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Springtime for springtails

By Chris Williams on March 18, 2019.

I’ve been doing a lot of cross-country skiing of late, and with the warming temperatures, I thought I’d see some springtails (aka known as snow fleas) out on the snow. But, not yet.  These primitive, odd little insects (and some would debate whether they should still belong in the insect class) can often be spotted out on the snow or congregating on tree trunks in the sun. If you ever happen to come across them while you are out snowshoeing or tapping some maple trees you might first think its dirt until you spot them jumping. Springtails get their name because of a unique appendage called a furcula which they use to propel themselves forward.  At first glance, one might think that these tiny bluish gray to black insects are some type of flea, but they are in no way related to those pesky blood feeding insects that can make your pet’s lives miserable.  Springtails are completely harmless, though they can be quite a nuisance if hundreds are invading the basement or other living space in your home.

Springtails. Shutterstock

“What is the ‘life style’ of a springtail,” like you may be asking? What are they good for? They are primarily soil dwellers and are important recyclers of dead organic matter. They’ll consume decaying vegetation, and along with it, the fungi, bacteria, and algae turning all this ‘good stuff’ back into the soil. That’s their purpose in life and they do it very well.  Spring is just a couple of days away! I’m one of those crazy’s who loves the winter but I’m ready to move on to warmer temperatures and enjoy the longer days to come.  I’m sure you are too.  Check out the following links for more information on these unusual creatures. 

http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/snow_flea.htm

http://membracid.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/ask-an-entomologist-snow-fleas/

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