waning of winter in northern states is marked by many
events in nature. Most folks note the lengthening days,
warming sun, returning birds, and radio interviews with
baseball players as sign posts pointing towards the
There is one natural
event that generates many phone calls and emails to the
Service offices every March. The inquiries usually go something like: "There are
thousands of these little black things jumping around on the snow in my
front yard. Are they fleas?"
These little critters are commonly referred to as "snow fleas".
Actually, they are not fleas at all. Like fleas they are insects. However,
they are not very closely related. They belong to a very primitive group
of insects named Collembola, commonly called spring
The group is so primitive that they do not possess wings. They
get around by cocking and releasing a spring-like mechanism at the tail
end of their body and by crawling.
Snow fleas are active adults from November to March. They are
most apparent when the snow pack starts to thaw in late winter. Their black
color allows them to absorb heat from the sun. They congregate in great
numbers on sunny days to feed on microscopic algae, bacteria, and fungi
on the surface of the snow and to complete mating. As the trees absorb
heat and the snow melts away from the base of the trees, the snow fleas
move down this pathway to the leaf litter and deposit their egg load.
The young hatch in the leaf litter later in the spring. They are
less than a millimeter long and pinkish in color. They mature throughout
the summer and become sexually active adults the following fall, usually
SNOW FLEAS DO NO HARM! They are a part of the natural processes
that take place in the forests. Snow fleas are part of that complex of
organisms that break down leaf and other organic matter on the forest floor.
They are soil builders. They are not harmful to people or pets and they
won't get in the house and contaminate foodstuff.