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Snow Fleas (Hypogastrura spp.)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Snow Fleas.

 Updated: 3/11/2019; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




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.
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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Collembola
      Order: Poduromorpha
        Family: Hypogastruridae
          Genus: Hypogastrura
            Species: spp.
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Hypogastrura spp.
Other Name(s): Elongated Springtails
Category: Springtail
Size (Adult; Length): 1mm to 2mm (0.04in to 0.08in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black, blue, purple
Descriptors: underground, plumbing, sewer, pipes, mushrooms, snow, digging, millions, group, cluster, swarm, small, tiny, bugs, jump, dirt, pepper, bluish
Territorial Map
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Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
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Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
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New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
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Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
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Washington
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Wisconsin
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Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
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Mexico
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.