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Scorpionfly (Panorpa spp)

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

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Scorpionfly males have tails that look just like their ground-dwelling desert namesakes, but they do not sting nor bite.

Updated: 07/09/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The curved 'tail' of a male Scorpionfly ends in a bulge that appears to have a stinger at the tip. This resemblance to scorpion tails led to their common name, though the association is only visual, not functional. The bulging end of the male's 'tail' is its reproductive organ. It is not a stinger and the insect cannot sting with it. It is used when mating to fertilize eggs inside a willing female after courting her with an acceptable gift of food and wooing her with his pheromone.

Females lack the bulge at the tip of the abdomen. Both sexes are brown with long beaks, and wings with dark bands and spots on them. Females lay fertilized eggs in the ground or inside rotting wood. Larvae resemble caterpillars and eat dead insects they encounter. They go through complete metamorphosis to become winged adults. Some will pupate through winter, others will overwinter as adults. Adults also feed on insects, living or dead, and may occasionally drink from flowers. Look for them close to the ground in woods, forests, and wetlands, resting on flowers.

General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Mecoptera
        Family: Panorpidae
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          Genus: Panorpa
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            Species: spp
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Panorpa spp
Category: Scorpionfly and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 9mm to 20mm (0.35" to 0.78")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown, orange, black
Descriptors: flying, beak, spotted, hanging

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 9mm (0.4in) and 20mm (0.8in)
Lo: 9mm
Md: 14.5mm
Hi: 20mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Scorpionfly 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 Scorpionfly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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