Ed. Note: February 28, 2010
Selecting the Bug of the Month each month is always a careful decision, and we like to try to select a recent submission that is timely in its appearance.  Insects that appear while there is still snow on the ground are unusual, but not at all rare.  This Snowfly is a creature that may be encountered by a sizable portion of our readership in the coming month.

Snow bugs?
February 24, 2010
Sorry to bug you all again (pun not intended, I assure you!)
But today at the river getting some photos of the snow, I saw these black things scurrying across the top. On a closer look, I noticed they were some kind of flying insect. Some were hitching a ride on another (or mating, not sure). I was careful not to step on any of them. (I hope I didn’t!). I’m sorry the photos aren’t great, but I don’t have the right lens for that. To be honest, they looked like miniature Dobson flies! Some were about almost an inch long. They were only at the river. What are these little guys?
Thanks a bunch, Terra
River, Massachusetts


Hi Terra,
Despite the snow, many insects are active during the winter months.  In the winter we frequently get images like yours of Snowflies, a group of Winter Stoneflies in the family Capniidae.  Though we do not refrain from posting photos that our readership takes during the summer months when the short cold days of winter allow people kept people indoors to work on the computer more, we much prefer timely postings like yours.  According to BugGuide Snowfly:  “nymphs live beneath rocks and gravel on the bottom of streams and rivers adults are often seen on snow, or resting on concrete bridges over streams
” which explains your sighting near the water in the snow.  We wish you had provided an image of a mating pair for our Bug Love section.  One of your images contains a tiny Springtail in the genus Hypogastrura, and the species that are found on the snow are known as  Snow Fleas.  You may read more about these in our archive as well as on BugGuide.

Wow! Thank you so much for the fast reply! I’m quite interested to hear more about these guys- they’re quite cute!
I’ll have to have a read on them, thank you!
(And sorry for the quality of the images- it was dark out!)

Ed. Note: After posting this letter and photos, a second photo of a Snowfly resulted in a request from the Xerces Society to use the image in an Endangered Species Act petition .  Read about that here.

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Location: River, Massachusetts

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