Springtails are springing up!
By Chris Williams on March 25, 2015.
The ‘annual’ snowfall to usher in spring streak (two years straight) seems to have been broken at least in my neck of the woods (NH) but we did get a dusting on the first day of spring. Oh well, we might get a bit of a warm up this week. The cold has not stopped springtails from invading homes though. I was at a residential account today with hundreds of springtails covering several windowsills. Springtails, aka snow fleas, are tiny bluish gray or dark brown insects. They get their name because of an odd tail-like appendage called a furcula that they use to propel themselves. This insect’s small size, dark color, and ability to ‘jump’ may lead one to believe that they have a flea infestation on their hands, but they are in no way related and are completely harmless. That said, hundreds or thousands of them invading can be quite a nuisance!
Evolutionary biologists and taxonomists have argued whether these insects are really insects at all, but regardless of where they fit in the animal kingdom, these soil dwellers are important recyclers of carbon. They feed on decaying leaf litter, fungi, bacteria, etc. If I get out on my skis sometime this weekend, I’ll keep a sharp eye out to see if I can find them jumping around on the snow. That is a sure sign that spring is finally here.
Photo: U. Burkhardt [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons