Currently viewing the tag: "snow bugs"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

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

Snowfly

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.


What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Winter Caterpillar
February 24, 2010
Hello Bugman,
I am a follower of your website for several years now. I moved to Canada recently, and have been exploring around Thames River. I came across this caterpillar in the snow in London Ontario.
It was little more than an inch in length. At first I thought it was dead, so I photographed it as it was (first picture). Later when I came back to explore, it had moved almost 3 feet from its location (picture 2) in about 45 minutes, and was on the snow (picture 3)!
This surprised me. I am aware of hibernating caterpillars, but the fact that this fellow was out in the open caught my attention.
Can you help me identify it? Is it a Noctuid caterpillar?
Sincerely,
Ani
London ON, Canada

Winter Cutworm

Hi Ani,
Last month we received a similar letter from New England, and our faithful reader Karl helped us identify it as a Winter Cutworm, Noctua pronuba, an invasive species that was introduced from Europe.

Winter Cutworm

Hi Daniel,
Thank you so very much for the response! I have been coming across heaps of invasive species in the wild, compared to native species over here, which is very sad!
Thank you again for the information, I really appreciate it!
Keep up the good work!
Sincerely,
Ani

Hi again Ani,
We believe you will find that the spread and proliferation of exotic imported opportunistic species is not limited to Canada, but is a phenomenon that we are seeing worldwide due to human migration.  There probably is not a scientist on the planet that will be able to accurately predict the extent of the dire consequences this will have on species diversity, and many endemic species are becoming endangered or extinct at an alarming rate.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

January 18, 2010
Live caterpillars in the snow, New England.
Hi – I found about a dozen of these caterpillars – live caterpillars – on the top of the snow this morning.  It was a windy stormy night, temps in the high 20’s.  Most of the trees in this area are oak trees.   We are in Dover, MA, about 15 miles just southeast of Boston. Can you please tell me what kind of caterpillars these are?
Thanks,
Judy

Cutworm in the Snow

Hi Judy,
This looks like a Cutworm, a member of the subfamily Noctuinae.  Perhaps one of our readers will have more information on what species might be found in the snow.

Comment from Karl:
It’s probably a Winter Cutworm, the common name for the caterpillar of the Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba). It’s an immigrant species from Europe that has become a pest in much of eastern North America.  According to the book, Caterpillars of Eastern North America (David L. Wagner), “The caterpillars are active during thaws throughout the winter – commonly turning up on sidewalks, sauntering into garages, or crawling along banks of snow. If someone brings you a cutworm in the dead of winter – this is it.”  There are some good photos and information at: http://www.pestid.msu.edu/InsectsArthropods/NoctuaPronuba/tabi/73/Default.aspx

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Winter Critters
December 30, 2009
I took a walk in the woods this month in western New York and found many little critters on top of the snow. I would appreciate any help you might be able to give in identifying. The trails are on a 600-acre wetland preserve and most of the pictures were taken in mixed woods of pine, hemlock, cherry, maple, oak, etc. that surround a very slow-moving marshy pond.
All of the pictures can be found on my blog (which links to bigger versions on Flickr): http://winterwoman.net/2009/12/23/snow-critters/
There were some spiders, too… Can you help with them?
Thanks in advance for your help!
Jennifer Schlick
Wetland preserve, western New York State on Dec 22, 2009

Caddisfly

Caddisfly

Hi again Jennifer,
Your third image is of a Caddisfly, but we don’t want to try to identify it any further than the order Trichoptera, or possibly the Northern Caddisfly family Limnephilidae.  We did find a reference on a fishing website to Winter Caddisflies in the genus Psychoglypha that are called Snow Sedges.
Troutnut.com also has this comment posted:  “Dr. George Roemhild explained to me how he finds these winter caddisflies in February and March: ‘They crawl up on the snowbanks, but when the sun hits their dark wings they melt down out of sight. That’s how I collect them, by walking along looking for holes in the snow.'” We also found a reference to Snow Sedge on the Flyfishing Entomology website, our new favorite etymology reference page.  Your second image, the caterpillar, is some species of Cutworm.

Wow.  You’re my hero.  thanks a billion.  Now I’m going to have to write a blog post about the wonderful folks over at What’s that Bug!!!

Here’s my blog post:
http://winterwoman.net/2009/12/31/whats-that-bug/
Thanks again!

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Winter Critters
December 30, 2009
I took a walk in the woods this month in western New York and found many little critters on top of the snow. I would appreciate any help you might be able to give in identifying. The trails are on a 600-acre wetland preserve and most of the pictures were taken in mixed woods of pine, hemlock, cherry, maple, oak, etc. that surround a very slow-moving marshy pond.
All of the pictures can be found on my blog (which links to bigger versions on Flickr): http://winterwoman.net/2009/12/23/snow-critters/
There were some spiders, too… Can you help with them?
Thanks in advance for your help!
Jennifer Schlick
Wetland preserve, western New York State on Dec 22, 2009

Gall Wasp

Gall Wasp

Hi Jennifer,
While the creatures in your photographs are all similar in that they were discovered in the snow, taxonomically (and that is how we try to organize on our website) they are unrelated.  We are going to split them up and post them independently of one another.  We are most curious about the first image, which is obviously a Hymenopteran, but not an ant.  We did a web search of “wingless wasp in snow” and were led to a BugGuide page on Gall Wasps.  Interestingly, there was an individual found in Massachusetts also walking on the snow in January 2008.  It was identified as being in the family Cynipidae, but the species was not identified.  Gall Wasps are most difficult to identify to the species level.  The posting contained this comment from Richard Vernier:  “More accurately a so-called ‘agamous’ female. Just like palaearctic Biorrhiza pallida, this winter generation contains only females, who lay eggs inside winter buds of oak-trees, after having grown-up at the roots of the same host plant.
”  Encyclopedia.com has a link to a UTube video of a Gall Wasp walking on the snow in Japan.  We also recommend the Snow Critters web page.

Wow.  You’re my hero.  thanks a billion.  Now I’m going to have to write a blog post about the wonderful folks over at What’s that Bug!!!

Here’s my blog post:
http://winterwoman.net/2009/12/31/whats-that-bug/
Thanks again!

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

What kind of bug?
December 15, 2009
These bugs are hanging around our doorways, usually on the porch ceiling and they drop down on you when you walk outside. They are even out when the temp goes below freezing. They started about the first of November and are still here. What are they and how do I get rid of them? Thanks,
Dan Hoffer
Southwestern Pennsylvania

Winter Stonefly or Snowfly

Small Winter Stonefly or Snowfly

Dear Dan,
We are very excited to receive your letter, and we think it may make an excellent candidate for our Bug of the Month for January.  This is a Small Winter Stonefly in the family Capniidae, commonly called a Snowfly.  According to BugGuide, the  “family is distributed throughout much of North America but many species have restricted geographic ranges, and are endemic to relatively small areas
” so we are reluctant to try to identify the species, or even the genus.  It may also be a Winter Stonefly in the family Taeniopterygidae, also called a Snowfly and also depicted on BugGuide.  We will contact Eric Eaton to see if he can be more specific.  BugGuide also indicates:  “The defining need of winter stonefly nymphs is for very high levels of oxygen in the water. Warm temperatures, excessive organic matter, and many pollutants all reduce oxygen levels. The result: they’re only active in the coldest part of the year and are very sensitive to pollution.  Their main interest to humans is as an indicator species: you can tell that water is unpolluted if stoneflies live there. They also provide food for trout – though not as much as species active when trout are themselves more active in warmer parts of the year.

Winter Stonefly or Snowfly

Small Winter Stonefly or Snowfly

Confirmation from Eric Eaton
Hi:
You are correct with the family, Capniidae, known as “small winter stoneflies.”  The genus is probably Allocapnia, but I am not an expert in aquatic insects and can’t be totally certain.  The presence of large numbers of these should be taken as a “good” sign!
Eric

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination