Beach Hoppers

Although also known as "sand fleas," unlike true fleas these animals aren’t insects at all. They’re crustaceans related to barnacles and shrimp but live high up on the beach above the tide. Beach Hoppers do resemble fleas in their ability to spring away from predators. With a sudden movement of its abdomen, the hopper’s back two pairs of legs can vault it 10 inches away.

Beach Hoppers burrow 12 inches into the sand. Their occupied holes are closed and hard to spot, but you can easily see the empty ones and their spidery trails crossing the beach. Hoppers move to higher ground and make temporary burrows to avoid waves and the highest tides. They mostly feed at night avoiding the hot sun and eating washed up seaweed and eelgrass. If you disturb these piles of vegetation during the day, Beach Hoppers will come jumping out, sometimes in big numbers. Seabirds are their main predators and are adept at flipping stones and seaweed to find these salty little creatures.

From June to November Beach Hoppers reproduce in their burrows. Until they hatch, females carry the dark blue fertilized eggs in pouches on their legs. Once born, hoppers settle under small stones or piles of seaweed and immediately go to work munching and cleaning up the beach.

You can help these little creatures do their work by letting them stay covered during the day so they can emerge when the sun goes down. It’s tempting to poke into those piles of rotting seaweed, but better not to!

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