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A Most Canadian Insect

By November 19, 2020 No Comments

If you had to come up with a truly Canadian bug, what sort of qualities would you expect it to have? To me, it would have to be right at home during the long winters, capable of travelling on snow (or under it), and just downright tough.

Enter the ice crawler, AKA Grylloblatta campodeiformis.

I had heard about these insects ever since I moved to Lake Louise. In fact, the first specimen known to science was discovered in Banff National Park in 1913, high on the side of Sulphur Mountain.  Ice crawlers are known to live beside or even right on snowfields. Their happy place? Under rocks or tucked into tree bark, places where they can find and eat small insects and other invertebrates. Oh, and at temperatures of about 0° – 3° Celsius. If it gets warmer than about 10°, they die.

But until yesterday, I’d never seen one. Friends and I were skiing in Yoho park, and came across one travelling along on top of the snow. It was about 30 mm long, just over an inch, and a nice beige colour. None of us had a clue what it was, but when I got home, I wondered, “hmmm, is this the famous ice bug I’d read about years ago?”

Happily, the answer is yes, and I’m jazzed to have had the chance to see another wonderful creature that calls the Rocky Mountains home. And as for its Canadian credentials, how about the fact that it is the official insect of the Entomological Society of Canada?

That’s what I call “cool.”