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Jan 22
Winter Insects You Should Know

Here are two insects you may run into when walking the woods this winter. 


Wingless Winter Crane Flies 

             snow fly.jpgsnow fly2.jpg

 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 America.

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.
Snow Flea

Hypogastrura nivicola

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 air.

Snow Fleas are very small, about 1/16 inch long. They are dark blue, have short antennae, and have two eye clusters (with 16 eyes in each).

Snow Fleas, and other sp

Springtails, live in soil, leaf litter, mosses, fungi, 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 matter, bacteria, fungi, algae, pollen, roudworms, rotifers, and sap. Roundworms and rotifers are tiny microscopic animals.

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 Snow Fleas.

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 exoskeleton). 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 background.

Predators of Snow Fleas, and other springtails, include: beetles, ants, mites, centipedes, and other small insect-eaters.


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