They’re Hee-e-re! Invasion of the Michigan Snow Fleas
So you're walking around thru the snow on a warm winter's day. Snow is on the ground. You're leaving footprints. But what's this? Little tiny bugs, jumping and flitting inside your footprint...not just a few, but hundreds...THOUSANDS of 'em.
What the heck are they? They look and leap like fleas...therefore, they have been nicknamed 'snow fleas'. The other name for them is “springtails' and the scientific terminology is Hypogastrura harveyi / nivicola. They survive in snow, mainly around/in tree trunks and foliage.....and there are billions of them in your yard.
Even though they're called 'fleas', and they kinda resemble the usual dog/cat fleas, these buggers have no desire to come into your house, or bite you or your pets. What they're interested in is right there in your yard: bacteria, decay, and fungus. This stuff is banquet food for them. They gobble up as much decay in your yard/garden as they can.
Snow fleas have no wings, and are related to crabs, crawdads, lobsters, shrimp, and all other crustaceans. They don't jump with their hind legs like regular fleas...they have a 'tail' which propels them through the air like a springboard.
Okay, all well and good, but why do these little guys come out when there is snow on the ground? Why don't they lie dormant and hibernate like most insects? No need to. They have a way to manufacture their own amino acid glycine – a protein that acts like antifreeze, to keep them protecting your yard even in the bitterest, coldest weather.
The best time to see them is on a warm winter day, when they rise to the snow's surface, looking for more food. You might freak out seeing this dark mass of jumping, squirming buglets in your yard and be tempted to eradicate 'em. That's up to you, but remember, they won't bite, don't wanna come in the house or infest your pets...all they wanna do is keep your yard & garden healthy.
I have never seen them – not yet, anyway – but billions of these could be in your yard RIGHT NOW.
Take a look at the gallery below and see what they look like!
The Farmer's Almanac