We've had a few milder days here in Minnesota and it's the time of year when Snow Fleas emerge from the soil. Easy to spot when they occur in large numbers on top of the snow.
These ultra tiny insects are not a type of flea, although they appear to jump like one. They're a Springtail from the insect order Collembola. They have a tail that is held under their body which springs down and launches them upwards.
Snow Fleas employ a number of strategies to stay warm in these cold temperatures.
1) Their bodies are black and therefore absorb more solar rays.
2) They are protected from cells rupturing by antifreeze (glycerol).
(Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity)
|Thousands of Snow Fleas emerging |
on the snow near a fallen log
Living in the soil, springtails number in the thousands in every square yard of soil. They aid in soil respiration and decomposition and release essential nutrients through their waste back into the soil. More importantly, they feed on fungal hyphae, which can stimulate new mycorhizal growth and strengthen their connections with plant roots. (Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity)
So, lots of springtails means healthier soils and healthier plants.