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Snow Fleas (Hypogastrura spp.)


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



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Image Credit: Mike D. from OR
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Image Credit: Mike D. from OR
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Snow Fleas are neither relegated just to snowy areas, nor are they actually fleas, but they certainly surprise anyone digging a trench or hole.



Updated: 07/13/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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, called 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.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Jumping insect icon
Rounded insect body icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Collembola
      Order: Poduromorpha
        Family: Hypogastruridae
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          Genus: Hypogastrura
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            Species: spp.
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Hypogastrura spp.
Other Name(s): Elongated Springtails
Category: Springtail
Size (Adult; Length): 1mm to 2mm (0.03" to 0.07")
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
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 1mm (0.0in) and 2mm (0.1in)
Lo: 1mm
Md: 1.5mm
Hi: 2mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
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Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Snow Fleas may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Snow Fleas. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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