Nature Nugget: Have You Seen Snow Fleas?

thousands of snowfleas, also known as springtails, in snow

A bite-sized resource for learning about Vermont’s outdoors

Snowfleas are incredibly interesting creatures! If you have any snow left in your woods, you can try to spot them on your next hike. Look especially at a snow patch near the base of a tree.

These tiny creatures spend much of their time in the upper layers of the soil , feeding on soil bacteria, fungi, pollen, and organic material. They have a natural antifreeze, so they can be active all winter – even in sub-zero temperatures.

When you see them on top of the snow, they are mostly feeding on pollen and algal cells that have settled out of the air. If you see them hopping around, it’s because they have a tail coiled up under their bodies and when it’s released the spring-like tail catapults them into the air, up to 300 body-lengths away. A very useful trick for escaping predators.

Snowfleas can be incredibly numerous—more than 100,000 of them can live in a square meter of soil. A snowfleas is not actually a flea, but they belong to a large worldwide group of insects knows as springtails.

There are thousands of springtail species around the world. Some are found in dark caves, others in sunny meadows, some on Antarctic ice and others in warm lava on a Pacific Island. Springtails have been around a long time—fossils indicate they have been on this planet more than 400 million years.

Want to know more about springtails? Check out this article in Northern Woodlands Magazine

This educational post is part of our #StayGroundedVT campaign to help Vermonters stay connected to nature, find tools to teach their kids about nature, and support farms producing local food. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to get the latest!