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Snowfleas Appearing

snowfleas 049A7533One rarely even thinks about snowfleas (a species of springtail, Hypogastrura nivicola) until snow falls and then starts to melt. This is when these tiny wingless arthropods that catapult themselves through the air with the aid of a fork-like structure, or furcular, seem to magically appear out of nowhere. They actually are present year round, but their dark color makes them visible against the white snow.

The great majority of snowfleas live in soil, feeding on fungi, algae, decaying plant matter and bacteria. They work their way to the surface of the snow, crawling up the trunks of trees, plant stems and side of rocks where an open channel allows their migration. Thousands can be found on melting snow, especially in tracks or other depressions. No-one is absolutely sure of why they exhibit this behavior, though some scientists feel that these migrations are triggered by overcrowding and lack of food. Eventually those that survive on top of the snow make a return trip down into the soil.

Formerly classified as insects, snowfleas are now categorized as hexapods, due to some features they have which insects do not.

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2 responses

  1. Thanks for the post, Mary. I’ve seen them, too. I associate them with melting snow, usually in spring. It makes sense that they are year-round. Interesting to learn that they are not insects!

    December 18, 2014 at 12:50 am

  2. I usually think of them appearing on a warm March day and was surprised to see a bunch this past weekend. Never thought about them actually being around all year!

    December 18, 2014 at 2:12 am

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