Snow Flea Circus

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 2 February 2019 19:59

Have you ever taken a 400 mile trip for a flea? Well me neither. Snow Flea Boreus hyemalis is actually a mecopteran, basically a small, wingless, winter-adult scorpionfly. Less than a week ago I got a message from Tony Davis saying simply "How's your back?" I knew this meant he had another crazy mission for us and I had the weekend free, definitely a great opportunity for some escapism...all the way to the Wyre Forest. We were just into Shropshire, just a few kilometres from my home county of Staffordshire but a part of the world I know very little about. The names of the towns and villages there completely alien to me. The last time I went to the Wyre Forest I was at school, |Steve Copper took us there to look for Drab Looper moths.

It took 25 minutes to find the first Snow Flea, the female above. We then went on to find a further six in a total of two hours of searching (two females and five males in all). Tony had the gen pretty much perfect. Here is how the first female appeared to the naked eye at first.
And the habitat. A south-facing bank with dense Sessile Oaks. Plentiful mosses at the bases of the trees are where we searched and this payed off. I thought there was some association with the moss Dicranum majus (which you can see in the image above to the left).

Here is the habitat...

And some video of the female.

And here is the male, with the strange vestigal wings and unusually-shaped first abdominal segments. I think their 'beak' looks quite like that of a Cormorant.

And some footage of him. I had no idea that they can jump quite substantial distances. I didn't manage to capture it (they behaved very well for me, not so much for Tony) but pretty obvious where the English name comes from after seeing this. A big thanks to Tony for arranging this and driving most of the way, never thought I would see these bizarre and fascinating insects. Now, I wonder if I can find them in Sussex...

1 Response to "Snow Flea Circus"

Gibster Says:

Congratulations firstly on managing to keep Tony from swearing, and secondly on the beasts! I'm well gripped!

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