The Scorpion Fly is a fascinating insect that might pique your curiosity. Belonging to the Mecoptera order, these insects are known for their unique appearance, resembling a blend of scorpion and fly features.
As you explore the world of Scorpion Flies, you’ll discover that they possess intriguing characteristics that set them apart from other insects. With their elongated faces and scorpion-like tails, they are truly a sight to behold. Their harmless nature and distinctive look make them a captivating subject for those interested in learning more about the insect world.
Dive into the realm of Scorpion Flies to uncover their intriguing habits and behaviors. From their mating rituals to their preference for humid environments, you’ll soon come to appreciate these extraordinary creatures as a valuable part of our ecosystem.
Scorpion Fly Description
Scorpion flies (Panorpa spp.) are unique looking insects with features resembling both scorpions and flies. Their body color is typically yellowish-brown, with black bands or spots on their four long wings1.
These insects are moderate-sized, with an average length of about 3/8 inch1. Their small size allows them to blend in with their surroundings easily.
- Antennae: Scorpion flies have antennae, which help them sense their environment.
- Long Face: They have a long-looking face due to a prolonged beak, and their chewing mouthparts are located at the end of this beak1.
- Enlarged Genitals: Male scorpion flies have enlarged genitals at the tip of their abdomen1.
- Non-venomous: Although they have a fearsome appearance with a scorpion-like stinger and pincers, scorpion flies are not venomous and pose no danger to humans2.
Types of Scorpion Flies
Scorpion flies belong to a family known as Panorpidae, and there are several species within this family. Though their color patterns and size may vary slightly, their overall appearance and characteristics remain similar across the different species3.
In summary, scorpion flies are a fascinating group of insects with a distinctive appearance combining features of scorpions and flies. Despite their intimidating look, they are not dangerous to humans and play an essential role in their ecosystems. Remember to keep an open mind when encountering these intriguing creatures!
Scorpion Fly Behavior
Scorpion flies exhibit intriguing mating behaviors. Males often attract females using pheromones. During mating season, you may observe male scorpion flies presenting “gifts” to females, which are usually dead insects or bits of food. This tactic entices the female, improving the male’s chances of successfully mating.
Scorpion flies are best known for their feeding habits as scavengers. They mainly feed on dead insects, making them an essential part of the ecosystem. Examples of their favorite prey include:
- Dead flies
You might also find them feeding on decaying fruits and vegetables, which supplement their diet.
One fascinating feature of scorpion flies is their flight abilities. While they are not strong fliers, they can cover short distances to find food and mates. When in flight, scorpion flies can be easily recognized by their distinctive wing pattern and shape that resembles a scorpion’s tail.
Scorpion flies have developed various adaptations to survive in their environment. Some of these adaptations include:
- Long beak-like mouthparts for feeding on dead insects
- A scorpion-like tail to deter predators
- Camouflage to blend in with their surroundings
These adaptations enable scorpion flies to thrive in their ecosystem and play a crucial role in maintaining balance among insect populations.
Remember, the key to understanding scorpion flies lies in observing their unique behaviors such as mating rituals, feeding habits, flight abilities, and adaptations. These fascinating insects make the world of entomology all the more intriguing.
Scorpion Fly Lifespan and Reproduction
Scorpion flies have a fascinating life cycle. Their development process involves complete metamorphosis, which includes the stages of egg, larva, pupa, and adult. These insects typically have a lifespan of about 3/8 inch long.
Eggs: Scorpion flies lay their eggs in moist areas, usually on the underside of leaves or in crevices of plants. These eggs are small and oval-shaped, waiting to hatch and release the larval stage.
Larva: Once the eggs hatch, the larvae emerge, resembling small caterpillars. They are usually brown or black, with tiny legs and a segmented body. During this stage, the larvae feed on decaying plant material and insects, growing in size as they consume these food sources.
Pupa: After the larval stage, scorpion flies move on to the pupa phase. This is when the metamorphosis occurs, and the insect starts developing wings and other adult features. The pupa is usually found in a cocoon hidden away in leaf litter or soil.
Adult: When the metamorphosis is complete, the adult scorpion fly emerges, ready to mate and reproduce. These insects have a yellowish-brown coloration and wings adorned with black bands or spots.
The scorpion fly reproduction process is quite intriguing. Males and females come together for mating, with males using their distinctive bulbous, scorpion-like genitalia to attract a female partner. It is essential for scorpion flies to find the right mate, as the success of egg-laying and the next generation depends on it.
During the mating process, the male scorpion fly transfers sperm to the female. Afterward, the female lays her fertilized eggs in suitable locations for the larvae to thrive. Mating and reproduction continue throughout the adult stage of the scorpion fly’s life, ensuring the survival of their species.
In summary, scorpion flies have an interesting lifecycle, going through complete metamorphosis from eggs to adults. Their reproductive process is vital for the continuation of their species, making these insects an essential part of the ecosystem.
Scorpion Fly Habitat
Scorpion flies are fascinating creatures that thrive in various environments. Their natural habitat includes forests, woodland edges, and hedgerows. They prefer areas with dense vegetation, which provides them with a sense of security. You can also find these insects near flowers, where they feed on nectar. So, if you’re exploring nature, keep an eye out for them in such surroundings.
In terms of geographical distribution, scorpion flies are commonly found across the U.S. and Mexico. They can adapt to different climates, but they thrive particularly well in temperate regions.
Scorpion flies aren’t just restricted to their natural habitat. Sometimes, they venture into human-inhabited areas like gardens and crops in search of food. If you’re a gardener or farmer, you might encounter these insects in your green space.
Here are a few features of scorpion fly habitat when it comes to human interaction:
- They’re often found in gardens with flowering plants.
- Scorpion flies can help in pollination.
- Farmers might spot them around crops, especially if there are nearby hedgerows or woodlands.
Overall, scorpion flies are not aggressive towards humans, and their presence in gardens and crops is typically harmless. So, next time you’re outside and encounter a scorpion fly, admire its unique appearance and take a moment to appreciate its role in the ecosystem.
The Scorpion Fly in Ecosystem
Role in Ecosystem
Scorpion flies are fascinating creatures that play a vital part in their ecosystems. Being predatory arachnids, they help control the population of smaller insects. They also serve as prey for larger predators, ensuring a balanced food web. Besides being predators, they also act as scavengers, feeding on dead insects and plants, keeping their environment clean.
Impact on Environment
The presence of scorpion flies can have both positive and negative impacts on their surroundings. On one hand, they benefit vegetation by controlling pest populations and preventing damage to plants. Additionally, their scavenging activities help decompose organic matter, recycling nutrients back into the ecosystem.
However, in some situations, scorpion flies can also pose a threat to various plants and other organisms due to their predatory nature. If their population becomes too high, they might lead to an imbalance in the ecosystem.
In conclusion, understanding the role and impact of scorpion flies in ecosystems is crucial. By doing so, you can better appreciate these creatures and the importance of maintaining a balanced ecosystem.
Scorpion Fly and Other Species
Scorpion flies, approximately 3/8 inch long, generally do not pose significant threats to humans. They are yellowish-brown insects with black bands or spots on their long wings, and their appearance resembles that of a scorpion. These insects are usually found in wooded, humid areas, so it’s essential to be cautious when venturing into their habitats. However, they do not cause diseases or transmit harmful bacteria.
In Arizona, you may encounter the Striped Bark Scorpion, which is the state’s only scorpion species. These scorpions carry venom in their stingers, which can inject toxin upon human contact, sometimes leading to medical complications.
Interaction with Other Insects
Scorpion flies have interesting interactions with other insects like caterpillars, butterflies, and spiders:
Caterpillars and butterflies: Scorpion flies may feed on caterpillars and dead butterflies, serving as natural population control and recycling nutrients in the ecosystem.
Spiders: These flies may venture near spider webs to steal prey from spiders, displaying a remarkable ability to skillfully evade the webs and avoid becoming trapped themselves.
Other insects: Some insects, such as the assassin fly, have similar predatory behaviors as scorpion flies. Assassin flies use venomous saliva to incapacitate their prey, which includes bees, wasps, dragonflies, spiders, beetles, and other flies.
Scorpion flies and their interactions with other insects, both predatory and accidental, showcase the delicate balance within their ecosystems and provide examples of unique insect behaviors.
Are Scorpion Flies Venomous?
No, scorpion flies are not venomous. Although their name and appearance might suggest otherwise, these insects do not possess venom glands. They have a scorpion-like tail, but it is only used for mating purposes and does not pose any threat to humans.
Is a Scorpion Fly an Insect or an Arachnid?
A scorpion fly is an insect, not an arachnid. They belong to the order Mecoptera and are characterized by their elongated bodies and distinctive tails. Unlike arachnids, which have eight legs, scorpion flies have six legs, just like other insects.
Does a Scorpion Fly Sting or Bite?
Scorpion flies do not sting or bite humans. While their appearance might seem intimidating, they are harmless to people. They do have mouthparts that resemble those of a beak, which they use to feed on dead insects and other organic matter.
How Long Do Scorpion Flies Live?
The lifespan of a scorpion fly varies depending on factors such as species and environmental conditions. Typically, they have a lifespan of around 2-3 months. During this time, they go through different life stages, including egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages.
In conclusion, the scorpionfly is an intriguing insect with unique features. These moderate-sized insects can be recognized by their yellowish-brown color and black bands or spots on their wings.
You might find their long beaks and elongated faces interesting, which are actually their chewing mouthparts. Males have a bulbous tip at the end of their abdomen, resembling a scorpion’s tail.
Now you know more about the captivating world of scorpionflies. Remember to always appreciate the beauty and diversity of insects that surround you.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Scorpionfly
found in my garden today not flying very far at a time,on a very hot sunny day in north Norfolk england 27/7/2008 , i had never see anything like it before, then i came across your web site. so thats what it is? keep up the good work .add it to your picture list thanks
Your identification of a Scorpionfly is correct. Our only correction is in your spelling of the name. If the components scorpion and fly are separate, it implies a true fly in the order Diptera as opposed to the joining of the two words, similar to dragonfly or butterfly. Scorpionflies are in the order Mecoptera.
Letter 2 – Scorpionfly
Whats this Bug?
Could you please identify this insect for me. I have been told it is a scorpian wasp but that is too obvious and I cannot find one on the internet. Also, I have several insect pictures posted at danesdigital.zenfolio.com listed under Danes Garage. I am posting pictures of all the little critters we find in and around our house here in East Texas. I noticed you also teach photography. Any feedback on my pictures would be appreciated as well. Thanks,
This is a Scorpionfly, not a Scorpion Wasp. That might help you locate additional information. A Scorpionfly is neither a scorpion, nor a fly, but a member of the order Mecoptera (Scorpionflies, Hangingflies and Allies) and family Panorpidae. Adults feed on dead and dying insects, and occasionaly fruit. Check out BugGuide for more information. Your photo of the Scorpionfly is well exposed, in focus and reveals important anatomical features of the specimen. It would make a fine addition to our site as well as a fine illustration in a guide book. We would suggest higher resolution if you want to reproduce your images in print form.
Letter 3 – Scorpionfly
Unknown must see sharp photo of unknown
I found this sitting on my bird feeder. I could not find him on your site. Can you help? Thanks,
Choctaw County, Oklahoma
This fascinating looking insect is a Scorpionfly. Scorpionflies are in the order Mecoptera and we have a page devoted to them. Adults feed on ripe fruit, dead insects and even bird droppings.
Letter 4 – Scorpionfly
green winged flyer
Hope your internet troubles are over! I’m trying to identify this green winged flyer found on the edge of the forest in New Hampshire. Any ideas? Thanks for the wonderful website!
Your green winged flier is a Scorpionfly in the order Mecoptera.
Letter 5 – Scorpionfly
whats this bug/insect?
Need help identifying this insect/bug? Have never seen it before. we live in North Central Texas.
thanks in advance.
Cedar Hill, TX
(ps…that is a Zennia leaf it is attracted to)
What marvelous images of a Scorpionfly, genus Panorpa. These harmless insects feed on nectar, fruits and dying insects.
Letter 6 – Scorpionfly
I sent you a picture of a scorpionfly a couple of weeks ago. Actually, I think this is a better photo esthetically, and since I know that bandwidth is not a problem for you, I thought I’d send it along for your pleasure. When I can get a good closeup like this, I rather enjoy not cropping out the natural surroundings. This is one of my wallpaper photos at the moment. No need to post it unless you just choose to. I have another one coming your way that I’m curious about. Thanks for all you do to bring so many people a lot of fun.
David in Kentucky
We agree that your new photo is much nicer. We had to crop it though since it would be too small on our site to identify the Scorpionfly.
Letter 7 – Scorpionfly
Hi, These flies were briefly common in my little woodland in central Kentucky. I couldn’t find them in my book, though. I didn’t see them on your fly page, but I obviously need to narrow my search. Any thoughts?
We have one previous photo of a Scorpionfly on our site, but you couldn’t locate it because Scorpionflies, Family Panorphidae, are not true flies. Adults feed on dead and dying insects, nectar and rotting fruit. The shape of the male genitalia, which is large, pear-shaped, and held forward above the abdomen like a scorpion’s stinger, gives this group their common name. Your female does not make this common name evident.
Letter 8 – Scorpionfly
ODD FLYING INSECT
Location: Bristol Texas
October 23, 2010 10:08 pm
I found a bug, that has a large snout with burs on the end, 4 black and yellow striped wings, a red abdomen that is very narrow with pinchers at the end of it, that it curls up and when threatened, sends it up over it wings past its head. the wings are seperate from each other, but in rest the wings lay on top of each other so it looks like there are only two. i don’t have a good picture, but I could send one to a direct email. Thak you for your help, nobody I’ve asked can identify it.
Signature: Jennifer Moffitt
Despite its name and appearance, the Scorpionfly is a perfectly harmless creature.
Hmmm. Thank you. What a perfectly fitting name.
Letter 9 – Scorpionfly
Subject: Unknown Flying Insect
Geographic location of the bug: Fort Worth, Texas
Time: 09:38 PM EDT
I came across this insect in the woods near Fort Worth. I tried to find it on insect identification sites without success. Please help
How you want your letter signed: Steven Autry
Your images of this harmless Scorpionfly are gorgeous. According to Bumblebee.org: “Scorpion flies got their name because the tail end of the adult male’s abdomen is swollen and turns up to look like a scorpion …, but the insect is harmless. The swelling is actually the genital capsule. The female … is similar, but with a slim, straight abdomen. Both have the beautiful wing pattern seen in the photograph below. The adults are scavengers feeding on dead insects, rotting fruit, and even bird droppings. They prefer shady locations, and as they are weak fliers they tend to crawl about on vegetation. Although they are not common insects the shape of the head and the tail, if you find a male, makes them easy to recognise.”
Letter 10 – Scorpionfly
Subject: Identify red flying insect
Geographic location of the bug: North florida
Time: 03:51 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Red flying insect with legs like a mosquito and a curved back end with what looks like pinchers and tiger like wings: Rudy caramadre
This unusual looking insect is commonly called a Scorpionfly, and despite its name and appearance, it is quite harmless. Based on information posted to BugGuide, all North American Scorpionflies are in the family Panorpidae and genus Panorpa.
Letter 11 – Scorpionfly eats Pod Sucking Bug in Australia
Scorpionfly from Australia – Accomplished Hunters
Sat, Mar 21, 2009 at 6:38 PM
I took these shots of our local scorpionfly. Unlike other versions ours is an accomplished hunter of live prey. Check out those talon like hind legs. The assassin and related bugs such as the pod sucking bug (Riptortus serripes) seem to be a favoured target.
Thanks so much for sending and identifying this unusual looking Scorpionfly and its prey. According to the Brisbane Insect Website, there is only one species of Scorpionfly from the order Mecoptera in Australia. It is Harpobittacus tillyardi in the family Bittacidae, and it is sometimes called a Hanging Fly.
The detail photo of the Pod Sucking Bug is a nice addition. According to the Brisbane Insect Website, the Pod Sucking Bug, Riptortus serripes, is a Broad Headed Bug in the family Alydidae. Immature Pod Sucking Bugs are ant mimics. Now that spring has arrived in the northern hemisphere, and our weather is warming, our southern readers in the U.S. are starting to send letters our way. Mail volume is increasing and we had to go back a few days to post your wonderful submission. More and more mail will go unanswered as the volume continues to increase.
Letter 12 – Scorpionfly from France
Subject: BUG ID
Location: south of france
June 16, 2014 12:18 pm
Please find attached a picture of a bug I took today – in the South of France. I think it might be a scorpion fly but am not sure…could you help to confirm its ID please?
Signature: Budding bugster
Dear Budding bugster,
This is indeed a Scorpionfly in the order Mecoptera, and it looks very similar to this individual from France posted to FlickR. So many Scorpionflies look so very similar that we would not even attempt to identify this beyond the general order classification. BugGuide, though it is devoted to North American insects, provides this interesting information: “Mating behavior: the male offers some kind of food (a dead insect or a piece of a brown salivary secretion that becomes gelatinous as it dries) and emits a pheromone (an air-borne chemical signal) from vesicles within the abdominal segment 9. A female is attracted to the pheromone or the food, whereupon the male grasps the end of her abdomen with the claw-like genital appendages (dististyles) and clamps the front edge of one of the female’s forewings in a structure on the mid-dorsal part of his abdominal segments 3 and 4 (the notal organ). Mating then takes place as the female feeds. Adults may emit an unpleasant odor when molested.”
Letter 13 – Scorpionfly from Australia similar to North American Hangingfly
Scorpionfly in Ambush Position
Location: North Burnett. Queensland. Australia
November 12, 2010 10:50 pm
Thought you may like this Scorpionfly, in the family Bittacidae, hanging in the ambush position. Any insect flying into the strike zone is not coming out again.
In this shot it is easy to see the large claw which it uses to capture and grip prey. It hangs from grass stems and waits for unsuspecting insects to fly near and then grabs them with its claws. They are the only insect to use this method to capture prey.
The name come from the habit of the male curling the abdomen like a scorpion. They are not true flies however as they have four wings.
In North American, Scorpionflies in the Family Bittacidae are known as Hangingflies and we have a few photos in our archives and there are numerous images on BugGuide, but none can compare to your image that so superbly illustrates the threat that awaits any hapless flying insects that flutters into the path of this unusual predator. According to BugGuide, they: “Hang by front and middle legs from low plants, and use hind legs to capture passing prey.” Upon tying to find a link to an Australian species, we found your awesome photograph gracing the Insects of Brisbane website page on Scorpionflies, and we noticed the name Hanging Fly used. The typical North American rule of thumb for common insect names is to create a compound word with fly for flying insects that are not true flies, like Dobsonfly or Butterfly, and to indicate the name with two words for true flies like Crane Fly or Deer Fly. There are exceptions like Gadfly which is sometimes used for a Horse Fly. The photo you have posted on the Insects of Brisbane website documents the unusual mating behavior where the male attracts the female by presenting her with a nuptial gift of food. Dare we be so bold as to say what a lovely addition that image would be to our Bug Love page?
Unfortunately the image on Peter’s site was lost in a hard drive crash. Feel free to copy the image from Peter’s page if you wish or you may be able to email him and see if he still has the higher resolution original that I sent him. If I get a chance of another mating ritual shot I’ll send it through to you.
Ed. Note: Trevor quickly located the lost image and forwarded it so that we could make it a unique post.
Letter 14 – Scorpionfly from Germany
Colourful German scorpionfly?
Location: Niedersachsen, Germany
October 15, 2010 12:52 pm
I found this insect on a sunny day, in a quiet, leafy rest area by a highway in northern Germany, at the start of June 2009.
The insect was fairly small, less than an inch long excluding the antennae. The beak makes me think it’s a female scorpionfly – but of course most scorpionfly photos are of the more interesting male, so I’d welcome confirmation. Is it a Panorpa communis?
I took two photos of it, and I’ve attached cropped versions of both. I’m sorry that the second one is so blurry, but it shows the shape of the head (that startling beak!) and abdomen quite clearly, and also shows the number of wings and how they’re patterned. I hope it’s good enough to let you make a positive ID.
That is some red tailed Scorpionfly you have there in Germany. That profile shot might not be as sharp as the posterior view, but it nicely illustrates the beak that is such an identifying feature of some Scorpionflies. We will look up to see if we agree with your species identification, Panorpa communis, of this German Scorpionfly, but first we have to write to Susan Lutz of Eat Sunday Dinner, or Something Like It blog fame to tell her what happened to The Amish Friendship Bread culture she left on Daniel’s desk this morning at LACC.
Hi again Abigail,
We found some photos of Panorpa communis on the NatureSpot website and it does very much resemble the individual in your photos, a female because she lacks the anal claspers that the male uses during mating.
That’s great, thanks! It took me so long to get to “scorpionfly” as a possible match (I started with lacewings and went through mutant craneflies, oversize mosquitoes and caddisflies before I found out that female scorpionflies lack the scorpionish tail) that I didn’t really trust my judgement any more. 🙂
It was a nice surprise to get such a quick response, too – I really wasn’t expecting that. Thanks very much!
So, has your office been taken over by Amish Friendship Bread?
We will eventually have an update on the Amish Friendship Bread on the Eat Sunday Dinner, or Something Like It blog, but for now, the culture is just festering on the kitchen counter.
Letter 15 – Scorpionfly from Italy
Request of information
could you help me: what kind of bug is it? I took this shot in the south of Italy, where I actualy live. Thanks for your help.
This is a Scorpionfly in the order Mecoptera. We are very happy to post your letter since we get very few requests from Italy.
Letter 16 – Scorpionfly rescued from dogs
Subject: Just rescued this from my dogs…
Geographic location of the bug: Girard KS
Time: 05:04 PM EDT
Just found my dogs trying to eat this little thing, so I rescued it. It’s approx 1.5″ long & about an inch wide. Looks like a tiny & very colourful dragonfly. Any idea what it is?
How you want your letter signed: Chris K.
Letter 17 – Snow Fly
Location: Utah, about 6,000 feet
March 5, 2011 11:42 am
This image has been sitting in my file for a a couple of years, waiting to be identified. I’ve looked at images of other snow scorpionflies, and seems to fit the best, but wanted to get your opinion on it.
Thanks for your help.
You are absolutely correct. This is a Snow Scorpionfly in the family Boreidae which you may verify on BugGuide which indicates they are found: “on surface of snow at high elevations in southern part of range; on snow in various habitats farther north“.
Correction: December 2, 2012
We received a comment that is resulting in a correction. We agree with Marc from the Netherlands that this is a Wingless Crane Fly, not a Scorpionfly. We found matching images of Chionea on The Dragonfly Woman as well as BugGuide.
Letter 18 – Wingless Scorpionfly
Subject: this bug is totally weird and awesome
Geographic location of the bug: Sonoma county northern California
Time: 12:12 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: This bug was on a rose in my garden. Seems totally harmless, my son and I held it for a while, very cool little bug. Really want to know what it is.
How you want your letter signed: Hannah Erickson
We can’t agree with you more. This insect is “totally weird and awesome” and at first we thought it might be a wingless Crane Fly, but we quickly realized its head looked more like that of a Scorpionfly, and we discovered Apterobittacus apterus, a Wingless Scorpionfly or Wingless Hanging Fly on BugGuide where the range is listed as “Central California; common in the San Francisco Bay Area” and the season is listed as “late March to early June.” On the genus page, BugGuide states “The only completely wingless member of the family.” There are also images posted to iNaturalist and Encyclopedia of Life. Scorpionflies are not true flies, and they are harmless predators.