The Q&A Archives: What possibly could be in my dirt?

Question: There are black specks, sometimes they look like pieces of corn kernal, that appear to come from my soil and are on the plants themselves. If a piece gets on you or ther ground (or floor) it almost seems to multiply and travel and has a popping(crackling) noise.Even my pets can hear it. I've sprayed my plants with insecticides and fungus sprays, but as soon as whatever it is gets wet or disturbed it starts happening. It even gets in my food and cupboards. Got a clue, I know it sounds very weird? It's in all my outside soil and that's where I'm assuming it is coming from originally. We do have mountains and trails behind our house where critters live (lots of rats and coyotes). Possibly something they carry or from their droppings. I do not have a clue and don't think I'm crazy, I just want to find out what it is as I go around my house sucking it up with a dustbuster. It moves very rapidly.Help - please. Lynn Schlusberg

Answer: What you describe sounds very intriguing, but nothing that I can identify without seeing and examining under a microscope. Since you're finding them in wet or damp places, I suspect they are Springtails. You might do a websearch to see if you can find a photo to compare with what you're finding in your garden and home.

My suggestion is that you collect some of the material in question, place it in a sealable plastic bag, and take it to your local Cooperative Extension office. Helpful folks there will be able to figure out what you're dealing with and make suggestions as to what to do. Contact University of California Cooperative Extension, 5555 Overland Ave., San Diego, CA 92123. (858) 694-2845

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