1. Cold tolerance is a fundamental adaptation of insects to high latitudes. Flexibility in the cold hardening process, in turn, provides a useful indicator of the extent to which polar insects can respond to spatial and temporal variability in habitat temperature. 2. A scaling approach was adopted to investigate flexibility in the cold tolerance of the high Arctic collembolan, Hypogastrura tullbergi, over different time-scales. The cold hardiness of animals was compared from diurnal warming and cooling phases in the field, and controlled acclimation and cooling treatments in the laboratory. Plasticity in acclimation responses was examined using three parameters: low temperature survival, cold shock survival, and supercooling points (SCPs). 3. Over time-scales of 24–48 h, both field animals from warm diurnal phases and laboratory cultures from a ‘warm’ acclimation regime (18 °C) consistently showed greater or equivalent cold hardiness to animals from cool diurnal phases and acclimation regimes (3 °C). 4. No significant evidence was found of low temperature acclimation after either hours or days of low temperature exposure. The cold hardiness of H. tullbergi remained ‘seasonal’ in character and mortality throughout was indicative of the summer state of acclimatization. 5. These data suggest that H. tullbergi employs an ‘all or nothing’ cryoprotective strategy, cold hardening at seasonal but not diel-temporal scales. 6. It is hypothesised that rapid cold hardening offers little advantage to these high Arctic arthropods because sub-zero habitat temperatures during the summer on West Spitsbergen are rare and behavioural migration into soil profiles offers sufficient buffering against low summer temperatures.