Here are two insects you may run into when walking the woods this
Winter Crane Flies
Here is a video link showing the: Wingless Snow flies
And a link to a naturalists paper on the life cycle of: Snow flies
This is an insect that is often thought to be a daddy long legs spider crawling across the snow, but with close observation you will find only 6 legs. There
are sixteen species of “snow flies” in the genus Chionea in North
They are in the crane fly family
Limoniidae, formerly a subfamily of the Tipulidae. While western species are
mostly confined to mountain ranges, eastern species can be found in most
forested areas, especially in regions that experienced glaciations during the
most recent ice age. They appear most commonly in October and November, and
again in February and March.
While these dark flies are most
conspicuous on the surface of the snow, most of the time they are concealed in
the tunnels of small mammals, beneath leaf litter, or fairly deep in caves.
These situations help to insulate them from truly severe weather, and an adult
snow fly may live up to two months.
How do snow flies keep from freezing
to death? Snow flies occupy the “subnivean” environment: a microclimate
that exists in cavities beneath the snow created by arching grassblades, leaf
litter, and rodent tunnels. These nooks and crannies offer protected niches
with temperatures that are milder than the surface and air temperatures above.
Second and the most common are the Snow Fleas often seen on warm
afternoon near the base of trees.
This video is a great way to learn how
to look for this neat critter.
SSnow Fleas are not fleas
at all, but a type of insect called a springtail.
Springtails get their name because they have two long things
that look like tails sticking from their abdomen
(back body section). The "tails" can fold under the body and
are held by two hooks under the body. When the springtail
releases the hooks, the insect goes flying in the
Snow Fleas are very
small, about 1/16 inch long. They are dark blue, have short
and have two eye clusters (with 16 eyes in each).
Snow Fleas, and other
Springtails, live in soil, leaf
and along shores of ponds. Sometimes they can be found on
the surface of ponds. Since they are so light, they can walk
on the surface without sinking.
They eat old dead plant
roudworms, rotifers, and sap.
Roundworms and rotifers are tiny microscopic
Snow Fleas mate in the
Spring, and the females lay eggs in the soil. Tiny
springtails are born, which are called nymphs.
Nymphs do not look exactly like adult
Cofrin A Center for
Biodiversity, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay:
Snow Flea nymphs will eat and
grow. As they grow they will shed their outer skin (called an
Each time they molt,
they will look a little bit more like an adult Snow Flea. By Winter,
all the nymphs have turned into adults.
During very cold Winter days, Snow
Fleas are not very active. But if it warms up, Snow Fleas will become
active and look for food. They may even crawl out onto the surface of
snow. This is how Snow Fleas get their name. People notice large
amounts of them, like black dust, around the base of a tree. They are
usually there when there isn't snow too, as long as the temperature
is warm enough; you just see them better on a white
of Snow Fleas, and other springtails, include: beetles, ants, mites,
centipedes, and other small insect-eaters.