores, while many pudorumorphs will eat slime molds (some exclusively eat slime molds!) Other than that soil hyphae is a pretty staple food and many springtails will feed on mold. Lepidocrytus in particular love fungus, they can skeletonize entire mushrooms in a week or so. I wont be providing too much fungus directly, however, to avoid explosions of harmful molds. It's ruined cultures in the past. You can see how the 2 chunks of fish food I added have started growing stringy fungus, I find that Onychiuridae in particular love that. There's also plenty of hyphae starting to grow in the soil as I don't sterilize the majority of my substrate.
 

Hisserdude

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I've reared one species of small, white globular springtail with little issue, they did best in enclosures with rotting wood, and when kept moist did pretty well and thrived in a lot of my enclosures... But then predatory mites found their way into my collection, and while they didn't wipe out the tropical pinks or small silvers in my collection, they absolutely destroyed and decimated my globular springtails...
 

Ponerinecat

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I've reared one species of small, white globular springtail with little issue, they did best in enclosures with rotting wood, and when kept moist did pretty well and thrived in a lot of my enclosures... But then predatory mites found their way into my collection, and while they didn't wipe out the tropical pinks or small silvers in my collection, they absolutely destroyed and decimated my globular springtails...
Interesting. I've had small watermelon like bourletiellidae pop up in my isolated Seira culture, which in the wild live in grassy/mossy habitats. They pretty quickly vanished though. I've heard of other people raising globs as well, but generally accidentally in terrariums or sealed terrariums. I'll have to try them again.
 

Ponerinecat

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Isotoma viridris, these can actually be plant pests if I remember.
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And Neanura muscorum.
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Arthroverts

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Interesting project! Following along to see how it turns out...

I can attest to globulars being very difficult to raise, a friend caught some for me and from the few days he caught them to the time I received them they had disappeared completely.

Thanks for sharing,

Arthroverts
 

Ponerinecat

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So, a correction. The green springtail previously showcased is not Isotoma viridris, nor Isotoma at all. Isotoma would look more like this, which is actually Isotomurus, but close enough.
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Unknown purple entomobryan.
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Entomobrya atrocincta female and undescribed Seira sp. 13.
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pannaking22

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Have you been posting your pics to BugGuide? There's a pretty good springtail guy on there.

Interesting they're doing so well on straight plaster as well. I'd talked with a friend that worked with springtails a while back and he said he mixed his plaster with a bit of powdered charcoal to help deactivate any toxins that might be in the plaster.
 

Ponerinecat

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Have you been posting your pics to BugGuide? There's a pretty good springtail guy on there.

Interesting they're doing so well on straight plaster as well. I'd talked with a friend that worked with springtails a while back and he said he mixed his plaster with a bit of powdered charcoal to help deactivate any toxins that might be in the plaster.
There is a bit of charcoal mixed in with the substrate on one end, perhaps that helps? I use straight plaster mixed with a bit of substrate but no charcoal for all my ant setups, and the springtails in those seem to do fine.
 

Ponerinecat

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Seeing some decent population growth among the onychiuridae and Lepidocyrtus, but it's nothing special considering how hardy these 2 are.
Added a new species, this unidentified one that resembles a faded, pale Seira sp 13.
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A pink hypogastrurid, flipped over. Hoping to see growth on these as past attempts have failed and they're quite attractive.
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A pocket of onychiuridae, with a small greenish hypogastrurid among them. Surprisingly these seem to prefer living on the plaster rather than in the soil, despite normally being subterranean. They seem to hide in the moss and under large debris until it cools then, then they all come out and eat anything left on the surface. You can see how a few of them have red tinged guts from the fish pellets I give them. Theres also brown guts, which I presume to be organic material, and yellow, which I think is yeast.
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Close up on the green hypogastrurid.
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Ponerinecat

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While not actually an invertebrate, I'll also be documenting any attempts I make at culturing slime molds. This is because many springtails will gladly eat all sorts of slime molds, and a large number of poduromorphs will eat nothing but slime molds. There has also been a recent study that shows how poduromorphs that were previously unculturable in captivity were able to live healthily and reproduce when provided with slime molds as part of their diet. So far I haven't tried anything yet, as a bit more research is needed on my part. Heres some wild slime molds found under my springtail "traps."
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Ajohnson5263

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from what I've gathered slime mold is difficult to keep long term when it's not in a sterile environment. which is a shame really, I would have loved a slime mold terrarium.
 

Ponerinecat

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Mmm, I can imagine. May just order a kit online if the wild ones don't work.
 

Ponerinecat

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The setup seems to be working really well! I'm seeing a huge increase in all the hardiest species and no real decrease in the more sensitive ones.
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Also collected a different species of onychiuridae, perhaps the genus Onychiurus itself. I'm debating making a separate marshy setup for these as thats the habitat they were found in.
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The Snark

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@Ponerinecat I'd be tempted to send you some samples of the detritus in our local forests except they would get fumigated.
 

schmiggle

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The setup seems to be working really well! I'm seeing a huge increase in all the hardiest species and no real decrease in the more sensitive ones.
I feel like I'd be concerned that the hardy species would outcompete the sensitive ones. Maybe not. I guess you could try isolating the sensitive ones in an otherwise identical environment, but I'm sure that would be very difficult.

Also, forgot to mention about slime molds--those are beautiful! As a kid I always thought slime molds were rare and kind of "curiosities," but when I learned what to look for I found out they were ubiquitous. It's neat that you're growing them, I think they're really cool.
 

Ponerinecat

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I feel like I'd be concerned that the hardy species would outcompete the sensitive ones. Maybe not. I guess you could try isolating the sensitive ones in an otherwise identical environment, but I'm sure that would be very difficult.

Also, forgot to mention about slime molds--those are beautiful! As a kid I always thought slime molds were rare and kind of "curiosities," but when I learned what to look for I found out they were ubiquitous. It's neat that you're growing them, I think they're really cool.
Yes, I've considered that possibility. So far it looks fine but I do have extra containers and plaster in case it does happen. Separation shouldn't be too hard, as I don't need to collect every individual of that suppressed species and I use a padded aspirator for collection and handling of all my small arthropods, which is quite precise. As for the slime molds, I still haven't found any large, easily cultured wild species so I may not be growing them for a while and consequently won't be trying any large poduromorphs until I do.
 

Ponerinecat

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@Ponerinecat I'd be tempted to send you some samples of the detritus in our local forests except they would get fumigated.
Oh man, I'd love to see some soil fauna from a different location, even within my own state. Simply traveling up a nearby mountain already yields an entirely new group of springtails and the likes, some of them quite stunning in color.
 
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