Interesting Facts About Scorpionfly: Neither A Scorpion Nor A Fly

Looking more like a monster in a David Cronenberg film than an actual insect, the scorpionfly inspires instant shivers of disgust. These winged monstrosities are the kind of nightmare fuel that will trigger a panic attack in even the bravest entomologists.
However, while they may look like terrifying omens of death, scorpionflies are actually harmless to humans. Still, it’s understandable if your first reaction to stumbling on one in the wild looks more or less like Munch’s The Scream.
While scary scorpionflies can be found on most continents around the globe, there is still a lot of research that needs to be done to better understand these frightening insects. The facts about scorpionflies that people do know are as weird and unsettling as their appearance suggests.
The Scorpion Fly is a strange-looking insect that is found in gardens and hedgerows, and along woodland edges, particularly among Stinging Nettles and Bramble. It has a long, beak-like projection from its head that is uses to feed.
It scavenges on dead insects and frequently steals the contents of spiders’ webs. It lives up to its name by sporting a scorpion-like tail, which the male uses in courtship displays. Adults usually mate at night, but mating can be a dangerous game for the male, who might easily be killed by the female.
Therefore, he presents her with a nuptial gift of a dead insect or a mass of saliva to placate her – the equivalent of a box of chocolates! The resulting eggs are laid in the soil and the emerging larvae live and pupate at the soil surface.
The scorpion fly, despite its name, is neither a scorpion nor a fly. The name is a suggestion of the general appearance of the insect. They have four membranous wings that are the same size and shape.
The head is rather elongated and points down in a beaklike fashion with the chewing mouthparts located at the tip of the beak. The genital segment of the male scorpion fly has an enlarged, rounded appearance.
In addition, it curves up over the back of the insect, resembling a scorpion’s tail. However, the tail is not an offensive weapon; it is used for grasping the female during copulation.
Here are some interesting facts about scorpionfly:
1. The Scorpion Fly has a black-and-yellow body, a reddish head with a long beak, dark patches on the wings, and a scorpion-like tail which does not sting (the male has two claspers at the end for mating).
2. Scorpion Flies belong to an ancient order of insects known as ‘Mecoptera’ which includes about 550 species worldwide. Mecoptera can be traced back to the Permian period, more than 250 million years ago, and are likely ancestors of butterflies and flies.
3. Their “stingers” are actually male genitalia. The one good thing about scorpionflies is that they are completely harmless. Despite their dangerous appearance, the tails of the scorpionfly do not come equipped with any kind of stinger.
Instead, the bulbous tip is actually male genitalia. Only male scorpionflies have this appendage; the end is meant to pinch down on the female to hold her in place, making copulation that much easier for the male.
4. Homicide detectives use them to determine the age of a corpse. It’s no secret that all sorts of insects are attracted to rotting corpses. Forensics experts have relied on the presence of creepy critters to determine how long a person has been dead.
Blowflies were thought to be the first bugs on the scene to start feasting on a cadaver, with some species laying eggs in the bodies just minutes after death.
Further research into the subject has revealed that scorpionflies, not blowflies, are the animals most likely to first start feasting on a fresh corpse. The order in which insects are attracted to bodies is important to investigators, as it helps create a detailed timeline of decomposition.
Studying unique insect feeding habits can also help determine which wounds were part of the crime and which were inflicted by scavenging bugs.
5. No place on earth is safe from them. While scorpionflies are not the most diverse group of insects, they are very widespread. Pretty much every continent on Earth is home to at least one species of scorpionfly, with the sole exception of Antarctica.
They tend to live at the edges of dense forests, but can also be found in a diverse variety of other ecosystems and biomes.

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