Michigan has no shortage of bugs. I know we hear about the dangers of the insect apocalypse, and those are very real dangers, but you couldn’t tell it from where we live. I’ve heard all the jokes (mosquitoes so big, they’re the State Bird; black flies so thick they blot out the sun; and so on.) We get it.

My standard reprise (especially to Californians) is that we have enough water to support life here. Insects are one healthy barometer of that fact. That usually shuts them up.

But, we comfort ourselves in the knowledge that winter offers a respite from the bugs. (They say that’s why Michiganders like ice-fishing.) Sigh.

Or so I said, until now. It turns out we have winter bugs! They call them snow fleas. Hypogastrura nivicola (Hypogastrurida) They’re about the size of fleas and they jump. Go ahead, look it up. They’re a kind of springtail and they actually manufacture their own internal ‘anti-freeze’ that lets them thrive in winter. They come out when we get warm spells, so that they can slurp the water from the sun-melted snow.


The good news is that they are entirely beneficial. They don’t bite, sting, suck blood, eat your home or annoy. They eat dead plant matter, and so are nature’s little composting assistants. If you have them, it’s an indication of clean soils.

I’d never seen them before. It requires just the right conditions to get them on the snow’s surface. I saw the specs on the snow when I was bringing in firewood. I assumed that it was ash debris–from the chimney–until I saw them jumping, and then I looked closely. Bugs! Bugs in winter! Who knew?