Sunday, January 20, 2019

Yard Critter of the Week - Springtail


Also known as "Snow Fleas".

Here is a real crappy picture of one that I found in our yard. It is right smack dab in the middle of the image below.

When I was out taking pictures of the Needle Ice in the yard I was inadvertently taking pictures of this critter as well. But I didn't notice it at the time. Not until I was looking at the images on my computer, quickly switching between images to compare them, did I notice movement between the images. So I zoomed in.

The image above is a crop of the section with the Springtail. Below are images showing just how small this critter is. It is the same image twice, with the second image having been processed to spotlight the location of the Springtail; it is at the top of the Needle Ice where the right pine needle meets the ice.

Once upon a time, Springtails were considered insects. But this is no longer the case as they have soft bodies, no wings, and internal mouth parts whereas insects have hard bodies, wings, and external mouth parts.

They've been around a long time, the oldest fossil being 400 million years old. Today they are found pretty much everywhere, from the top of Mt Everest to 6500 feet underground in a cave.

It is estimated that in suitable habitat there are 100,000 individuals per square meter. That's a lot.

But they are so small it's no surprise they go unnoticed.

The only time most people notice them is when the are active on snow, the dark bodies contrasting against the white snow. Which is where the "snow flea" moniker originates.

Be sure to check out this gallery, for much better pictures than mine.

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Thanks to Steve Mason and John Maxwell for identifying the type of critter this is. I sent them an email with the subject line, "Impossible Insect ID", which turned out to be both true as Springtails are not insects and false as they both told me what it was.

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You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.

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