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Snow fleas are conspicuous but harmless

Jeff Hahn, Extension Entomologist

Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota

Photo 1: Snow fleas during late winter.

As temperatures warm and snow melts during later winter, a curious insect is sometimes observed. Snow fleas (Hypogastrura nivicola) are small (about 1/10th inch long). But because they are black and typically congregate in large numbers, they are very conspicuous against the white background of snow. From causal observation, snow fleas can look like black pepper. Additionally, they jump which helps to correctly identify them. Watch for snow fleas especially around the base of trees.

Their ability to jump leads some people to believe that these insects are true fleas. However despite its name, a snow flea is a type of springtail and does not bite people. Springtails are wingless and move by walking and jumping. They are very abundant although people usually don't notice them (except of course for snow fleas). They are often found in leaf litter and in the soil where they feed on decaying organic material, fungi, and pollen.

If you find springtails in your yard, just ignore them. They do not damage plants and are harmless to people. They are a curiosity that will go away on their own.
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