Subject: Mystery flying insect
Location: Merrimack, NH, USA
October 3, 2012 8:23 pm
I found this insect on the by an outdoor light at night. I live in a heavily wooded rural area next to a lake in Merrimack, New Hampshire, USA. I found this caught in a vacant spider web and wasn’t going to interfere until i saw its abdomen. It looked like it has 8 legs?! is this a mutation of some sort? because in one of these images you can clearly see the cerci, so they can’t be elongated cerci. It actively moved each of the ”7th & 8th” legs independently. Any ideas what this may be?
Signature: Jace Porter
This is a very exciting posting for us. This is a new species, a new category, and a totally unknown group of insects for us. This is a Forcepfly in the family Meropeidae which we identified on BugGuide. It most closely resembled a Scorpionfly to us and they are classified in the same order, Mecoptera. We learned on BugGuide that Forcepflies are also called Earwigflies and that there are only “2 spp. worldwide, one in North America, another in sw. Australia.” We also learned that: “The family was widespread during the Jurassic from Australia to Antarctica and over the Americas; the extant members are relics that survived at the edges of that ancient range.” The species is Merope tuber and according to BugGuide: “Very little is known about biology or behavior. Larvae have never been discovered. The flattened appearance suggests that the adults probably spend much of their time close to the ground hiding in cracks and crevices.” Finally, they are “uncommon to rare in collections and seldom encountered.”
The forcep clasping structures at the tip of the abdomen indicate that this is a male.
According to the NCSU Insect Museum website: “Merope tuber is native to the eastern deciduous forests in North America and occurs from southeastern Canada (Ontario) south to Florida, west to Iowa and Kansas (1, 3). The Florida Natural Areas Inventory lists the species as very rare and vulnerable to extinction. Very little is known of its life history and the larvae have not yet been recognized. The larvae of the earwigfly could provide important information about the evolutionary relationships in holometabolous insects (4). The undergraduate Entomology club at Cornell has established the species as their mascot and have made it their goal to find and describe the larval stage!” The Cornell Undergraduate Entomology Club Website states: “They are generally rare and secretive insects, but adult specimens are still occassionally collected near streams or at blacklight traps. However, Meropeid larvae have never been found or identified. We at Snodgrass and Wigglesworth, therefore, have adopted Merope tuber as our official mascot and made it our mission to locate and describe the larval stage of Merope, as this would be a valuable contribution to the annals of entomology. ”
Thank you! This is very exciting for me too. Do you have any tips on how I could preserve this? Or any organizations I may donate this to for further study?
I found the female forcepfly and I believe it may be pregnant. I would like to study it until it lays its eggs and incubate until the larvae hatch. I know its never been done, but do you have any helpful tips?
Hi again Jace,
We would recommend contacting your local Museum of Natural History or perhaps the Cornell Undergraduate Entomology Club to donate the specimen. We would love to post a photo of the female Forcepfly.
Thanks for the suggestions. I have contacted Cornell and await a response, unfortunately though she flew away after I opened the lid to her terrarium while I was trying to get a picture. 🙁 Live insects can be stubborn photo subjects. They tend to stay in my area at night when I have our outside light on, so i’ll keep my eye out for her and hope I can safely capture her again, and this time I’ll get a picture before capture.