What Are Snow Fleas & Do We Have Them In Maine?
Picture this... It's a nice spring day in Augusta (or Waterville, Gardiner, Portland, Lewiston, wherever you live). You decide to talk a walk. As you pass by the melting snowbanks in your yard, you see all the dirt and debris mixed in with the snow. At first, you assume it is just bits of dirt and sand picked up by plowing and shoveling. But then, you see something moving.
What is it? Some kind of bug? Well, yes and no.
There's a good chance it is a "Snow Flea"!
According to the Farmer's Almanac, Hypogastrura harveyi (or Hypogastrura nivicola) are commonly called "Snow Fleas". However, they really aren't fleas. Actually, they aren't even insects.
They are classified as hexapods because they have six legs, but they are more closely related to crustaceans. Also, unlike regular insects, they are around in the winter (and early spring) because they don't hibernate. The avoid the normal insect dormancy because they produce their own form of antifreeze.
Because they jump, people refer to them as fleas, but unlike the normal fleas that harass your cats and dogs, they don't jump using their legs. Instead, they leap using their tail. This has lead some people to calling them "springtails".
The good news is that they don't bite, either. The Almanac says:
Though they look and act like cat or dog fleas, snow fleas are not parasitic, which means you and your pets are safe. In fact, if you enjoy gardening, then you’ve probably encountered thousands of snow fleas in your lifetime without ever realizing it. In the summer, they tend to sit on top of rich topsoil but because they are so small and dark, most people don’t notice them. That soil is actually the snow flea’s food source. They are an essential component in the ecosystem because they feed on decaying organic matter in the soil, thus helping it to decay faster, turning it into plant food.
So, next time you take a walk in the spring, keep a close eye on the snowbanks.
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