Explanation of Names
The common name is derived from the genital segment of males which is a bulbous and often curved over the back like the scorpion's sting.(1)
The most speciose group of Mecoptera, with 55 spp. in our area (all in Panorpa
) and over 360 in 3 genera worldwide (both other genera are Oriental)(2)
Adult: head with elongated rostrum ("beak"); body typically yellowish-brown; 2 pair of wings, usually spotted or banded, and held in swept-back position at rest, giving V-shaped profile viewed from above; male abdominal appendage is described above; female abdomen tapers to slender tip, bearing two small finger-like cerci.
Larva resembles a caterpillar: head sclerotized (hardened); body nearly membranous, with setae (hairs) projecting dorsally and laterally from the abdomen; 3 pairs of conical thoracic legs; 8 pairs of smaller prolegs on first 8 abdominal segments. See:
e. NA to Mexico and throughout Eurasia(2)
low shrubs and ground cover in densely-vegetated woodlands, often near water or wet seeps; grasslands, cultivated fields, forest margins; adults mostly seen resting on leaves within 1 m from the ground
Adults feed mostly on dead or dying insects, rarely on fruit or nectar; larvae are scavengers, feeding on soft-bodied dead insects.
Eggs are laid in the soil; newly-hatched larvae feed for a month or more, passing through 4 instars, then prepare a cavity in the soil to enter a resting stage which lasts for about 5 weeks; larvae then enter the pupa stage, which lasts 2 or 3 weeks in species that become adults in late summer, or several months in species that overwinter and emerge as adults in the spring.
Mating behavior begins with the male offering some kind of food, such as a dead insect or, often, a short column of a brown salivary secretion that becomes gelatinous as it dries in the air. The male also emits a pheromone (an air-borne chemical signal) from vesicles within the enlarged ninth abdominal segment. A female is attracted to the pheromone or the food, whereupon the male grasps the end of her abdomen with the claw-like appendages (dististyles) on his genital segment. He also clamps the costal (front) edge of one of the female's forewings in a structure on the mid-dorsal part of his abdominal segments 3 and 4 (the notal organ). Mating takes place as the female feeds.(5)