Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada
Clickable Guide
Moths Butterflies Flies Caterpillars Flies Dragonflies Flies Mantids Cockroaches Bees and Wasps Walkingsticks Earwigs Ants Termites Hoppers and Kin Hoppers and Kin Beetles True Bugs Fleas Grasshoppers and Kin Ticks Spiders Scorpions Centipedes Millipedes


TaxonomyBrowse
Info
ImagesLinksBooksData

Order Mecoptera - Scorpionflies, Hangingflies and Allies

Hangingfly - Bittacus strigosus Curled Abdomen - Panorpa - male scorpionfly eating horsefly - Panorpa anomala - female Panorpa - Panorpa claripennis - male Fly? - Panorpa Florida Scorpionfly - Panorpa floridana - male IMG_1234 - Panorpa - female Scorpionfly - Panorpa nuptialis
Classification
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Mecoptera (Scorpionflies, Hangingflies and Allies)
Explanation of Names
From Greek mecos 'long' + pteron 'wing'
Numbers
85 spp. in 11 genera and 5 families in our area; up to 600 spp. in 8 families worldwide (the 3 tiny families that do not occur in NA are restricted to Australia and the 'Gondwanian' parts of South America)(1)(2); 12 spp. of 3 families in FL(3), at least 14 spp. in 4 families in QC(4), 9 spp. in 4 families in CA (5)
Overview of our fauna:
(* –taxa not yet in the guide)
Order Mecoptera
Size
3-30 mm
Identification
(based on(6)(7))
body typically soft, elongated, cylindrical
head extended downward, giving a long, horse-like "face"
chewing mouthparts
in several groups tip of abdomen swollen in male, resembling stinger of a scorpion (but none sting or have venom)
typically four membranous wings (pigmented or clear), forewings and hindwings about the same size
antennae thread-like (filiform), with 14 or more segments, often half of body length or longer
five-segment tarsi

For keys to families and subordinate taxa, see also(8)(9)(10)(11)(2)
Range
Across the continent
Food
Adults feed mostly on small insects, but also on petals, nectar, fruits, pollen, leaves, and mosses. Panorpa will feed on insects trapped in spider webs and on decaying animal matter. Bittacidae catch prey with specialized hind legs, inject it with saliva and suck out the insides. Some eat plants, scraping the top layer off leaves.(8)(12)
Life Cycle
Complete metamorphosis; larvae of boreids and panorpids somewhat resemble scarab beetle grubs; in other families larvae may have prolegs and are caterpillar-like(6). Some larvae have compound eyes (unique among holometabolous insect larvae).(10)
Remarks
Recent findings strongly suggest that the Boreidae are more closely related to fleas than to any lineage currently treated in Mecoptera, which means that the Mecoptera as it is now cannot be sustained as a natural taxon unless the fleas are included.(13)
Works Cited
1.World checklist of extant Mecoptera species
2.The Mecoptera of North America, by N.D. Penny
3.Preliminary checklist of the Mecoptera of Florida: Earwigflies, hangingflies, and scorpionflies
Somma L.A., Dunford J.C. 2008. Insecta Mundi 0042: 1-9.
4.Les mécoptères du Québec
Pothier G. 1997. Bulletin de l'entomofaune 19: 12-13.
5.A review of our knowledge of California Mecoptera
Penny N.D. 2006. Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. 57: 365-372.
6.American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico
Ross H. Arnett. 2000. CRC Press.
7.Photographic Atlas of Entomology and Guide To Insect Identification
James L. Castner. 2000. Feline Press.
8.The Mecoptera, or scorpionflies, of Illinois
Webb D.W., Penny N.D., Marlin J.C. 1975. Illinois Natural History Survey Bull. 31: 251–316.
9.Mecoptera of Ontario
Cheung D.K.B., Marshall S.A., Webb D.W. 2006. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification No. 1, 28.
10.Scorpionflies, hangingflies, and other Mecoptera
Byers G.W. 2002. The Kansas School Naturalist 48(1).
11.Borror and DeLong's Introduction to the Study of Insects
Norman F. Johnson, Charles A. Triplehorn. 2004. Brooks Cole.
12.MacLauchlin K. Mecoptera page on discoverlife.org
13.Evolution of the Insects
David Grimaldi and Michael S. Engel. 2005.