Mecoptera - The Scorpionflies
The scorpionflies evolved early on, perhaps about 280 million years ago during the Permian period where they account for 40% of the insect fossil record. Related to seemingly many and yet none of the other insect orders, scorpionflies are strange insects, defined by what they are not. Their ordinal name, Mecoptera, is derived from Greek words meaning, "long wing", of which they have two pairs. They are small insects, with a wingspan of no more than 5cm (2"), and generally much less. They have primitive biting mouthparts that project downward to form a unique, beak-like rostrum. Males of the family Panorpidae have enlarged, upturned abdominal tips, giving rise to their common name, scorpionfly. However, they do not sting and these forceps serve only to grasp the female during mating. Most scorpionflies are associated with shady places and thickets, frequently found at rest on foliage with their wings folded back on their bodies, but the Snow Scorpionflies (Boreidae) are nearly wingless and found in association with cold-weather zones in Europe and North America. Female scorpionflies lay their eggs in soil and the eruciform (caterpillar-like) larvae spend their lives burrowing. Full grow larvae pupate in cells dug out beneath the soil, emerging a few weeks later. Adults and larvae feed on other insects. There are less than 400 known species in 8 families, five of those families occurring almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere: Choristidae, Nannochoristidae, Notiothaumidae, Austromeropeidae, and Meropeidae. The geographically-limited family Boreidae seems to contain only about 40 species while Panorpidae and Bittacidae, contain almost half of all known Mecopterans.