In my mind, the image of such a thing makes me start to itch. But the truth is, snow fleas aren't like that at all. In fact, until just recently, I didn't think they actually even existed. Other than in stories to make your sweater itchier. But it turns out, they're pretty easy to find. Right in my own back yard, for that matter.

Now, they're not actually real fleas. They're actually called springtails. And they're not only not insects, they're kinda stranger than you think. Here's what I found on the Farmer's Almanac website:

...their scientific name is Hypogastrura harveyi or Hypogastrura nivicola, depending on the species. Snow fleas are classified as hexapods, which is a subtype of the arthropod family. Like insects, snow fleas have six legs but researchers say that they are more closely related to crustaceans.

So, they're little land shrimp?! Gross! However, they do have a pretty impressive jumping ability. But unlike real fleas that use their hind legs to get air, snow fleas curl their tail and rocket themselves upward. Which is how they got the name 'springtail'. And probably because BOOIIIING!!! fleas was too awkward to write.

But, my wife got some photos of the ones in our back yard over the weekend. Check it out:

Photo K Stew
Photo K Stew

They don't look like much, but if you're on your phone, zoom in and look at those little buggers. And when you're walking around in the snow and start seeing living insects, you just assume your house is built on a toxic waste dump. But they're common in forested areas, so no worries there.

Anyhoo...there's your little nature lesson for the day. And remember, there is literally nothing to fear from these little creatures. They're just doing their thing, and are more than happy to let you do yours.

More From WWMJ Ellsworth Maine