It’s hard to look at a snow covered landscape and think spring is anywhere near. But yesterday made me confident. Though the temperature only climbed to around 40 degrees, with little wind and almost zero clouds against the blue, it was easy to feel the warmth of the early March sun.
I didn’t look for robins, it wasn’t sandhill cranes flying like last week. I spent the afternoon in the “sunroom” on my pole building repairing, oiling and respooling my fishing reels. Just outside the solar heated ell, I checked for (and found) thousands of “snow fleas,” the little insects that are one of the a surest signs of spring. In the world of entomologists, they are known as Achorutes nivicola; to others they are springtails, but when they emerge to play on the surface of melting snowdrifts, it’s easy to understand their snow flea moniker.
They are not even distantly related to real fleas and with a magnifying glass, they don’t look much like a flea, either. They don’t climb on dogs, cats or people. I’m told they feed mostly on decaying vegetation and fungi. But when you walk outside and spot what looks like energetic flakes of pepper frolicking on remnant snow, it’s snow fleas.
I suppose there’s some life cycle reason for them to crawl out from under where ever they huddled down for the winter. Perhaps it’s a prelude to their breeding season or an escape from the meltwater dripping under the snow. I like to think it’s just the joy of spring, calling them out for a few hours of spring’s promise.