Do Snakefly Larvae Bite? Separating Fact from Fiction

Snake flies might look like snakes, but they are harmless insects that help remove pests from your garden. But are their larvae equally harmless? Do snakefly larvae bite? Let’s find out.

There are more than 200 species of snakeflies worldwide, out of which you might find about 25 in North America.

In their larval form, These insects look like tiny snakes, which is why many people are afraid of them.

But the good thing is that snakeflies are not harmful at all to humans.

In fact, they eat up many common garden pests and insect eggs, which makes them beneficial for humans.

Moreover, they don’t usually bite anyone, so there’s really nothing to be afraid of. On some rare occasions, snakefly larvae may bite human skin, but it’s not dangerous in any way.

Read on to learn more about these fascinating creatures, their lifecycle, and what happens when they bite.

Do Snakefly Larvae Bite? Truth Revealed

What Do They Look Like?

Snakeflies have an elongated prothorax, which makes them look like a snake. That’s where their unique name comes from.

It gives the impression that they are about to strike whenever they raise their heads, just like a snake’s hood.

These creatures are about ½ inch long and have two pairs of membranous wings, similar to those of lacewings. The transparent wings have a beautiful network of veins.

The head and wings of the snakefly are quite large compared to the rest of the body.

If you want to tell a female firefly from her male counterpart, the former comes with a needle-like ovipositor used to lay eggs in tree bark or soil.

What do the larvae look like?

The snakefly larvae are ½ to ¾ inch long and are soft-bodied creatures. They have six sticky legs, which help them move both forward and backward. This unique trait helps them catch their prey easily.

Do Snakefly Larvae Bite? Truth Revealed

Do Snakeflies Bite?

No, snakeflies are harmless to humans and usually do not bite. The adult female snakefly has an ovipositor that humans may confuse as a stinger.

But this body part is only used as a tube to deposit eggs into tree barks or soil after piercing their outer shell and has nothing to do with stinging or biting.

Do Their Larvae Bite?

While adult snake flies do not bite humans, their larvae do. In some cases, people have got painful bites from the larvae.

However, these bites are not something that you need to worry about. At best, they can leave behind a rash for a few days.

Snakefly Lifecycle

The life cycle of the snakefly takes place in 4 stages:

  • Egg stage
  • Larval stage
  • Pupal stage
  • Adult stage

Let’s discuss each stage in more detail.

Do Snakefly Larvae Bite? Truth Revealed

Egg Stage

The first stage begins after the adult female lays eggs in the bark of trees or under loose soil since both places are safe and hidden from large predators. Their eggs are long and have a small appendage on one side.

Larva

It takes about three weeks for the eggs to hatch and the larvae to come out. In this second stage, the larvae are wingless and resemble snakes with legs. They are long and flat with a shiny head and can be about ½ to 1 inch long.

Their head and thorax are rigid, while the abdomen is soft and ready to be fed. They use their sticky legs to scurry around plant leaves or tree bark to find their prey.

They love to feed on larvae or eggs of other insects. The larval stage lasts about one year but may extend to 2-3 years. Snakeflies live almost their entire lives as larvae!

During this time, the terrestrial larvae live in various places – tree bark, wooden floors, rock crevices, etc. They undergo anywhere between 10 to 15 instar stages, feeding and growing continuously.

Pupa

The prepupal stage lasts for 3 to 5 days only, but larvae don’t cocoon themselves in this period. It’s also believed that snakeflies need to be at a low temperature for some time in order to induce pupation.

Their pupal stage arrives with the spring and lasts about three weeks but might extend up to four to five weeks as well.

Now, the pupa starts to grow tiny wings and becomes closer to an adult snakefly. By the time it’s late summer, the adult stage starts.

Adult

The fourth and final stage is the end of the metamorphosis of the snakefly. It is now fully grown and ready to take its first flight and hunt its first aphid.

The overall lifecycle of snakefly might last anywhere between four to five years, but usually, the larva stage is the longest.

Do Snakefly Larvae Bite? Truth Revealed

What Do They Feed On?

Both adult snake flies and larvae are predators. The adults feed on pollens and insects like aphids, spider mites, caterpillars, etc.

They also feed on honeydew left behind on leaves by aphids and other sugary substances. They also love to ‘clean’ themselves off after eating.

Female snakeflies love to wag their ovipositors as they eat, almost as if they were showing their approval or disapproval of the meal.

What do their larvae feed on?

Snakefly larvae, on the other hand, are completely carnivorous. They often feed on eggs or larvae of other insects.

They may also eat adults of certain arthropods, including springtails, barklice, homopterans, and mites. Snakeflies can also eat dead insects when they are in their larval stage.

What Can You Do If They Are In Your House?

If you find snakeflies in your home, it is possible that they have made their home in your place. But there is no need to worry!

Snakefly larvae are generally harmless to humans and are actually beneficial insects because they prey on other small pests like aphids and mites.

However, if you want to remove them from your home, here’s what you can do:

Identify them: Make sure you correctly identify the insects as snakefly larvae. They have long, slender bodies and can resemble small caterpillars.

Snakefly larvae typically have large mandibles, which can make them look intimidating, but they are not harmful to humans.

Remove them manually: You can gently pick up the snakefly larvae with a pair of tweezers or a piece of paper and relocate them outside.

Be careful not to harm them during the process.

Vacuum them: If you have a significant number of snakefly larvae in your home, you can use a vacuum cleaner to suck them up.

Empty the vacuum bag or canister outside to release them back into the wild.

Eliminate their food source: Snakefly larvae feed on small pests like aphids and mites.

If you have an infestation of these prey insects in your home, addressing the root cause by eliminating the pests may reduce the presence of snakefly larvae.

Seal entry points: To prevent future infestations, inspect your home for any cracks or gaps that may be allowing these insects to enter. Seal these entry points to keep snakefly larvae and other pests out.

Remember that snakefly larvae are generally not considered harmful or destructive to your home.

If you don’t mind their presence and they are not causing any issues, you may choose to leave them be, as they can help control other pest populations.

However, if you have concerns or simply want to remove them, the methods mentioned above should be effective.

Do Snakefly Larvae Bite? Truth Revealed

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a snakefly larva?

A snakefly larva is a long, snake-like insect with three pairs of sticky legs. Snakeflies often spend one to two years of their lives as larvae.
In their larval stage, they feed on other insects like aphids, caterpillars, and mites. Snakefly larvae can bite humans, but they are neither poisonous nor venomous.

Where do greenhead flies live?

Greenhead flies are recognized easily due to their large and bright green eyes. These flies are usually attracted to calm and moist places.
They are often called the salt marsh horse fly, and you may find them all along the Atlantic coast of North America.

How long do snake flies live?

If they live in the wild, they can easily live up to 2-3 years (on average). Of these, nearly half its life is spent as a larva.
Snakeflies usually raise only one generation in a year. Their larvae overwinter, and the colder temperature helps them pupate and emerge as adults.

How do you fish the snake fly?

Snake flies are a common bait for trout and other fish. You can easily fish them by casting them out and then pulling the line.

This way, there would be no slack when you throw the line into the water. The fly would drag the line down with itself. In fact, there will be much fish willing to come up even as the fly is going down the water.

Wrap Up

We hope this article helped you learn something about snakeflies, their larvae, and how they rarely bite humans.

These creatures are harmless, and even though they might look odd to you, they are quite beneficial to your garden.

Thank you for reading!

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

15 thoughts on “Do Snakefly Larvae Bite? Separating Fact from Fiction”

  1. Just found one of these on the kitchen floor of my Northern AZ apartment! We were amazed and not quite sure what this little thing was. Thank you for the information on your site 🙂 it was very helpful

    Reply
  2. Thank you so much for the info! The two we captured went outside immediately. Interesting little creatures – they must have hitched a ride into the house when we were doing yardwork.

    Reply
  3. Not meaning to be rude but, I don’t think people are going to want to release any kind of bugs back into there beds, no matter how harmless they are.

    Reply
  4. Perfect answer! I live about an hour from SFO and found one on my bathroom counter. I think it fell from the attic through the ceiling fan. Happy it’s not a termite! Also, happy that this site doesn’t endorse extermination!! The little fellow now lives in my garden, where he can munch the eggs of pests. Win, win.

    Reply
  5. We just found out what these little guys are. They have litterly been dropping down on us in our bedrooms! I’m all for keeping benificial bugs around but not when I am having them crawl on me when I’m trying to sleep. Found two on my bed last night. To the couch I went.

    Reply
  6. We have found a total of three of these in our house over the last month. Do we have to worry about an “infestation” at all? I know they are beneficial when outdoors, but would like to know if we should expect to keep finding them or if there may only be a few inside.

    Reply
  7. My daughter has now found 4 of these in her bed over the past month or so. We have torn the room apart . No windows open, no dirt on the shoes… nothing. Did anyone in the same boat ever figure out the mystery of the bed findings??? Thank you!

    Reply
  8. I found one in my room and it was 1055 pm. cam down here because I was not gonna stick around with a snakefly and its long stinger. looked online and found they are harmless thx for the info.

    Reply
  9. I just had an adult snake fly land on my head while in my bed. I felt it and sat forward and it fell off of me and onto its back on my sheet. I had no ideah what it was and frankly not too happy to share my bed with it so it was exterminated immediately. But thought it looked interesting enough to find out what it was. My first thought was flying ant but turned up nothing. Then my girlfriend found it on the internet. After reading about it I felt bad about killing it as I love plants and felt dumb for not catching it and putting it in our house plants. Anyways whats done is done. Next time I will try to give it a proper meal instead?

    Reply

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