Sunday, March 2, 2014

Scorpionfly

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It's, I believe, a male scorpionfly, Panorpa spec. They are so called because of the sting-like tip of the male's abdomen (it's his genitals) - it's even more pronounced and scorpion-like in other species. But they are harmless creatures, for humans at least. Two more interesting things in the photo: the lovely feathery antennae (another sign that it's a male) and the tiny knobbed appendages behind the wings. Most flies have those - they are called halteres and they are the second pair of wings, modified into gyroscopes to tell the animal how its body is orientated during flight.

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A while ago Mr Bookscorpion dumped his ficus tree into water because it had dried out and three huge larvae crawled to the surface to keep from drowning. We had no idea what they were, but this week, two scorpionflies buzzed or rather crawled around our kitchen, a female and two days later this male. So now we know.

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The reddish-black colouring is striking and so is their face with the long 'snout'. But they are the most ungainly animals I have ever seen as soon as they move. They throw their six legs in twelve different directions and seem to move forward more by accident than anything else. I get the feeling that they only survive because their flight is just as unpredictable, making them hard to catch.
If anyone can identify the exact species, let me know please!

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