Scorpion Flies

Scorpion Flies get their name from the characteristic way that the males hold their genital capsule curled over their back, reminiscent of the way a scorpion holds it's stinger.

male Panorpa communis - Cheshire, England - May 2008

In Britain, females are also easily recognisable in that the Scorpion Flies are the only British insects that have a downward-pointing, conical beak with jaws at the end. They may look quite fearsome, but they are in fact quite harmless and if they land on you it is almost certain they are more interested in drinking your sweat than trying to bite you.

female Panorpa sp. - Cheshire, England - May 2008

Even though there are only 4 species that occur in Britain, identification to species is difficult and impossible for females without killing them and extracting their ovipositors. Males can be identified from the structure of the ventral side of the genital capsule. This is, confusingly, the uppermost side when the capsule is curled over its back.

male Panorpa communis feeding on carrion - Cheshire, England - May 2008

Panorpa Scorpion Flies are mostly carnivorous but rarely prey on the living, preferring to eat the carrion of dead invertebrates and have even been known to steal prey from spiders' webs.

male Panorpa communis - Cheshire, England - May 2008

The Mecoptera are a small order with only about 300 species worldwide, but their lineage is incredibly ancient, with examples in the fossil record dating back over 250 million years.

male Panorpa communis - Lancashire, England - May 2009