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Biodiversity Blog


Creatures of Halloween: Scorpionfly (Panorpa nuptialis)

Panorpa nuptialis P1330899a 
 By xpda - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64833118

Donning the colors of Halloween, this is the Scorpionfly (Panorpa nuptialis). It’s a common insect in Texas in wooded areas and ravines with dense vegetation. They are up to an inch long. Their wings are orange with defined angulate black bands. 

Don’t be scared of the scorpionfly! That scorpion-looking tale is not for stinging, but for mating. It’s actually their mating process that might be one of the most interesting behaviors of these insects.

In a courtship display that may last hours, a male will release sex pheromones to attract a female. If she’s around, he will vibrate his wings to show off, and move that distinct abdomen of his up and down. If the female gets close enough, he then uses his anal horns to hold on to her during mating and prevent her from getting away. 

If the female shakes him off, sometimes the male will then present her with a “gift,” which might be saliva he secretes or a dead insect. Distracted, the female will eat her present and the male grasps on to her again to resume mating.

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 Male scorpionfly specimen. Photo: Karen Perez (from Insects Unlocked)
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 Scorpionfly specimen. Photo: Karen Perez (from Insects Unlocked)


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