Snow Fleas are neither relegated just to snowy areas, nor are they actually fleas, but they certainly surprise anyone digging a trench or hole.
Snow Fleas are minuscule hexapods, not insects. They sometimes come to the surface of snow pack in winter months. This emergence, and their ability to leap, created the misnomer that is the common name, Snow Flea. They are actually Springtails, not fleas, so they do not bite, and they do not sting. They technically do not jump either. An appendage under their bodies, callled a furcula, snaps and propels them recklessly into the air, hopefully allowing them to escape a predator or threat. A more accurate name for this kind of hexapod is Elongate-bodied Springtail.
At first glance, their congregations look like dark, crumbly soil, until the discoverer realizes the mass is moving. They are typically found in large, swarm-like clusters in the soil, and are usually only revealed to human eyes when serious digging is required for plumbing, sewer, or other underground work. They have also been known to take up residence under commercial mushroom farms. While the sheer numbers of the tiny invertebrates may seem alarming, these little creatures are completely harmless. In fact, they help maintain soil health and aeration. They are black hexapods, but may have a bluish tint to them en masse.
Elongate-bodied Springtails feed on decaying plant matter like leaf litter and mulch as well as other organic material in the soil. They can survive cold temperatures underground thanks to biochemical 'antifreeze' in their bodies. In early spring, when snow is beginning to melt, they might make an appearance on the surface, perhaps in a search for food. Otherwise, they are happy to go unnoticed beneath our feet. Assemblies of innocuous Elongate-bodied Springtails are found in every part of North America.
Scientific Name: Hypogastrura spp.
Other Name(s): Elongated Springtails
Size (Adult; Length): 1mm to 2mm (0.04in to 0.08in)
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.