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Nature Notebook – Springtails

The recent warm temperatures provided an opportunity to witness the appearance of hundreds of thousands of springtails congregating on the surface of the snow.

Scientists believe this mass migration up from the leaf litter may be part of the reproductive cycle. Springtails mate in the spring (or on spring-like days). Afterwards, everyone descends back into the leaf litter. After a few weeks, deposited eggs will hatch into miniature versions of the adults.

The courtship ritual is rather amusing. Upon sighting a larger female, a male will bang his head into hers. She pushes back, and he returns the push. Eventually the male will grab onto the female. She picks him up to assess his worthiness. If all is good, the male deposits a spermatophore which the female absorbs into her body.

Springtails were considered insects until someone took a really good look at them. They don’t have compound eyes; their abdomens have the wrong number of segments and they molt their entire life (not just while growing). Now they are known as Collembola.