I’ve heard of dragonflies, and damselflies, but I never knew there was a group of animals called scorpionflies. I know there are some weird insects out there, but crosses between scorpions and flies are not something I’d want to see in person. Still, I can at least blog about them.

See how freaky these guys look? Image by Bob Warrick, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Scorpionflies belong to the order Mecoptera, which contains around 550 species. There are nine families of scorpionflies, found all over the world. They prefer to live in forested areas, particularly in damp climates.

Scorpionflies are characterized by their long, thin bodies. Almost all scorpionflies have wings, which are long and clear. There are some species that have lost their wings, so they should probably be called scorpionbugs, not scorpionflies. Another prominent feature of scorpionflies is their long mouths, which look pretty creepy.

Of course, the most noticeable part of scorpionflies is the one they are named after. In some species, particularly in the family Panorpidae, male flies have genitalia that look like scorpion stingers. These are used for mating, however, not for stinging, so they aren’t quite as terrifying as scorpion stingers. Another family of scorpionflies, the Bittacidae or hanging flies, have a fairly interesting courtship ritual.

Male hanging flies are only able to mate if they bring females presents, which take the form of some kind of edible treat. The larger the gift, the longer the male gets to mate with his lady. If the gift is too small, the female will fly away before the male hanging fly even has a chance to mate with her. It’s a tough world for male hanging flies.

A nice closeup of a scorpionfly’s genitalia. Image by Richard Bartz, Munich aka Makro Freak Image:MFB.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Once copulation occurs, female scorpionflies lay their eggs, usually in a place that has high moisture content. If the area is too dry, the eggs will delay hatching until there’s enough water around. Scorpionfly larvae look like caterpillars, and feed on plants or dead insects. Once they pupate into adults, they become more predatory, usually hunting for prey, though some still like eating dead things.

I didn’t like the sound of scorpionflies when I first started this post, but they’re a lot less terrifying then they seem. Still, they do look petty scary, and they’d make great stars of a horror movie.

Cover image by Richard Bartz, Munich aka Makro Freak image:MFB.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons