A couple weeks ago I went out snowshoeing. It was a warm day for January – with temperatures all the way into the high 30’s (Fahrenheit). As I tromped along the road between hayfields, I noticed black specks sprinkled around tracks like pepper. They weren’t pepper flakes. They were tiny arthropods called springtails, or snow fleas.
So what were they doing in the tracks? Springtails live
in the top layer of the soil, right under the snow. They spend their winter nibbling
on fungi and decaying leaves, and on warm days they catapult themselves up, up,
up to the surface. As winter turns to spring, these tiny springtails become
spider snacks. You can watch a cool video about them here.
On warm days this month, look for a sprinkling of springtails on the snow around trees in your neighborhood. If you have a magnifying lens, take a close look. They won’t leap too far away.
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