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Dobsonfly (Corydalus cornutus)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Dobsonfly



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Image Credit: Denee T. from Senatobia, MS
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Image Credit: James C. from Claremore, OK
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Image Credit: Joe V. from AR
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Image Credit: Jayme R. taken in Enon, LA
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Image Credit: Joel M. taken in NC
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Image Credit: James C. from Claremore, OK
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Image Credit: Christopher C. from western NY
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Image Credit: Carol Ann from Ruckersville, VA
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Image Credit: Trisha K. from Purdy, MO
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Image Credit: Bev L., Harrisburg, PA
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Image Credit: Rob S. from Ottumwa, IA
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Image Credit: Pat R. from New Castle, PA
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Image Credit: Joseph W. from Beaumont, TX
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Image Credit: Christopher C. from western NY
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Image Credit: Amy L. taken in Great Falls Park, MD
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The large jaws and long mandibles on a male Dobsonfly may cry 'caution', but it's the fierce bite from a female that should have you on guard.



Updated: 09/13/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Male Dobsonflies look quite fearsome, with what appear to be tentacle-like appendages for mouth parts. The truth is, the males of the species cannot bite and are considered harmless to humans. The females, on the other hand, can deliver quite a painful bite from her strong jaws if she is agitated. Male Dobsonflies have long, fleshy mandibles that can look like a second set of short, rubbery antennae. Females have a short jaw with large pincers. Both genders are a taupe color and have large wings that cover the body when viewed from overhead. The net-veined wings have small white dots on them and they slightly overlap at the midline.

Dobsonflies begin life as aquatic larvae before graduating to status as an airborne insect. At this young stage, they are often called hellgrammites or toe-biters and can grow as large as a human finger. They feed on tadpoles, small fish, and other young aquatic larvae from other species (like dragonfly naiads and stonefly hellgrammites). Larvae look like underwater centipedes early in life, and adults keep watch over them from a nearby area above the water. These hellgrammites can bite, requiring care when handling and caution when walking barefoot in their habitat. The threat of a nip on the finger does not stop anglers from using them as live bait.

Adults are primarily nocturnal (night dwellers) and are naturally drawn to light sources at night. They do not eat. Instead, they spend their days focused on reproducing the next generation of Dobsonflies.




Known Diet of the Dobsonfly



insects and aquatic invertebrates (larvae only - adults do not feed)


General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Insect antennae icon
Insect biting icon
Flying insect icon


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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Megaloptera
        Family: Corydalidae
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          Genus: Corydalus
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            Species: cornutus
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Corydalus cornutus
Category: Alderfly or Dobsonfly
Size (Adult; Length): 50mm to 127mm (1.96" to 5.00")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; brown; gray; white
Descriptors: mouth, antennae, long, extra, flying, biting, jaws
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Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 50mm (2.0in) and 127mm (5.0in)
Lo: 50mm
Md: 88.5mm
Hi: 127mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
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Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Dobsonfly may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Dobsonfly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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