Scorpion Fly

Scorpion Fly ©Amy Lewis

Scorpion Fly

Scientific name: Panorpa communis
The Scorpion Fly, as its name suggests, has a curved 'tail' that looks like a sting. It is, in fact, the males' claspers for mating. It is yellow and black, with a long 'beak'. Look for it in gardens and woods.

Species information

Statistics

Length: up to 3cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

May to September

About

The Scorpion Fly is a strange-looking insect that is found in gardens and hedgerows, and along woodland edges, particularly among Stinging Nettles and Bramble. It has a long, beak-like projection from its head that is uses to feed. It scavenges on dead insects and frequently steals the contents of spiders' webs. It lives up to its name by sporting a scorpion-like tail, which the male uses in courtship displays. Adults usually mate at night, but mating can be a dangerous game for the male, who might easily be killed by the female. So he presents her with a nuptial gift of a dead insect or a mass of saliva to placate her - the equivalent of a box of chocolates! The resulting eggs are laid in the soil and the emerging larvae live and pupate at the soil surface.

How to identify

The Scorpion Fly has a black-and-yellow body, a reddish head with a long beak, dark patches on the wings, and a scorpion-like tail which does not sting (the male has two claspers at the end for mating). There is three species of scorpion fly that live in the UK, which are difficult to tell apart.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

Scorpion Flies belong to an ancient order of insects known as 'Mecoptera' which includes about 550 species worldwide. Mecoptera can be traced back to the Permian period, more than 250 million years ago, and are likely ancestors of butterflies and flies.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers, landowners and planners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.