Monday, May 19, 2008

Scorpionfly (Panorpa sp.)

Scorpionfly (Panorpa sp.)

Scorpionflies are neither flies nor scorpions -- aside from that, their common name is totally appropriate. They do look something like a fly (especially a crane fly) and the abdomens of the males curl up over their backs something like the tail of a scorpion. Unfortunately, this male was perched down inside a cave of leaves and I couldn't get a shot from the side which would show the details of this interesting creature. If you want a better look, check out the photos on Cirrus Images.

Both adult and larvae scorpionflies are omnivorous scavangers, feeding upon decaying vegetation and dead (or dying) insects. The are found throughout eastern North America and tend to prefer wet and humid locations.

The mating ritual among scorpionflies involves a food offering made by the male to the female. First the male collects a bit of food -- either a dead insect or a short column of a his brown salivary secretion that has become gelatinous after drying in the air. He flies into a new area with his food offerring and emits a pheromone to attract a female that might be in the vicinity. If the female finds his food offerring worthy, they will copulate while she eats. The duration of copulation depends upon the quantity and quality of the food. Occassionally, males will imitate females in order to secure food from other males.

Sources and additional information:
North Carolina State University
Earth-Life Web


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Dewdrop said...

Marvin, I appreciate the compliment. Interesting post about the "scorpionfly"... interesting mating ritual. I can't imagine.

Tom said...

Great picture but the information was very good.. what some will do for food .. :O)

Q said...

Very wonderful and informative post.
I did not know anything about the scorpionfly. I will be looking for them now.
Thank you.

Tom Arbour said...


Excellent post, I have photographed these guys before but never ID'd them. And I certainly didn't notice the curling abdomen, I'm going to have to go look at the archives...


Marvin said...

@ Tom Arbour: Perhaps the guys you photographed were actually gals.

Anonymous said...

Marin - I think maybe I have seen these guys before!

Lana Gramlich said...

Awesome shot!