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Bug of the Month Dec 2016


Spiders & Springtails   

(watch the videos above)

According to a 1984 study by C.W. Aitchison, 54 species of spiders stay active over winter in Canada. Dr. Hector Carcamo says that the spiders survive on spring tails – very tiny primitive insects that have a spring-like structure that allows them to jump very high for their size – like you jumping over the Eiffel Tower! Springtails mainly feed on organic matter.

“So what?” you may ask. 

Springtails are tiny
Springtails are tiny

As Carcamo points out, “Having predators crawling under the snow (including spiders and carabids) means that they could be working winter overtime eating sleeping pests, while we are on vacation in Mexico.”

What’s not to like about that?! Go spiders! Carcamo also points out that biological diversity is a good thing in all seasons. Springtails are kind of land plankton, although they eat litter so they may have a role in soil formation and nutrient recycling. “All things are connected. The lowly springtails’ bigger role may be to keep predators alive during the winter so they survive to eat crop pests in the spring.

Carcamo reminds us that what farmers do on their fields during the growing season affects populations of overwintering predators. So, always remember to not spray insecticides unless pests surpass the thresholds.

Some spiders stay active under the snow
Some spiders stay active under the snow

According to some scientists, some spiders adapted their life cycles to winter. Does this mean that Canadian spiders have little winter coats? Well yes according to Carcamo, “but probably internal winter coats: they have antifreeze molecules that keep them from freezing until much lower temperatures. Some bugs can also withstand freezing.”

So, as you sit in your cozy armchair, hot chocolate with schnapps in hand and gaze over your fields covered in snow, remember the life that still stirs beneath. Give it a nod for working on your soil and insect management for next season. Wish those spiders and springtails a Merry Christmas.