Springtails Are Coming Out to Play
Springtails, also referred to as snow fleas, are quite aptly named, as they make there appearance when winter is coming towards its end, the temperature is steadily rising, and spring is just on the horizon. During the rest of the year they live in the soil, under tree bark, and within leaf litter. These little creatures tend to hang out in abundance on the top of snow in cold regions at this time, hence the title of snow fleas, but are so tiny that people don’t even notice when they are passing right by them. Springtails are a mere one millimeter long, requiring you to bend down and take a close look at the snow you are walking in in order to see likely millions of the tiny critters. Even then a person might not realize they are insects at first, and they can be mistaken for what looks like tiny grains of pepper until they move.
However, these little “snow fleas” aren’t even fleas at all, and are actually not classified as an insect, but have been set apart and instead are labeled as hexapods because they do have six legs. Now, of you look at one of them, you will be hard pressed to understand exactly what excludes them from technically being an insect, but it has something to do with technicalities regarding their mouthparts and other strange features on their body. Springtails are actually one of the earliest known terrestrial creatures, first appearing around 400 million years ago.
These tiny black bugs are known for their ability to hop, which often gets them mistaken for fleas because of this ability they share. Rather than using their legs to jump like fleas, springtails have a tail-like appendage, called a furcula, which they use to hop. The furcula folds underneath their body, hooking on a catch that helps build up energy like a compressed metal coil. It is the release of this furcula that then shoots them forward into a hop that can propel them as far as 100 times the length of their body. Thankfully, springtails don’t cause humans much annoyance except for in places like green houses, but they don’t bite or carry any diseases, so you’re still safe even if you do come across one or a million of these guys.
Have you ever seen a springtail? Do they seem like a nuisance to you or do anything that you hate?