scorpion fly
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
September 29, 2020 ·  4 min read

Insects Called Scorpionflies Exists, and They are Terrifying

Whenever we come across cute animal pics online, we can’t help but let out a sighed “aww!” But when this species began going viral, it was met with the universal response of “nope!” 

I’m of course talking about the scorpionflies, the stuff of monsters that belongs in a science-experiment-gone-wrong flick instead of the real world. However, as frightening as they appear, these creatures are actually completely harmless 

Although these insects can be found around the globe, there is much research needed to fully understand them. What was discovered about them is just as strange and scary as their appearance. 

Read: A Single Opossum Can Kill 5,000 Ticks In One Season, Which Spread Lyme Disease

10 Bizarre Facts About Scorpionflies 

1. They are unrelated to scorpions and flies

While these creatures of nightmares may resemble their namesakes, they are actually in an entirely different species category. For one, scorpions are arachnids, not insects, and have more in common with friendly neighborhood spiders. [1] Meanwhile, scorpionflies are categorized as mecopteran, which makes hanging flies their relatives. Mecopterans tend to have four wings but are poor flyers, a sharp contrast to the appropriately named housefly. [2] 

2. Their assumed “stingers” are actually the males’ genitalia

Remember, the scorpionflies are completely harmless and they don’t have any kind of stinger. Instead, the bulbous tip is actually the male genitalia, and its unsettling purpose in copulation is about to be explained. 

3. Scorpionfly sex is super gross and unsettling

Of all of the strange sex in the animal kingdom, scorpionflies definitely take first prize for how disgusting it is. First, males begin by vibrating their wings and releasing sex pheromones when they spot a female. Some varieties give the females dead and decaying insects to feed on while they mate. Others offer her globs of his own saliva for her to drink. [2] 

The males use their genitalia to pin down the females who try to shake them off. It’s an aggressive process that can last hours and can take place on human flesh, with quick breaks to snack on the corpse.  

4. Homicide detectives use scorpionflies to determine the time of death

Many insects are attracted to rotting corpses and scorpionflies are no exception. Forensics experts actually used these creatures to determine how long the body has been dead. For a while, blowflies were believed to be to first bugs on the freshly dead; some species lay eggs in corpses withing minutes after the demise. However, scorpionflies have been proven to be the first bugs on the body. Therefore, they aid investigators in finding the timeline of the decomposing. [3] 

5. Their faces are terrifying

Their strange mugs are probably the reason they were named after scorpions. The mouths are serrated to more easily tear and chew their food, as well as digging into the soft interior of their victims. 

6. They diet consists of pretty much everything

If they won’t turn their noses at dead human flesh, one could imagine that scorpionflies wouldn’t turn their noses away at much else. Their diet also includes include other insects, pollen, nectar, fruit, and each other’s saliva. 

7. They drink human sweat

They find sweat delicious from live humans, not just dead ones. So fear not if one comes too close to take a sip. They are not going to sting or bite you, as we’ve already established. [4] 

8. They are very elusive.  

This is no surprise, being that only a handful of specimens were found to be studied in 1982. For a while, it was believed that these insects were on the verge of extinction. Then, in 2012, a photographer in Florida confirmed that his species is still at large. [5] 

9. Earth is covered with them

There is no escape from these mini monsters! They cover the entire globe with the exception of Antarctica. They tend to habit the edges of dense forests, along with a variety of other biomes. [6] 

10. Their larvae undergo an intense metamorphosis

If you thought the transformation of a caterpillar to butterfly was bizarre, wait until you hear about this one. Scorpionflies go through a lot to achieve their strange appearance. 

They are born as little worm-like larvae and live on the earth, eating all sorts of decaying food they can reach. This could include anything from dead bugs to rotting leaves. When they begin to pupate, they burrow into the soil to begin their metamorphosis. When they emerge, they are beautifully fully-formed scorpionflies.  

Keep Reading: If You See These 5 Insects in Your Garden, DO NOT Kill Them

  1. “Scorpions.” National Geographic.  
  1. ” Scorpionfly Revisited (Family Panorpidae).” The Bug Lady. University of Wisconsin. June 23, 2009. 
  1. “The scoprions fly’s newfound attraction to human remains could help solve murders.” Darryl Fears. The Washington Post. January 22, 2015 
  1. ” Scorpionflies (Order: Mecoptera)” Amateur Entomologists’ Society.  
  1. “Florida scorpionfly.” Featured Creatures: Entomology & Nematology
  1. “What is a Scorpion Fly?” University of Kentucky Entomology. December 15, 2006