The snow flea is rarely found alone.
Though if it were, who but another snow flea
would notice it against the snow,
a single speck of pepper, a mote of ash?
Come March & they move en masse,
transhumant across their blue-shadowed host.
Approach too close & they start to rocket about
like acrobats in a mad flea circus.
There’s safety in numbers, & in
the unpredictability of a random launch —
the wingless springtail’s main defense.
True, one sometimes goes straight up
& returns to the same, dangerous spot,
but what bird wants to mess with such
The snow flea is as self-reliant
as its cousin the true flea is dependent.
It absorbs moisture through
a feeding tube in its abdomen
& breathes directly through its thick skin.
Its blood contains a protein
that prevents it from ever freezing
& hardening into knives.
The snow flea never stops molting, even
after becoming an adult.
Life alternates between two phases,
mating & eating, with a complete
change of skin after each.
Nor does the fastidiousness end there:
all reproduction is by post.
The male deposits a tidy packet of sperm
at some convenient location
& the female stops by later & picks it up.
To everything its season.
And when the snow melts?
The snow flea walks on water if it must,
& returns at last — recalcitrant seasoning —
to the soil’s dark goulash.
This is a complete re-working of a poem that first appeared here back in December 2008, “Like a Snow Flea.” For more on snow fleas and springtails generally, see Bug Girl’s Blog and especially the Marvelous in nature.