Bring your private well water sample to be screened for nitrites and nitrates and receive more information to keep your well water safe!
Thursday, August 27th 5:30-7pm @ Victor Township Hall (6843 E, Alward Rd, Laingsburg, MI 48848)
Thursday, October 1st 1-6pm & Friday, October 2nd 9am-12noon @ Clinton Lakes Park (4665 N Dewitt Rd, St Johns, MI 48879)
Who can participate? Anyone who uses a personal well for drinking water
* Please do not bring samples from public water supplies or non-drinking water sources.
Directions for water sample collection:
Samples must be less than 48 hours old for a valid nitrate result. You do not have to use a special bottle for this screening; any small clean container will work.
1. Pick a tap that supplies water that has not run through any treatment devices (water softener, carbon filter, etc.). An outdoor faucet often works well.
2. Run the water for 20-30 minutes before collecting the sample to flush the water pressure tank so you can collect a valid sample. Disconnect any hoses before collecting the sample; do not sample through a hose. Fill sample bottle with at least 1 ounce of water.
3. Label bottle clearly with your name, sampling date, and well name (cottage well, Mom’s well, etc.).
4. Keep the sample dark and cold (on ice or refrigerated) until it is dropped off.
All results are confidential. On-site screening will indicate nitrate and nitrite levels. You will be mailed a final copy of your results in 8 to 10 weeks, with information about what to do if the concentration of nitrate or nitrite is too high.
This program is sponsored by the Clinton Conservation District, the MAEAP Water Stewardship Program, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. It is funded through the Michigan Groundwater and Freshwater Protection Act, the MDARD, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
If there is one good
thing that has come from 2020, it is the extra time I have been able to spend
cleaning up, adding to, and expanding my flower and vegetable gardens. I have
traded in and swapped out many ornamental plants for native perennials bringing
diversity and color to my flower beds. Another thing I have spent many hours on
this year is mowing my lawn, so while on the lawn mower I thought “What if
this was all flowers too?”
Converting turf grass
into a native prairie or a wildflower meadow is no easy feat. There are many
things and many years of work needed to establish the perfect plot. The rewards
can be endless! Native flowers bring in a greater variety of pollinators that
will help overall native pollinator populations as well as pollinate both your flower
and vegetable gardens. Choosing a mix that will keep flowers blooming all
season long will bring color to a normally boring green lawn. Small mammals,
insects, deer, turkeys, and other wildlife will thank you endlessly. While most
country lawns dry up in the month of July and turn crispy, native grasses and
wildflowers will penetrate deep into the soil profile and be able to scavenge
nutrients and water even during dry times. It will look much nicer than dead
turf and crabgrass.
Thinking about something
like this for next year? The first step would begin this fall with site and seat
Step 1- Site Selection (August-September)
Choose an area of lawn
you would like to convert. The area should be mostly sun, away from any major
herbicide or pesticide spraying, and a place you will be able to see and enjoy
it. Steer clear of any shady, mucky or really wet soil areas. It is not
impossible to do an area here, but a special wetland mix will probably be needed,
and establishment will be tricky.
Another consideration for
location is the availability to burn. If you are not in the city limits, a
yearly burn beginning and year three may be a great way to maintain the desired
diversity of your plot. Make sure you are able to mow around your plot to create
a burn break. Steer clear of planting close to any buildings, houses, or other
tall grass that will leave dead and dry residue that may also catch fire. Once
you pick a location, measure on a satellite map (like Google maps) to see how
many tenths or full acres you have. This will help you calculate seed.
Step 2- Buying Seed(August-October)
Next, choose your seed.
There are many great pre-mixed seed mixes that are available that will create
the best flower arrangement for your space. The CRP SAFE
provides options for mixes with all three bloom periods as well as native
grasses- CP-42 (this is my favorite). There are many other mixes that
will work, and with a little Googling, you can figure out which flowers will be
right for your light and soil requirements. Many local conservation districts
sell pre-mixed native grass and wildflower seed. Pheasants
also sells native mix. Here in Clinton County we are lucky to be close to the Michigan Wildflower Farm. They also sell seed
that is all Michigan genotype and a great option. For help purchasing seed,
reach out to the Clinton Conservation District for our full list.
Step 3- Site Preparation
Now comes some manual
labor… Site prep. It is not too early to start site prep for a spring 2021
planting. The goal is to get the cleanest and deadest surface possible. Staking
out the area will help keep edges clean. The grass in the area will first need
to be terminated. A broad-spectrum herbicide can be used to kill all vegetation.
Looking for a non-herbicide option? Smothering the grass with a tarp or some
other dark canvas may work best. Most of the remaining summer and fall will be
spent cleaning up this surface.
Tilling is optional. Most
native grass and wildflower seed is so small that if it is buried underneath
the ground surface too far it will germinate but never reach light. In a natural
setting, wildflower seeds fall from the standing plant onto the ground. Mother
nature does not till the soil; it is worked in with frost and is able to sprout
the next year.
Step 4- Planting
First is a dormant
planting in the fall (November-February). In my opinion, this works best
because most grass and wildflower seed needs cold stratification to germinate.
Cold stratification is a time where the seed lays dormant, cold, and wet. Once
soil temperatures reach below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (Google the soil temp in
your area), premixed seed can be broadcast onto the terminated grass. Split the
seed into two and cover the area twice to ensure an even spread. The frost will
work the seeds in, nothing is needed afterwards.
Many have been just as
successful with planting the same way in the springtime (March-May). If
the converted area is large and a tractor is available, renting a no till drill
maybe a good option. Many conservation districts have a no-till drill for rent,
in most cases someone will come out and calibrate the drill based on your seed.
This could save time on a big plot and ensure an even planting.
Now we wait!
Step 5- Maintenance (One
to Three Years)
The work is not done.
Normally, it takes 3 years for a native grass and wildflower planting to fully
establish. There is required maintenance every year to ensure weeds and woody
vegetation do not take over and crowd out the young seedlings. Progress in germination
may not even be evident until a few months after planting. A rule of thumb with
wildflower plantings is “the first year the seed sleeps, the next year it
creeps, in the 3rd year it leaps!” Don’t get too discouraged if the meadow
comes up ugly. Totally normal!
As the area starts to
green up, it will be time to control weeds. Knowing the difference between a
weed and a wildflower seedling can be hard but it is important to learn some
identification to help weed the bad stuff out. If the plot is small, hand
pulling may be the best way to control weeds. If the plot is large, wait until
the weeds have almost overtaken any young seedlings and are about to go to
seed. For medium plots, using a weed whacker is also a good option. Mow at 4-6
inches to make sure seed heads are removed. It is important that the weeds do
not go to seed; it is hard to win the battle after that. Continual hand pulling
or mowing four to six times in the first year is normal. The main goal is to
keep the weeds from going to seed.
Mowing, weed whacking,
hand pulling will continue for the next two years. In year two, flowers (mostly
black-eyed Susan) with start to flourish. Some increase the black-eyed Susan
content in their seed mix to get a big pop of yellow color during the second
year. It can be a great way to show others your success (if they are like my
husband and still thinks I am growing solely weeds at the end of year one).
After each mowing, more
and more diversity will emerge. Mowing helps knock the weeds back and give more
space and nutrients to young desired plants. In a wood setting like mine,
battling emerging woody vegetation is normal. The best way to combat this is
cutting and treating the stumps of sprouting trees. Trees like cottonwoods, and
sassafras will reemerge after cut if the stump is not treated.
Step 6- Deciding to Burn (Year
At year four, it’s time
to burn. Burning happens naturally in the ecosystem and is a way to control
woody vegetation as well as overtaking grass. It will rebalance species mix as
well as help flowers bloom. In many cases, the best blooming years for meadows
is the year of burning. Contact the local fire department for any permits
needed. In some cases, they will come out and watch or even help as a training.
The local conservation district office may be able to point you towards helpful
resources and contacts for this activity.
Step 7- Enjoy!
Things to remember:
– Check and apply herbicides according to the label. It is
unlawful to use herbicides not according to the recommended dosage and timing.
See how long of a residual the herbicide has. Glyphosate has a relatively short
one. 2-4D however has a long residual and you will not want to plant during
– Help can always be found! The local farm bill biologist or conservation
district can assist you with establishment, maintenance, and emotional support
with the plot. They’re available by phone, email, and possibly site visits to
come out and look to see the progress/problems.
– A good way to get free seed is to find it yourself. Dried
wildflower seed heads can be collected and sprinkled into the converted area.
Adding more seeds is never a bad thing, as not all seeds will be successful and
Here’s a quick look at my
experience establishing a half acre pollinator plot.
My goal was to bring different pollinators to my yard as well as establish native flowering plants for my honeybees. The area I was looking to convert was already tall grass yet on desirable. Reed canary, cottonwood, and goldenrod overtook the area that has been neglected for years. I started by spraying the entire area with glyphosate. I tried to remove any small trees. My husband brought the tractor home and disked the area. In hindsight I should not have disc. I believe it opened the ground and released a seed bank that came strong. I spread my seeds in November after the ground temperature was below 50°. The next spring mostly weeds emerged. Convincing myself it was normal I tried hand pulling a lot of the area. Learning that would take an eternity, I turned to the weed whacker and mowed it with that instead. After volunteering at a nature center for the morning I scored a trunk full of well-established wildflower plugs that were extra from an area they had planted. I planted them scattered around in my plot.
Don’t be afraid to try weird stuff! Putting the establishment flowers in my plot will add more seeds in the fall as well as increase the immediate aesthetics.
After four weed whack jobs this is what my plot looks like. The main weeds I am fighting is ragweed and foxtail. The cottonwoods are still emerging and probably always will, but I am carefully cutting and treating the stumps.
– This video
gives a good how-to and a look at what a successful established planting looks like
in a subdivision. It is not impossible to establish something like this in an
urban setting. (attach video from FB)
If you’re new here, let me tell you a bit about us. Our mission is to promote conservation locally and we are led by an elected board of Clinton County residents. The Clinton Soil Conservation District was officially founded in 1954 by a group of local farmers passionate about conservation and wanting to make sure federal dollars for conservation were spent in their county too.
Federal dollars for conservation? What does that mean and
why wouldn’t they have been spent here too?
The Soil Conservation Service was established by Congress in
1935 as an answer the wind erosion catastrophe better known as the Dust Bowl,
but agency, money was often not spent on projects that local farmers thought
useful to their area. Local conservation districts were established as a way
for local people to help determine what types of conservation projects federal
money should be spent on locally.
The Clinton Soil Conservation District’s early
years worked on farm drainage projects to make fertile lands for crop
production available for longer growing seasons. Managing water on farm fields through tile
drainage helped reduce farm field runoff and sedimentation of local waterways.
As time went on, the conservation district in Clinton County expanded the types of conservation practices that they worked on. Many of these practices are still promoted today by the District including no-till practices and compaction issues. (Read more in this article from 1979 on Clinton CD’s field day on no-till farming!)
Today, the Clinton Conservation District (renamed in the 90s to better represent the scope of work we do) still works one-on-one with farmers to spend federal dollars on locally important conservation projects. We also provide services such as on-farm sustainability planning through MAEAP, watershed planning, invasive species identification and treatment options, local habitat enhancement and creation projects, and much more. The Clinton Conservation District is thankful to have so many amazing partner organizations and supportive landowners that help complete the work that those original farmers set out to do in our county.
Declaration of the first Michigan Conservation District Day is important in recognizing our own conservation district and also conservation districts statewide. More than 70 conservation districts exist in Michigan, one in almost every county! We have all adapted from our original form over the years to better serve the residents in our counties, but we all were founded with the same guiding principles. Local conservation led by Local people.
The Clinton Conservation District assists farmers in many
ways. One program that helps farmers promote
stewardship and protect the environment is the Michigan Agriculture
Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP).
Helping to protect ground and surface water is one of the objectives of
MAEAP, and working towards MAEAP verification can help you assess risks to ground
and surface water on your farm.
During this growing season let’s look of some of the things
that we don’t always think of year around.
This time of year can be really busy with getting crops planted as well
as applying fertilizer and pesticides. All equipment, especially sprayers and
gauges need to be properly calibrated and inspected. Many farmers use temporary tanks, away from
the farmstead, to store fuel and chemicals, and there are considerations to remember
when using these temporary facilities.
Tanks, hoses, fittings and couplers should be inspected to ensure that
leaks and spills do not occur in the field. Mixing and loading should be done at least 150
feet from any well and more than fifty feet from surface water, and a permanent
or temporary fueling and mixing pad should be used. Every site and vehicle should have a spill kit
for cleanup. Phone numbers for the
appropriate agencies that should be called in case of an accidental discharge
should also be kept on site. Other good practices
to keep in mind are proper storage with locks, danger or warning signs. and
secondary containment of hazardous materials. Finally, don’t forget to maintain accurate
records of applications and proper disposal of containers and rinsates.
Following these useful and environmentally sound practices, will help to mitigate any adverse effects on the land and provide a safer growing season.
Contact MAEAP Technician Eric Bak for more information.
Most experienced hunters know that there is no off-season
if you want to make the most out of the upcoming fall. Mapping software can be
an incredibly useful tool in your hunting repertoire, and it can be easier to
use than most people think. If you’re looking for an app to show property
boundaries, I suggest onX Hunt. If you’re looking for something to show
elevation or points or interest in the field, I suggest Navionics. While those
are both beneficial apps for use in the field, they don’t really provide a way
to edit/draw on the maps at all to get a site plan established.
Google Earth Pro provides all the basic mapping
capabilities of more complex system at the same relative ease of use as Google
Maps. It’s free to download and includes instructions on how to install it,
plus it works on both IOS and Windows operating systems Some of the basic
functions can help you plan out work on your property as well as document
movement during the season.
Creating a site plan for your off-season improvements
is as simple as drawing your boundaries. Use the polygon function in Google Earth
Pro to draw out a plan for your property at whatever scale or detail you wish
right on top of the map of your property.
A habitat grant site made using polygons. Green – Switchgrass, Orange –
Polygons will also allow you to see the exact acreage
or square footage of the area you’ve drawn. Right click the polygon, scroll to
properties then click the measurements tab. This information is useful when
figuring out how much seed you need to cover the field or fencing to close an area
off. For waterfowl hunting, we use this function to help us remember what crops
went into each field that we have permission on.
Google Earth Pro also allows you to drop pins when you
want to mark a location on the map. We use this to mark occurrences. It can
help you see patterns on your property, such as the number of times you saw a
certain buck on a camera, or locations where morel mushrooms were found, for
Here we have the occurrences of “Forks” a 4
point that we saw out at our spot. The red markers indicate he was seen by
someone who was hunting while the orange are tail cam pics.
While we didn’t learn a
ton about “Forks” in the first year watching him, if he makes it back next year
we’ll be able to add that data to the same folder with the number 2 on each
icon in hopes of eventually figuring out his pattern.
The “add path” feature is
useful for measuring distances. By drawing the path, this allows you find
distances for objects both as if you were going to walk there or as the crow
flies. We use these distance measurements to estimate safe firearm distances. A
rangefinder is recommended to ground truth these distances, especially when
ensuring you’re 450 feet away from an occupied dwelling.
One of my duck hunting spots. We can see that
we are safe to hunt anywhere south of the lane.
Finding your hiking
distance is just as easy. Draw your anticipated path, or a path you’ve already
walked, and do the same as above to see your measurements. Using this feature,
I was able to find out I had a mile hike to get to a duck hunting spot I wanted
to try. It looked much shorter on the map, so thanks to mapping ahead of time I
was able to have a friend bring his UTV.
Using the path feature, we were able to map
the distance if you were to walk around Big Clinton Lake and the Clinton Lakes
These are just some of
the basic functions, but there are a ton of resources out there to help you
familiarize yourself with the app. The Google Earth website can help but I’ve
found YouTube videos the most useful as they allow you to follow along.
Pollinator Plot Look Bad? It’s Okay, So Does Mine
Katie Hafner, Soil Conservationist
Last fall I planted a half acre pollinator plot at my house
with the hopes of increasing pollinators and the aesthetics of my yard. I did a
snow-seeding around Christmas with a basic Michigan-based pollinator seed mix.
I wanted to broadcast the seed on the snow to get an even spread. The snow
melts and works the seeds into the soil as well as cold stratifies them.
Itching for spring (between the snow showers) I have spent
some time inspecting my now 5-month-old planting only to find some yard grass,
plantain, and random weeds I know to be nothing interesting. My ID knowledge of
emerging wildflowers is nothing special, but you would think I could see
something out of the ordinary to give me reassurance that I didn’t have a
I bet your planting looks like this too…
The fact of the matter is, your planting did not fail. This
is completely normal. For most basic “pollinator plantings” it is a warm-season
grass and wildflower mix. The first growing season, native grasses and
wildflowers spend most of their energy building their root system. Most of the
grasses planted (big blue stem, little blue stem, and Indiangrass) will emerge
in bunches rather than a carpet.
Being a warm season mix, most seeds will not germinate or
grow until the soil is above 55 degrees and don’t really start to flourish
until 73 degrees. This explains why the volunteer lawn grass, which is a cool
season grass, emerged and greened up first in my plot, same with the plantain.
According to weather.gov,
the ground temperature recorded closest to my house on 4/30 is 49 degrees.
More than likely your plot will require
maintenance for the first 3 years. Weeds will work to out compete the
establishing flowers and should be mowed or weed whacked down. On smaller plots
like mine, spot spraying or hand weeding may be an option keeping in mind I
have bluebirds and honeybees nearby.
Our Farm Bill Biologist says it takes 3 years for the
planting to really take off. “First it sleeps, next it creeps, then it leaps.”
Learn more here.
So, don’t feel bad. Yes, the pollinator plot may be a weedy,
ugly mess like mine is now, but hold on for warmer weather. Work to keep the
weed competition down and your pollinator garden will be flourishing in no
time! One of the best things about nature, is it doesn’t have to be pretty all
the time to be beautiful. It just naturally is.
Check in to see how my pollinator planting is progressing on Facebook @ClintonConservation or on our website. I’ll keep you posted!
Farmers and landowners in Clinton County are very involved in all the Farm Bill programs offered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) with help from the Clinton Conservation District. With the wet spring and harsh fall that 2019 brought, farmers used quick thinking and innovative ways to preserve their soil and prepare fields are the nest spring. Cover crops were planted on almost 30,000 acres. The roots of those cover crops held the soil together while the rain was washing bare fields away as well as help nutrients in the root zone, so it was available to the next crop.
With the help of cost-share from the USDA program EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), every year farmers and landowners can apply for help to install practices or new management strategies that make their farm more sustainable like the cover crops planted in 2019.
2020 is shaping up to be a record year for Farm Bill programs in the county. With over 100 applications, and many becoming contracts, the NRCS and Conservation District staff are working hard to conservation plan and accommodate all interested and involved.
Quality Incentive Program, EQIP program provides
technical, educational, and financial assistance to eligible farmers and
landowners to address soil, water, and related natural resource concerns on
their lands in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner.
Cost-share is available for applicants who were selected for funding.
1 for 2020 closed on March 20th, and Clinton County has 55 applications!
that landowners are working on through this program include cover crops, nutrient
management technologies, waste storage facilities, forest management plans,
high tunnel systems, grassed waterways, and pollinator habitat. Applications
are accepted year-round, and are batched a few times per year.
Many farmers in the county hold themselves to a high environmental standard. Keeping records, only applying nutrients that will be immediately used, watching for run-off, and becoming MAEAP verified are all awesome steps to becoming good stewards of the land (contact Eric Bak, Clinton Conservation District’s MAEAP Technician, to learn more firstname.lastname@example.org) Farms with operations like this are great candidates for the Conservation Stewardship Program.
Stewardship Program, CSP is a voluntary
conservation program and has a unique role among USDA programs. It identifies
and rewards those farmers and landowners who meet the highest standards of
conservation and environmental management on their operations. It also provides
incentives to “up” their level of conservation by applying new projects on
The CSP 2020 sign-up is happening right now through June 1st.
Reserve Program, CRP program reduces soil
erosion, protects the Nation’s ability to produce food and fiber, reduces
sedimentation in streams and lakes, improves water quality, establishes
wildlife habitat, and enhances forest and wetland resources.
three agencies in the USDA Service Center work hard to provide the Conservation
Reserve Program to Clinton County! With hundreds of active contracts, this
program has historically been a great success; 2020 is no different. 29
landowners will be installing conservation practices through the general CRP
sign-up that closed in February. A handful more will be installing water
quality projects with the help of the continuous CRP program.
CRP program for water quality practices will remain open until mid-May. Contact Clinton County FSA to get started!
the Farm Bill programs offered in the county totals over 100 applications so
far in 2020! This will bring hundreds of thousands federal dollars to
the county in order to install projects that help create a more sustainable
farm for years to come.
like something that would be a good fit on your farm? We remain open through
the COVID-19 outbreak and are working remotely. We know that #plant2020 must go
on, and we are here for you!
With spring right around the corner, now is the
perfect time to start thinking about the right place to plant trees. If you
want to plant a tree to serve a specific purpose it is important that you
choose the right tree for the job, like making sure your wildlife tree will
attract wildlife. While almost any tree is a good tree, it is important to keep
in mind that different trees have different requirements for them to flourish. Trees,
like animals, will not be successful if you put them in unsuitable habitat.
Local conservation districts and MSU Extension are great for information to
help you put the right tree in the right place. Conservation districts also often provide low-cost
trees and shrubs at annual sales.
There are many resources out there about how to pick
the right tree. There are three important things to focus on when researching
the right tree and right place: which
hardiness zone you’re in, the amount of sunlight the location will receive, and
soil type and moisture.
These zones are based on the average extreme minimum temperature of an area. Most nurseries can provide which zones the plants thrive in and some will even post it on the packaging or web advertisement if you’re ordering online. If you’re unsure which zone your land falls in, a quick google search will be able to provide with a map of your area and the corresponding zones. Michigan ranges from zone 3-7 depending on which part of the state you are in.
This is usually expressed as full sun, partial sun, partial shade, or full shade. Full sun refers to an area that gets at least 6 hours of unobstructed sunlight on a normal day. Partial sun usually refers to a place that receives 3-6 hours of sunlight on a typical day. Similarly, partial shade refers to place that receives between 2-4 hours of sunlight on a typical day. Full shade refers to an area that receives less than 2 hours of direct sunlight. Most nurseries provide the sunlight requirements for plants that they sell.
Soil itself is comprised of tiny pieces of rock, minerals, and biological matter. The soil requirements you consider can be simple or complex, possible depending on how much you’re willing to spend. For someone looking to establish a nursery, it may be worth doing some testing to look at soil chemistry. For someone looking to establish a few trees in their yard, they would most likely find themselves successful just considering the basic soil type (loam, sand, or clay) and how well the soil is drained. A good place to find soil information is on the web soil survey website (https://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/). This will be able to tell you basic soil type and provide some guidance on the overall moisture level. Although, your observations are going to be the most helpful when it comes to how wet is your planting site.
When you have a specific purpose in mind, it’s
important to make sure that your location matches up with your desired species
and that you pick the right tree for the job. When you choose a tree, it is
helpful to try to be specific, right down to the genotype of the species. For
example, a white pine provides a multitude of habitat benefits and grows
quickly making it a nice wildlife tree. However, if you were operating on the
assumption that all coniferous species make great wind buffer trees and tried
to capitalize on the white pine’s growth rate, you may find yourself
disappointed when the bottom branches eventually start dying back and no longer
blocking the wind. Another example could be if someone wanted to plant a tree
near their house to attract deer to watch. A white cedar may help deer stick
around a little longer to browse on the branches, while they would more than
likely just ignore a red cedar.
Whether you’re planting your tree for a specific
purpose or just looking to add some diversity to your property, it is important
to ensure that you’ve picked the right spot for the tree or the right tree for
the spot. There are many resources out there and starting locally helps ensure
that you get the most accurate information for your area. Conservation districts
are a great source of information, and they may offer a tree variety that
you’re interested in at an upcoming tree sale. They say that the best time to
plant a tree was 40 years ago and second-best time is today, in our opinion,
there is no bad time to plant a tree.
During these shorter days of cold and sometimes nasty weather, we tend to get a little restless. We are in the middle of winter and hardly a creature is stirring, not even an insect. So, when the sun does come out and shine, it is nice to take advantage and take a walk in the woods. A little more is moving in the forest than we sometimes notice. If you can find a nice place to get some woodsy fresh air, make sure you take the time to look around and see what else is moving. If you are lucky enough, you may be able to witness a little-known winter insect emergence.
Every so often, Collembola can be seen on the snow. Collembola are commonly known as springtails in the summer and snow fleas in the winter. Collembola are a very small insect usually only 1-2mm in length and look like pepper on top of the snow. They are called snow fleas because they resemble a true flea and jump, however they do not bite. On warm sunny winter days, they emerge looking for food sources. They live in the soil and leaf litter and eat fungi, plant material, algae, and bacteria. So, if you should happen to see these tiny bugs this winter, it is a good indication that the ecosystem you are walking through is healthy and fertile.