What Are Snow Fleas And Why Do You Want to See Them in Michigan?
Have you ever heard of Hypogastrura Nivicola? What about a Springtail? Snow flea? If you've never heard these terms before-- you're not alone!
Even if you've never heard those terms before you may still be familiar with the little black flecks that appear in snow piles across Michigan. I never thought twice about them, but it turns out seeing these "fleas" is actually a very good sign.
Much like opening day at Kalamazoo's Root Beer Stand or Bell's Oberon Day signal that springtime is right around the corner, the presence of snow fleas in Michigan means warmer weather is on its way!
But what are they?
Are Snow Fleas Even Fleas?
It turns out the term "snow flea" is a bit of a misnomer. These fleas aren't fleas at all!
Often referred to as "springtails" these creatures are in fact wingless insects and despite their namesake, they are not harmful or parasitic and they don't bite. In fact, they're essential to our ecosystems as snow fleas/springtails feed on and help break down decaying organic matter which in turn helps fertilize the soil.
How Did They Get Their Name?
If you've ever encountered a snow flea/springtail then surely you've seen the unique way they get around-- jumping.
The springtail have a tail called a furcula which unfolds and allows them to jump and leap over large distances, thus the name "springtail." Because it is common to find them in piles of snow and thanks to their flea-like appearance they are also referred to as "snow fleas."
What Do They Mean?
Although you can find snow fleas in Michigan year-round, but seeing them active in the wintertime is a subtle sign that spring is coming. Because the snow flea possesses a protein similar to anti-freeze they are able to stay active in the wintertime but once you start to see them in large groups, then it's time to celebrate!
Say the park rangers at Lake Superior's Apostle Islands National Park in Wisconsin,
You’ll see them on warmer days when the snow melts because snow fleas are rising to the surface of the snow in search of new food sources....if you see these black flecks on the snow, rejoice…spring is just around the corner!
One Michigan man, Josh Menard, has already encountered snow fleas in the Neguanee-area. This must mean spring is on its way to Southwest Michigan!