When any one of us hears the word "flea" a hot surge of panic creeps up from within and a touch of panic sets in.  This is the exact feeling I felt after telling someone that I had brought snow into our bathtub for my son to play with and the person I was speaking to asked me if I'd considered that when the snow melts I might be left with a bathtub full of snow fleas.

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My first reaction was to grab a shovel, fling open my back door and heave the cold stuff out of my house immediately, but then curiosity got the best of me and I decided to research these mysterious critters.

As it turns out, snow fleas have been given a truly awful name because they're not even fleas. Even better is that these bugs don't bite, aren't harmful, and as a matter of fact, are actually good for the environment. So, I'm secretly hoping that when our bathtub snow melts some are left behind so I can teach my son about snow fleas before placing them back outside where they belong.

According to Farmers Almanac, "Like insects, snow fleas have six legs but researchers say that they are more closely related to crustaceans." Farmers Almanac explains that snow fleas are sometimes mistaken for small flecks of dirt in the snow and claims that anyone who has spent any amount of time in the garden has probably been in contact with snow fleas thousands of times and not even realized it.

While snow fleas don't bite or cause harm to humans or animals, they are quite the little leapers with the ability to jump several inches in one tiny fling of their body. While the idea of bouncing flecks of dark color on the surface of your snow-filled yard might be a bit scary, Farmers Almanac claims it's a good sign of health in your yard, "They are an essential component in the ecosystem because they feed on decaying organic matter in the soil, thus helping it to decay faster, turning it into plant food." When you see snow fleas, it's a sign of a good ecosystem in your yard.

Curious what a snow flea looks like? You'll find a magnified photo here.

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