Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada

Order Mecoptera - Scorpionflies, Hangingflies and Allies

Bittacidae - Hylobittacus apicalis scorpionfly - Panorpa acuta - female Boreus brumalis - male Scorpionfly - Panorpa Fly? - Panorpa Scorpionfly - Panorpa Merope tuber - male MN Aug - Panorpa - male
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'
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
3-30 mm
(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)
Across the continent
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)
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) --false alarm, it seems(14)
Internet References
Works Cited
1.World checklist of extant Mecoptera species
2.Penny N.D. (-2014) The Mecoptera of North America
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
13.Evolution of the Insects
David Grimaldi and Michael S. Engel. 2005.
14.Phylogenomics resolves the timing and pattern of insect evolution
Bernhard Misof et al. 2014. Science Vol. 346, 763.