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Scorpionflies and Hangingflies: Mecoptera

Behavior And Reproduction

Mecopterans are secretive animals and are usually active during the day. Scorpionflies and hanging scorpionflies spend their time resting on or hanging from leaves. They are weak flyers and take to the air for only short distances. Earwigflies sometimes hide under logs and rocks and are often attracted to lights at night.

Courtship and mating usually occurs early in the evening or after dark. The males of many species offer a dead insect as food to females during courtship. They will sometimes steal insects caught in spider webs. If a suitable dead insect is not available, the male may try to steal one from another courting male, or he may spit up a blob of saliva and offer it to the female instead. Once he has a gift he flaps his wings and releases a pheromone (FEH-re-moan), which is a scent to attract females. The pheromones also attract other males who may try to steal his gift. Females select mates on the basis of the size and quality of their gift. In some species, males pretend to be females and then steal the gift of males attempting to court them. The thief then mates with a female while she eats his gift of stolen food. In some species of scorpionflies (Panorpa) the males use a special clamp on their abdomens to grab the edges of the female's wings to prevent her from flying away. Mating sometimes lasts for several hours. The gift of food provides the female with nourishment and helps to stimulate egg production. At times a male will simply seize the female's wings with his abdominal clamp and mate with her without offering her anything to eat.


When male scorpionflies invade webs to steal dead insects, they run the risk of becoming food themselves. If attacked, some species produce a brown fluid from the tip of their abdomen and attempt to put it on the spider. If the scorpionfly is successful, the spider will suddenly stop its attack and immediately begin to clean itself. This fluid apparently not only repels several kinds of spiders but also some ants as well.

The life cycle of mecopterans includes four very distinct stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Eggs are laid in the ground, rotten wood, or leaf litter. The eggs hatch in a week or two. In some species, the eggs are laid in the fall and do not hatch until the following spring. The larvae molt, or shed their exoskeletons or hard outer coverings four times, reaching the pupal stage in anywhere from a month to two years. Mature larvae dig a small chamber in the soil in which they undergo the change. Adults live for about a month in the wild and two months or longer in captivity.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceInsects and SpidersScorpionflies and Hangingflies: Mecoptera - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, No Common Name (panorpa Nuptialis): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, MECOPTERANS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS