Snow Flea

Hypogastrura nivicola

Snow Fleas are not fleas at all, but a type of insect called a springtail. Springtails get their name because they have two long things that look like tails sticking from their abdomen (back body section). The "tails" can fold under the body and are held by two hooks under the body. When the springtail releases the hooks, the insect goes flying in the air.

Snow Fleas are very small, about 1/16 inch long. They are dark blue, have short antennae, and have two eye clusters (with 16 eyes in each).

Snow Fleas, and other springtails, live in soil, leaf litter, mosses, fungi, and along shores of ponds. Sometimes they can be found on the surface of ponds. Since they are so light, they can walk on the surface without sinking.

They eat old dead plant matter, bacteria, fungi, algae, pollen, roudworms, rotifers, and sap. Roundworms and rotifers are tiny microscopic animals.

Snow Fleas mate in the Spring, and the females lay eggs in the soil. Tiny springtails are born, which are called nymphs. Nymphs do not look exactly like adult Snow Fleas.

Cofrin Arboretum Center for Biodiversity, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay: http:www.4gb.edu/biodiversity

Snow Flea nymphs will eat and grow. As they grow they will shed their outer skin (called an exoskeleton). Each time they molt, they will look a little bit more like an adult Snow Flea. By Winter, all the nymphs have turned into adults.

During very cold Winter days, Snow Fleas are not very active. But if it warms up, Snow Fleas will become active and look for food. They may even crawl out onto the surface of snow. This is how Snow Fleas get their name. People notice large amounts of them, like black dust, around the base of a tree. They are usually there when there isn't snow too, as long as the temperature is warm enough; you just see them better on a white background.

Predators of Snow Fleas, and other springtails, include: beetles, ants, mites, centipedes, and other small insect-eaters.

Relationships in Nature:

PREY/FOOD
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Green Algae

Black Carpenter Ant

White Cushion Moss

Oyster Mushroom D

White Cushion Moss

Common Black Ground Beetle

Common Duckweed

Honey Mushroom D

Rotifer

Garden Centipede

Honey Mushroom

Meadow Mushroom D

Honey Mushroom

Creek Chub

Meadow Mushroom

Meadow Mushroom

Large Diving Beetle

Oyster Mushroom

Oyster Mushroom

Spotted Salamander

Wild Strawberry

Common Greenshield

Harvestman

Common Greenshield

British Soldiers

Soil Mite

British Soldiers

Three-lined Salamander

Eastern Mosquitofish

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle

Chigger

Relationship to Humans:

People may not realize it, but Snow Fleas, and all springtails, are very important. They are decomposers, and help break down old dead plant matter and other items in the soil. After the springtails are done with them, plants can pull the nutrients back from the soil and use them to grow. Then, people and other animals can use the plants. Springtails are an important part of nature's cycle.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Arthropod
CLASS
Insect
ORDER
Collembola
FAMILY
Hypogasturidae
GENUS
Hypogastrura
SPECIES
Hypogastrura nivicola

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