The tundra biome that stretches from Alaska to Siberia may seem like a barren landscape, but many different types of insects live in the tundra. According to scientific studies of insects in the arctic tundra, there are over 2,000 species of insects in this cold biome. The most common arctic insects are flying insects like mosquitoes and midges, though there are also several species of ground insects.
The mosquito is the most common flying insect in the tundra. According to Alaska Land Use Planning Commission reports, there are more than 30 species of mosquito in Alaska alone. In the summer, mosquitoes can be a nuisance and sometimes even a health hazard to mammals in the tundra like caribou and humans. In the cold tundra winters, mosquitoes survive by converting the water in their bodies to gyclerol, a chemical that acts like antifreeze.
Midges are tiny flying insects sometimes called "no-see-ums" that live in the tundra. They hover in large groups in warm pockets of air above arctic ponds, lakes, vegetation and around mammals. Some species of midges are also biting insects that can harm mammals and humans in the summer months.
Other Flying Insects
The tundra also supports other flying insects like deer flies, blowflies and even bumblebees. Many species of flying insects will go dormant during cold months and re-emerge in the spring and summer. Blowflies gather around decaying animals and vegetation. Blowflies are usually dark in colour, either dark green or black with a metallic sheen. Arctic bees have adapted to cold weather by growing thick fur on their bodies and beating their wings to increase their body heat.
Springtails are small ground dwelling insects that live in the tundra. These six legged arctic insects live on the ground in humid areas like leaf beds, heavy vegetation or snowbanks. Their bodies generally measure between a quarter of a millimetre up to eight millimetres, and they vary in colour from white to purple. Springtails are named for their ability to jump using a forked appendage or tail at the end of their abdomen.
Other Ground Dwelling Arctic Insects
Different types of beetles, weevils, spiders, worms and other ground dwelling insects live in the tundra. Many ground insects feed on low vegetation like moss and lichen, and some species of arctic insects live under rocks. Weevils that live in the tundra generally live in and eat decaying vegetation. Other predatory insects like spiders eat the many species of arctic flying insects as well as ground insects like beetles.
- Alaska Regional Profiles, Northwest Region; Lidia L. Selkregg, Joint Federal-State Land Use Planning Commission for Alaska; 1976
- "Integrative & Comparative Biology"; Seasonal Adaptations in Arctic Insects; Hugh V. Danks; 2004: 44(2)
- Insect Pest; A Guide to What Type of Insects Live in the Tundra; Richard Dorads; Sept. 2008
- Blue Planet Biomes: Tundra