Snow fleas? Pull the other one!

(If you don’t like tiny creepy crawlies, I suggest you go and look at a different post!)

On our walks in the woods recently we have once again noticed little black specks on the snow. Until now we thought it must be dirt from the machinery used for forestry or from old tractors driving through the woods, but this year it was extreme and so we took a closer look…

Here we saw that where tracks are (from tractor tyres, deer, our footprints, skis etc) there is more of this ‘dirt’. Could it be soot? Is our air so bad? Here, in the middle of nowhere, with no industry for miles…

When we got home my Man of Many Talents googled for ages, trying to find something about it, and when he showed me what he had found I was AMAZED! He went back to get more photos so we could check the facts!


Now I’m going to get even closer…

They are SNOW FLEAS! Now, maybe we are the only people in the world who have never heard of snow fleas before, so I hope I am not showing my ignorance, but aren’t they simply incredible? Here are several hundred or even thousands of them gathering in the hollows of tracks.

Now a little information that we found in German, summarized:

Snow fleas come out of the ground in February/March when the temperature is just above freezing. They are often thought to be soot, as they cover the snow quite thickly in places. But these ‘specks of dirt’ are all the same size (around 1 millimetre long). They can crawl and jump (about 10cm high). However, they aren’t actually fleas, but springtails, so Wikipedia says they are technically not insects.

They emerge at temperatures of about -3°C, and live on fungi, pollen or algae which provide them with a special protein that functions as a kind of antifreeze. They prefer damp forests with evergreens. It is a real migration at this time of year, as they use the snow to move more easily and to search for food and for new ground where they can increase their population.

For scientific purposes my Man of Many Talents let some crawl across his hand, and we think they are actually smaller than 1 millimetre…

So, please let me know if you have ever encountered these fascinating little creatures and any extra information would be very welcome!


Interesting links:




In a Vase on Monday: Alma and Co.

Each Monday I join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her meme, which encourages us to find suitable materials from our gardens to put in a vase. This week I am cheating a little…

My first vase is actually from early last week. With a severe storm forecast I picked some of the Aster ‘Alma Pötschke’ just as it was beginning to open so that I could enjoy the flowers indoors…

The buds all opened in the warmth of the house and are looking at their best today, five days later. 🙂

Alma is a tall aster, flowering from the end of September/early October and the bees and butterflies love it on a sunny day. I actually cut some of these back in May, hoping to avoid them getting too leggy, but the shorter ones almost caught up with the ones I didn’t trim.

The second vase contains flowers that are not in my garden, but were picked for me by my Man of Many Talents from a field in the countryside. Sunflowers, Phacelia and various other wild flowers are sometimes sown after the main harvest in August, as food for the bees I assume, and to be ploughed back into the soil in late winter as a natural fertiliser. (Being skeptical as I am, I fear EU subsidies are the motivation for farmers to do this!)

The sunflowers grew so quickly in this field, and flowered in record time.

The Phacelia smells wonderful, filling the room with its sweet scent.

Do you see wild flowers in fields near you so late in the season?

Now go and visit Cathy and see what she and others have found to put in a vase this Monday.

A Tiger or a Bear?

I am very pleased that this Buddleia has recovered after freezing back completely last winter, but was then doubly happy to see these two butterflies resting on it the other day, as they are quite unusual…

The English name is Jersey Tiger, but in German they are called ‘Russian Bear’… interesting! Another name used in both languages is ‘Spanish Flag’. I wonder what the Spanish call it!

When resting you cannot see the bright orange part of the wings, so here is a Wikipedia photo to give you an idea of the flashes of bright orange when they flutter away – too quickly for me and my camera!

Wilipedia image

In southern Germany they can often be seen, but only near the woods or on shrubby grassland. They apparently like raspberry or nettle leaves, both of which are abundant in the nearby woods and hedges.

Have you seen this butterfly? And which name would you say is more apt – Tiger or Bear?! 😉


One of the major inland waterways for freight carried across Germany, the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, is currently closed to traffic…


It has been below freezing point for several weeks now (apart from a couple of days around Christmas), at times reaching -17°C and frequently staying at around -9°C during the day. I have seen the canal freeze over once before, but it never freezes completely, being built into the bed of a slow-flowing river. Last Monday it was officially closed to traffic, as the locks froze up and no ice breakers could get through.


The canal links up the North Sea (Rotterdam in the Netherlands) with the Black Sea, and millions of tonnes of heavy building materials, grain and coal are transported via this route on long deep barges each year. Passenger cruises also regularly use this route, the most popular trips being from Rotterdam or Nurenberg, down past us to the Danube, and then on to Vienna and even Budapest. This part of the canal near to us was the last section to be built, involving high costs to reduce the environmental impact and secure habitats for wildlife. The completed canal is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.


Today it is a balmy +1°C, with +3°C  forecast by the weekend. Still cold at night though, so it will take a while before we see boats coming this way again. In the meantime it is pleasantly quiet…


Have you seen local waterways freeze this winter?

Stay safe and warm everyone!