Subject: Interesting KY Find
Location: South of Mammoth Cave Karst area
June 15, 2013 6:20 am
I live near Bowling Green, Ky in the Drake community. I found this insect on my front porch. I do not recall having ever seen one before now. It has not survived, but was still alive when I saw it and took the picture. About 4.5 inches long with a very slender, soft body. Pointed protuberances from the head with additional feelers. When the wings were stroked, it reared up to try and get to whatever was disturbing it.
Can you help me identify this insect and is it indigenous to my region? Thanks in advance.
Signature: Meg Pennington
Nate from Bowling Green sent us a similar image, albeit a lower resolution format, and included only the tersest of information: “Subject: moth? Location: bowling green June 14, 2013 8:33 am Found on my porch today. 6/14/13.” We haven’t had a chance to respond to him yet, but we will be posting your submission because of the higher resolution as well as the chattier message you submitted. This is a male Dobsonfly. Despite his frightening appearance, he is quite harmless. Those scimitar-like mandibles did not evolve for either either eating or for biting attackers, but rather, we suspect they are used between males when vying for the attentions of a prospective mate, or for mating purposes. We are always hoping to someday receive photos that will confirm one or both of our suspicions. Female Dobsonflies have much more practical mandibles that are capable of producing a nip if they are carelessly handled. The predatory larvae which are known as Hellgrammites, are a prized bait for freshwater fishermen and they can also deliver a nip, though they are not dangerous. David Gracer indicates that Hellgrammites are edible, and we suspect adult Dobsonflies might also be edible.
Thank you for your swift response! I have encountered several wonderful (or startling) specimens in this rural area. I will continue to be observant for any ‘new’ insects where I live. Have a wonderful day!!