Unknown Northern California Bug
Sun, Apr 5, 2009 at 3:06 PM
Hello. We live in Palo Alto, CA and have recently stumbled across this ugly bug. It is approximately an inch long, has what looks like a stinger, long wings, and a long neck. My husband thought it might be a sort of baby praying mantis, but after looking at it longer, we agree it must be something else. Does it sting is my question. We recently had a really bad gnat problem on our balcony and I feel like these bugs are living off of the dead gnats. Here is a picture, I hope it helps!
Concerned Stanford Family.
Palo Alto, California, USA



Dear Family,
There is no cause for concern or alarm.  This is a Snakefly in the insect order Raphidioptera.  Both larval and adult Snakeflies are predators so they are beneficial insects.  The “stinger” is actually the ovipositor of the female insect, and is used in the egg laying process.  It is not an organ of defense and the Snakefly does not sting.

33 Responses to Snakefly

  1. Bulls#!t! I had a robe on today & I could feel something biting me or should I say pinching me. I had to google this insect & it definitely was a Snakefly! I had never seen or heard of a snakefly before. I felt it crawling down my back & it bit me 2-3 times! It wasn’t even an adult snakefly yet. They are quite odd looking alien-looking snakeflies!
    Ed. Note: Edited for content.

  2. Andrea Creppell says:

    They don’t sting but I do believe they chomp you with that claw like mouth for sure. Was walking outside today and felt a biting sensation on my leg. Looked down and found one of these little guys knawing on my thigh! It left a bit of a mark but nothing permanent.

  3. Suzy Jones says:

    A very large one got on my husband’s back tonight and when it got up to his head he tried to remove it and was pinched so badly it drew blood in 2 places. Really bleeding from it!

  4. Cy Chini says:

    We have a snakefly problem at my work. ( lots of other dead insects for them to munch on as it’s all large windows. After years of no issue I was bit three times in succession by one insect. My coworker pinched it off of me and I was bleeding. I know my snakefly and this one must be part vampire.

  5. Isaac says:

    These things have been attacking me at my house for a couple years now. Never seen one before then one flew on my arm and I was thinking wow your a new one. It took a look at me and bit the crap out of my arm. Ever since then every summer they have been coming out in swarms and attacking me between my shop and house. I usually don’t kill insects but these things are a menace and if I didn’t swat them off of me my place would be unlivable. Two of them just flew through my shop while I’m writing this. People say they are beneficial and that’s probably true but these things attack and bite people.

    • Jeremy says:

      OH My Gosh You 2?? I Have been through 3 years Of “The Most Intense Bug Biting Recovery & Counselling the State of Oregon has to Offer”, do to this Insect and its invasion of Southern Oregon. 🙁 I Built my dream house right outside of town afew miles. We have beautiful Old Growth trees and Ferns everywhere. “Self Designed Dream House”, after 2 years of no BUGS, it all started? Like someone is playing a sick Joke? I’ve lived here my Whole Life never seen one of these until I build “MY DREAM HOUSE”. I know I sound like I am just complaining. I just want to know how you guys got through this? I have to wear a BEE SUITE At My Brand New CUSTOM HOME. Not Funny at all, I’m Crying Now, A Nightmare. I Ended up being Highly Allergic. I now travel the world talking and giving speeches on these devil Insects. My Councilor says its great for me to wright about my feelings!! Hope this helps someone. Have any questions just ask. In SnakeFly We Trust!

      • Andrea says:

        This is the best thing I’ve read on the internet in a while. You had me going until the bit about traveling the world. Though we also googled “devil insect” to try to identify it.

  6. Kris says:

    Oddly enough my mother and sister who hate carpenter ants and lace flies, love these snake flies. I’ve handled all these and the snake fly is the only one I’ve held that was constantly bitting me (didn’t break skin). Obviously not venomous. Seems likes it’s tasting everything.

    • Kris says:

      To add – I’m on the west coast. I imagine if this fly was bigger and behaved the way it does…can easily be an annoyance

  7. Anderson says:

    They surely do bite. One chomped onto my friend’s bare arm just this evening; we picked it off and got a very good look. It was definitely a female snakefly and it was aggressive, because it kept trying to bite again.

  8. Jessica Radway says:

    I live in Cottage Grove, Oregon. Over the last 20 years I have had several encounters with what appears to be the larva(no wings). I have a deck with large for trees over it. Each time has been during or soon after I water the plants. Last night I had one on my chest. Feels like bee stings-got me four times on upper chest before it fell into my bra for one more hit. I would LOVE input. This is the first time I’ve seen anything like it. Nobody else seems to have had problems but me..

    • andy says:

      Northern California here; and yes, they DO bite. Often repeatedly, and it hurts. Yes, yes, I know they’re not supposed to be able to, but they do. Remember that bumblebees aren’t supposed to be able to fly, either–but they do. And yes, Bugman; these ARE Snakeflies. Clearly, other people have had the same experience. I would be very interested to learn why they do this.

      • Louie Sam says:

        I am in NorCal and have also been painfully bitten by these bugs. I just recently saw a photo of a snake fly, and that is definitely the bug that bit me.

    • Jeremy says:

      OH YEAH?? I have girlfriend! I love talking about these guys and much, much more! I live in Roseburg!! my e-mail is oregonjerbear@gmail.com E-mail me and I’ll tell you about it! Jeremy

  9. Audrey Hanson says:

    This thing in larvae form crawled out of my pants after I got twelve itchy bites in one area on my leg. I did tons of googling and I know it was the snake fly larvae it looked exactly like it mouth pincers and all. People keep publishing they don’t really bite and people keep commenting they do so either they have a biting twin or the information is just off. Maybe they only bite if they accidentally get in your clothes but I think I’m allergic to them.

  10. Jacquelline Marshall says:

    People say assassin bugs don’t bite humans too but MAN it’s like being kicked by a mule. The fact that it is a predator means it sure CAN bite! And like the above person, I think I’m allergic. Hate to do it but SQUISH.

  11. Pamela Nolan says:

    I got bit three times this morning. We live in western Nevada, 15 miles from Lake Tahoe. YES it hurt. Result? It got squished!

    • Jav says:

      I live in Reno have these all over and wondered what they were. Should we get rid of them if possible then?

  12. Nic says:

    I agree with everyone in here. They for sure bite!! Not just a bite either they tear your skin and keep going. They are viciois and it makes me mad that all info on them that I read says they dont bite. But so many people have expeeienced bad bites from them. Time to update into on these.

  13. Martha says:

    Yes,these things are biting the crap out of me right now in my yard. They need to update the info on this site.

  14. Al Keuter says:

    I handled a female a couple of days ago, no bites. There are many different species of snakeflies, perhaps some are less friendly than others. I’m glad I found a friendly.

  15. Gary Pinkerton says:

    Well, found one on back glass of our Houston patio tonight. Anyone else this far south?

  16. Nick says:

    My 10yr old son was bitten by one today 4/5 times on his big toe while Sitting in the yard. We live in Portland Or.

    He first said ouch I just got stung very loudly and just froze stiff (he has never been stung before). While I was walking towards his to see, he yelled out again and started crying. He yelled ouch a couple more times and when I finally got to him, the snake fly was still on his toe and I could see it latched on to him. I quickly brushed it off his toes and googled what the heck it was. It was 100% a snake fly…that’s what got me here.

  17. Nigel says:

    The published sources say that they’ve been here for 50 million years and that they’re totally harmless and, in fact, a gift from god to have around.
    Everyone I know who’s seen one has been bit, stung or cut by these things.
    (The long, thin cut was very strange indeed.)
    I have been bitten by them for sure.
    (Just now, in fact.)
    Furthermore, no one I know saw them before 2000 and some didn’t see them until more recent than that and many of these people spend their whole lives outside and identify species for fun.
    It seems that there is more to learn about these things, good news for anyone who enjoys studying insects.

  18. Abraham says:

    Can confirm these bite. I just felt something chomping away at my wrist, looked down, and saw this guy gnawing away at my flesh. Seemed like it was just determining whether or not it could make a meal of me. Only mildly painful, more like scratching. I tapped its head, and it stopped for a moment, swung its head back and forth to look around, and then immediately slammed its face back down into my wrist and started chomping like someone at a pie-eating contest.

  19. Rick says:

    They do bite! I just had one biting my hand. I knocked it away and it went onto a plate. I have never seen one and was examining it with a fork, and it started biting the fork. It was as agressive as a hornet.

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