It’s the first weekend of December. Morning temperatures dropped to -1.5 degrees Celsius. The landscape was covered by the first continuous snow cover of the year. The layer of snow is so thin that it does not cover either dry leaves lying on the ground or fallen overripe apples. An inverted layer of clouds, trees without leaves, a northerly wind and a white-clad landscape created the perfect Advent atmosphere. Not even a bird could be heard. Who would think of looking for insects in this landscape and at this time?
This Scorpionflies suck the juice from the mosses, in which they also lay their eggs.
The activities of almost all invertebrates decrease significantly with the onset of winter conditions. Although there are still a few weeks left until the calendar winter, winter is gradually taking over. Despite these cold days, hardy insects can still be found in some places if you look carefully. There are even those who look forward to the snow and need it.
Boreus westwoodi mates directly on the snow and mating often lasts 24 hours.
These include the so-called snow flea, scientifically known as the shiny snow flea (Boreus westwoodi). It is a very interesting animal. It belongs to the Scorpionflies (Mycoptera). Its breeding cycle takes place in the winter months. Snowshoes often mate directly on fresh snow cover. In addition, mating is very unusual. During mating, the female sits on the back of the male, who holds her on his back with growths adapted for this. These outgrowths are originally wings, but have become stunted in this species. The movement of snowshoes is ensured by strong hind limbs, thanks to which it is capable of impressive jumps, up to 20 cm long. Hence its name “snow flea”.
While walking through the first snowfall of the year, another hardier appeared in relatively large numbers directly on the snow. A few individuals of the beetle, probably a species of Acidota cruentata, were moving very briskly directly on the snow crystals. The sovereign movement of this approximately 4 mm large bug in a very cold environment shows that it is used to these extreme conditions and does not cause it the slightest trouble.
These Rove beetles make their way through the maze of snowflakes with elegance and confidence.
The next day, after the day’s above-freezing temperatures melted those first snowflakes, tiny legged critters appeared on the fallen apples. They enjoyed apple juice and swarmed in the grass in numbers of many dozens of individuals. Despite the temperatures around 2 degrees Celsius showed great activity on fallen fruits and the surrounding grass. These were two different species of diptera (Diptera), genus Bolitophilidae and Trichoceridae or Limoniidae.
They can no longer find any other source of animal food, so they take juice from fallen apples as a thank you.
An even bigger surprise in the last days of November were two individuals, a male and a female, members of Hymenoptera. Due to the absence of any flowering plants, they probably tasted the same apple delicacy as members of the Dipterans. Apparently, it was a species belonging to the genus Aclista, about 3 mm in size.
The last food for these hymenoptera is apple juice.
A truly unusual visitor, literally on the doorstep of my house, was an European paper wasp (Polistes dominula), which landed on the front door and flew away again.
Immigrants from far away America are very persistent visitors on the terrace of our house, even in the kitchen. The Western conifer seed bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis) is a very hardy Heteroptera, but before temperatures below freezing, it too seeks a somewhat milder temperature comfort than what currently prevails outside.
On the snow-covered sandhills at the edge of the forest, another representative of invertebrates was moving on the snowflakes. It is not an insect, but a group of spiders. A few individuals moved quite nimbly through the snow and did not at all give the impression of some belated forgotten strays. On the contrary, it actively searched for possible sources of food even in these conditions. Their prey was apparently tiny, shiny fruit flies the size of fruit flies, probably Shore fly (Ephydridae). The activity of these tiny spiders ends in October, quite exceptionally at the beginning of November. These specimens were observed in early December. It was a species of spider Microlinyphia pusilla.
In the upper picture prey, in the lower picture a snow predator.
It is clear that even in the middle of December, lovers of six and eight-legged friends can find something to their liking. All you have to do is bend down closer to the ground at the right time in the right place and take a good look.