For some, one of the most appealing things about winter is the lack of bugs. While most of the mosquitoes, ticks and stinging insects have disappeared, springtails are one pest that can be found hopping around in a fresh layer of fallen snow. Springtails, also known as snow fleas, are small hexapods that utilize a protein in their body that allows them to survive harsh winter temperatures. These tiny critters are actually not fleas but get their unique nick name from their ability to jump from place to place, an action similar to that of fleas. This jumping action is more noticeable in the winter when springtails’ dark bodies stand out against the snow.
Springtails “breathe” and absorb water through their body covering, because of this springtails need a constant source of moisture to prevent them from drying out. However, if the ground becomes too saturated with water they will emerge from the ground in very large numbers; the same can be said for when the ground becomes too dry. Outside, springtails feed on decaying vegetation, bacteria, insect feces, and pollen; helping to release nutrients back into the soil. If the weather outside is not conducive to their survival they often migrate inside underneath of doors and through small cracks and crevices found in exterior walls. Inside they can be found in damp areas like bathrooms, basements, crawl spaces, kitchens, on window sills, and in the soil of potted plants. Springtails are active year-round, some species can be seen jumping across snow and are referred to as “snow fleas.”