by Andrea Kautz
Last month’s fresh snow and around-freezing temperatures provided a great opportunity for a couple of entomologists at Powdermill to go out in search of a unique group of insects that prefer colder weather.
You may not be aware of these snow-loving creatures because we do not usually think of insects as being very active in the winter; many enter diapause (similar to hibernation) or migrate. However, if you look very closely on the surface of the snow for small specks, you may find a variety of different insects and other arthropods.
Our search was quite successful. We found winter stoneflies, midges, gall wasps, a few different kinds of spiders, and our favorite, a pair of snow scorpionflies!
‘What’ you say? Scorpionflies are a group of insects named for the scorpion-like tail found on the males of warm-season species. The snow scorpionflies lack the tail, but still possess a long snout, which is a characteristic for the group. Females are wingless and have a protruding ovipositor, while males have wings that are reduced to forceps used for grasping the female during mating. Their diet consists of mosses and liverworts.
This was considered a “lifer” for both entomologists. What a cool find!
Andrea Kautz is a research entomologist at Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Powdermill Nature Reserve. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working for the museum.