Megaloptera - The Dobsonflies, Fishflies & Alderflies
Megaloptera is the order that contains the dobsonflies, fishflies and alderflies. Some scientists consider them a suborder of the Neuroptera but we will treat them as a separate order. Large wings characterize these insects, a trait which earned them the ordinal name "Megaloptera", derived (with no surprise) from the Greek words for “large-wing”. Indeed, adult dobsonflies can reach very great proportions, with wingspans of up to 15cm (6”). The Megalopterans can all be found near fresh water where their aquatic larvae dwell. The female lays her eggs in large masses close to water, often on vegetation. All Megalopteran larvae feed carnivorously, capturing other aquatic insects with their powerful jaws. Larvae may grow slowly, taking several years to reach the last larval instar. When maturity is reached, the larvae crawl out onto land to pupate, hiding themselves in soil or under logs. The short-lived adults emerge later to mate, often eating no food. Some, like male dobsonflies with their tusk-like mandibles, are formidable in appearance yet relatively harmless. The larvae of dobsonflies, called "hellgrammites", may be familiar to some, as fishermen often use them for bait. There are about 300 known species of Megalopterans.