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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Snow fleas and snow melt

There’s nothing like a mild day to bring the snow fleas out. The snow is heavily peppered with them, especially by the spruce trees. These arthropods are not a true flea but actually a type of springtail. They do appear to jump like a flea.

Snow fleas do not bite and are harmless to humans and pets.

They do serve a valuable function. Kids like to eat snow. It doesn’t matter that you tell them they should not. Telling them eating snow reduces core temperature and may lead to hypothermia doesn’t impress them. Pointing out snow can be dirty won’t stop them. Showing them a zillion little jumpy black bugs all over the snow gets their attention.

Snow has a lot of interesting stuff in it. Melt down a big pile of snow for drinking water and you’ll see a fair amount of grit in the bottom of your pan. No telling what that stuff is. Boiling snow melt is the absolute minimum treatment necessary for safe drinking.

I like to also run it through a good water filter. Then I know it’s safe. A filter can also do wonders for the flavor. Melted snow by itself has a weird flavor to it -sort of a burnt taste. Constantly stirring the melting snow helps the flavor, but doesn’t eliminate the off taste.

The first time someone melts snow for water they will be surprised how much snow it takes for a small amount of water. It’s a pretty fuel intensive operation. Winter backpackers know to take plenty of campstove fuel if they are going to melt snow. Usually it’s worth the effort to chop through an ice covered stream to get liquid water. Melting snow is that much of a pain.

One of the big dangers of winter hiking is dehydration. People don’t feel thirsty and must force themselves to drink. If you have to get water by melting snow flea infested snow, it won’t feel worth it. Better to bring water in insulated containers rather than deal with the snow.



  1. I always thought snow melt tasted like water from a rusty tin roof.

  2. Springtails ! Those things have some connection to Morgellon’s Disease

    1. Hope it's not the same springtails as those are absolutely everywhere in abundance.

  3. Well that debunks the old saying, "Pure as new fallen snow".

    1. I didn't even get into what air pollution does to snow.

      "Pure as new fallen snow," isn't much of a compliment.