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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Springtails - Why do thousands of them suddenly appear in puddles?


Purple Puddle Bugs (Springtails)
Purple Puddle Bugs (Sp  
Hi Eric, I think you may have answered questions for me about long-horned bees a few years ago. Thank you for that.

This time my question is about these mysterious "purple puddle bugs" that have appeared in great numbers in puddles after it rains at the park I work at in Livermore, California. The nice folks on ID'd them as springtails but I would love more information about why they suddenly appear in great numbers... From the little info I could find on the web if sounds like springtails generally spend most of their life in soil and cannot fly... When we find them in puddles have they crawled there or did they hatch there? Are they migrating? Mating? Why in puddles at times when the soil is wet everywhere? Do they then die in the puddles or move on?

Thanks so much for your time!
Ranger Amy

Hello, Ranger Amy!

Great questions you have.  Unfortunately, I am not an expert on springtails, especially not "snow fleas," which I believe is the genus you are referring to.

I would address this to Steve Hopkin, who provided much of the information (and images of springtails) we included in the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America .  He is British, but knows the subject well on a global basis.  Here is his web page with his contact information:

Apologies that I can't help more on this.

Happy Holidays,


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Eric R. Eaton


I answer insect and spider identification questions ONLY. Attach images if possible. No "what bit me?", "what do I feed this bug in captivity?", or science fair project questions please. NO TECHNICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT INSECT PHYSIOLOGY.


Principal author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Professional entomologist employed previously at University of Massachusetts, Chase Studio, Inc., and Cincinnati Zoo; contract work for West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Smithsonian Institution, and Portland (Oregon) State University.

Author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Missouri Conservationist magazine, Ranger Rick, Birds & Blooms, Timeline (journal of the Ohio Historical Society). I have contributed to several books as well.

Oregon State University, undergraduate major in entomology, did not receive degree.

Awards and Honors
One of the top 50 experts in all categories for, 2009.

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Principal author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Smithsonian Institution (contract), Cincinnati Zoo (employer), Portland State University (contract), Chase Studio, Inc (employer), Arkansas Museum of Discovery (guest speaker). Currently seeking speaking engagements, leadership roles at nature festivals, workshops, and ecotours.

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