Currently viewing the category: "Hellgrammite"

I know I just emailed you about a wasp but I was reading your hellgramite section and was thinking that you might think of warning novice fisherman about those pincers. My husband and I love to fish (he handles the bait… yes I am too squeamish, and in the case of hellgramites, I am afraid of being pinched!). Whenever we catch hellgramites for bait, he always takes a pair of pliers and snaps off the business end of those pincers before attempting to use them as bait. He neglected to do so once… I have never heard him yell so loud! I laughed so hard I could hardly fish (at the time it was hilarious). I thought that people who aren’t familiar with using hellgramites as bait but would like to try it might want this useful tidbit of information.
Mande Hyre

the strangest bug i’ve ever seen in my life!
I was hiking at McConell’s Mills in Western Pennsylvania and happened across this bug sitting in the middle of the street. It appears to me to be some sort of beetle larva, but it’s SO big. It also had this fancy move it did when we touched its head with a stick – it would curl its tail under [which was soft like a catepillar’s body] to quickly launch itself backward a few inches. Here it is pictured with my boyfriend’s finger [who, for scale, is 6’4″]. And here is another better picture of its face. I also have a video i took of it walking and doing its cool backwards launch maneuver, which you can have if you’re interested. PLEASE tell us what kind of bug this is. We’re absolutely dying to know. I almost regret not taking it home with me! I just hope it didn’t wander back into the middle of the road. Thanks!
Jen and Glenn
ps. We also found a bunch of these really pretty red and black millipedes, which i’ve included a picture of. They were about 4 inches long.

Hi Jen and Glenn,
You have just encounted a Hellgrammite, the larval form of the Dobsonfly. These curious larvae are prized by fishermen as bait.

Pic 4 u
i LOVE your site, I was looking up the Dobsonfly larva, & noticed you only have one picture,so I thought you might like another one of the larva this one was 4- 5 inches long and about an inch wide, coulden’t belive it was that big, I have more pictures of it’s head,very close up, if you want them oh yeah the reason I e-mailed you was do you have a news letter? if you do I’d Love to get it,I can see why you got the yahoo pick of the week AWSOME SITE!! very well put together, & it’s easy to find what your looking for thanks,
Tina Johnston-Wilson
Goderich Ontario Canada
keep up the great work

Thank you so much Tina,
Your photo is beautiful. We do not have a newsletter. Just keeping the site updated is a handful, though we have toyed with the idea of trying to publish a book. Also thank you for the navigating compliment. I just received another letter from someone complaining she couldn’t find anything on the site. We would love to get the head photos.

I live in Austin, Texas and just found this nasty looking bug outside on my patio, clinging to the wall in the early morning below my porch light.
It has a large set of mean-looking pincers on the front of the head. The forward half of the body is dark, and the rear half is light tan and caterpillar-looking. I had to take the picture through the yogurt jar I captured him in. He is about 3.5 inches long.
I leave most outdoor bugs alone but was concerned that if I ran across him later accidentally, I might get a nasty bite. He aggressively threatened me as I repositioned the jar to get the photo.
If anybody wants him, come and get him!
Patty Pritchett

Dear Patty,
He is beautiful. He is an adult Dobson Fly, the larvae of which are known as Hellgrammites. The male has the formidable jaws which are used during the mating ritual in what humans might consider spousal abuse. They will not harm humans. We have additional information on our site.

Hi, My girlfriend and I stopped to get gas in Connecticut, when I got out to start pumping I noticed this thing… slowly crawling around. It was between 3 and 4 inches long and moved rather slowly. Six legs, large ant-like head but a centipede like body. No antannae but large mandible looking things. We looked around and there were about 10 or so of them roaming around in various parts of the gas station lot. I came home and did some web searching trying to figure out what it was but was quite unsuccessful. The closest similiar descriptions I have found seem to be of the Protura order, but they are typically very small, and the bug I spotted did not have a cone shaped head. I came across your site and went through the bugs featured on it, with no luck. I returned after my failed web searches to snap the above picture, it had stopped raining, and this was the only one I could find.
What is this thing? Michael

Dear Michael,
Definitely a Hellgrammite, the larva of the Dobson Fly. We have photos of adults on our site, and would love to post your photo with the letter. I just received another letter from someone who spotted one at her cabin in Virginia, but I had no image to show her.

Hello Bug Person,
I saw your site and thought maybe you could help me and my roommate out. We have creatures. That’s what we call them, because they are unlike anything we’ve ever seen. In the last three places we’ve lived, we have seen the Creatures in our basement. They are similar to centipedes in that they are long, have many legs, and are creepy. But that’s where the similarities end. Centipedes are flattened with legs that look like this ^ with one joint, but these Creatures have 2 joints, like spider legs. They don’t have as many as a centipede but definitely more than 8. The legs are generally the same size too, not different lengths like a house centipede. they don’t have the front "fangs" like a centipede but a mandible similar to a spider’s – no antenae no little butt feelers. And they come in 3 different colors. I’ve seen very large ones (4-5 inches), black with white spots; others were just as big but dark brown; and just the other day, in our new duplex, we found a little one maybe 2-3 inches long and light brown. They are very fast and i even hit one with a book, cutting off its lower half, and the rest of it got away. Yeah, these things are evil. Nobody knows what these things are. We’ve had hunters, floridians, Arizonians, and other self-proclaimed bug experts, but we always get the same thing: a hideous blank stare and lonely nights in our basement. Can you tell me what the creatures are?

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Scream Alex, scream for your life. You have Tinglers living in your basement. Barring the possibility that the horrific monster from the 50’s horror flick starring Vincent Price is in your basement, following you from house to house, I can think of several additional possibilities, though none seems to exactly fit your description.
Possibility #1 is the hellgrammite, the larval form of the dobson fly. These four inch long creepy crawlies normally live in or near streams, but we have heard reports of them being found in basements. Check out this website to see if the hellgrammite is your culprit.

Possibility #2 would be a sun spider or wind scorpion from the family Solpugidae. They move quickly, and can be found in basements, though I haven’t heard of any American species quite as large as the creature you describe. They are closely related to other arthropods called vinegaroons.
Possibility #3 would be a different type of centipede. Scolopendra polymorpha is a six inch long species of centipede that resides within the continental U.S. You can locate a photo of it and of the sun spider on this website.

I shudder to think that we here at What’s That Bug have entered the ranks of hunters, floridians or Arizonians with blank stares, but without more concrete information, perhaps a photograph or a drawing, and some hint of your coordinates on the globe, we’ve run out of possible id’s.

Several months back, this column tried to identify a bug based on an inquiry from Deb. Here is her letter:
I almost had a heart attack last week as I saw the biggest bug I have ever seen! I work as a therapist in an upstate New York School. My office is in the basement. As I rounded the corner to answer the phone, something huge
was slowly crawling across the doorway on the floor. It was blackish grey, about 4 inches long with a flattish body. The head looked as large as my thumbnail. It appeared to have short spikey hairs on its body, and 6 legs protruding from its middle segment. The abdomen was very large and trailed behind the legs. I didn’t notice any antennae, but it may have had pincers on the mouth. Thank God for a brave custodial worker!!! Later in the day, another co-worker said that he collected those bugs for trout bait, and that they sprout wings and fly around. Please! That was the stuff of nightmares!!!!!!!! I swear that I have seen miniscule versions of this bug in my own yard and want to know if they are the same. Could I have these prehistoric monsters flying in my back yard???!!!

Embarassingly, I misidentified the culpret as a large roach. It turned out, in fact, to be a hellgrammite, the larval form of the dobsonfly, which you have photographed. Locally, the California Dobsonfly (Neohermes californicus) can be found near streams, generally at higher elevations, hence the frequent use of the larva as trout bait. The hellgrammites are aquatic and are found in swift streams where they prey on other insects, but they can pass dry spells under rocks and debris in the damp stream beds.
Dobsonflies are members of a primitive order of insects known as nerve-winged insects, which includes other oddities like the ant lion and lacewings. All adult nerve-winged insects, including the dobsonfly, are feeble fliers and are predaceous upon insect pests, so they are beneficial.