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Snow Scorpionflies Active

2-15-17-snow-scorpionfly-039On mild winter days you may wish to look closely at all the dark, little specks on the surface of the snow. Most of them will be bits of lichen, seeds or pieces of bark, but with luck you may find one or more of them moving. Active winter insects aren’t plentiful, but they do exist.

Scorpionflies are fairly common and can be recognized by their long beaks ending in visible mouthparts. (They get their name from one family of scorpionflies that possesses a scorpion-like tail.)  Snow Scorpionflies belong to a family of small, flightless insects, of which there are two species in the Northeast. They only measure about 2/10’s of an inch, so careful scrutiny is necessary to spot one. Their dark color and an anti-freeze substance in their blood allows them to remain active to 21°F., during which time they feed on mosses. When startled, Snow Scorpionflies often jump up in the air and land with their legs crumpled up (see insert) looking even more like an inedible speck of dirt. It’s fairly easy to tell their gender, as female Snow Scorpionflies (photo) lack wings, and males have bristly wings adapted for grasping females.

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8 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    🔎 I’ll need to look carefully! 🔍

    February 15, 2017 at 8:14 am

  2. Liza McArdle

    Hi Mary – Are the scorpion flies also called “snow fleas” or is that a differently insect? Thanks!!

    February 15, 2017 at 8:19 am

    • Hi Liza, No they are two different creatures. Actually, snow fleas are not technically insects!

      February 15, 2017 at 8:54 am

  3. Faith Bieler

    Antifreeze in their blood! Lucky Scorpionflies! I’d like some of that! Thank you Mayr! >

    February 15, 2017 at 8:24 am

  4. Bill On The Hill...

    Mary, you never cease to amaze me! I am curious, were you able to shoot it using the 100mm macro?
    Great post as always…
    Bill Farr

    February 15, 2017 at 8:50 am

    • Yes, Bill. 100 mm macro, f/20 hand held…had to take many to get one half decent one!

      February 15, 2017 at 8:53 am

  5. Marilyn

    Fascinating adaptations of these critters – playing dead, grabbing wings – I’ve not seen them, yet. What I have seen this week is the winter hatching of wasps, inside and outside my house; they are hardly lively, but they can sting.

    February 15, 2017 at 9:08 am

  6. Michele

    Is this different from snow fleas?

    February 16, 2017 at 10:12 pm

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