Monday, January 02, 2006

Snow Bugs

Most people think that all the insects and other invertebrates are hibernating during the New England winter, actually there are a few species that can be regularly seen in the winter.

Yesterday I took a short walk down to the creek that runs along our property with my kids. We had about 4 inches of new snow.

Under a board I found a very sluggish woodlouse. I reminded my son how he had eaten a handful of them when he was 3. I had been keeping two species found around our house in a styrofoam cup with some potato peels to eat. One species was gray a flattened, the others we called pillbugs could roll themselves up into a little ball. The seemed happy and had many baby woodlice. My son got the cup and sat under the dining room table popping the pillbugs in his mouth. I'm not sure how many he ate, but he put a dent in the population.

On our walk yesterday we also found quite a few snow fleas, a small black springtail that can be found on the surface of the snow on mild days. We also found a spider walking around. The best find for me was a female snow scorpionfly, a flightless insect that feeds on mosses and is active as an adult during the winter. This was only the second time I've ever seen one.

In the spring around March we tend to get good numbers of winter stoneflies crawling around on the snow. Here's a group that monitors winter stonefly hatches as an indicator of water quality.

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