Someone recently sent me a picture of a long-necked flying insect with long transparent wings hanging from one of his window screens. I recognized it, but couldn’t remember its name, so I googled “long-necked flying insects”.
Damn, it’s become a snake fly!
The snake fly has a small head and a very long neck. It looks like something out of a sci-fi movie, a cross between a dragon and a snake with wings. The female snake fly has a long egg-laying ovipositor that resembles a stinger, but it is not.
The snake fly is basically harmless to humans, although it may bite if threatened. It is actually a beneficial predatory insect. The adult and the larvae are predators. Snake fly larvae eat eggs and the larvae of other insects, including wood-boring insect larvae, as well as arachnids such as mites.
According to bugguide.net “Adults generally prefer aphids but can eat a wide variety of arthropods. Adults of at least some species can also feed on sugary substances. They also eat pollen.
These little dragons are related to other beneficial insects, lacewings and lion ants.
The females lay their eggs in crevices in the bark and the egg stage can last from a few days to three weeks. Most species have one generation per year (Washington State University), with the larval stage of most species taking two to three years (bugguide.net). The larvae are often found under the bark in wood-boring insect galleries (WSU). They pupate under the bark and adults emerge in late summer.
Occasionally, you might find a snake fly indoors if wood is brought to where snake fly eggs have been laid. However, they usually live outdoors on trees.
Another strange insect is the tarantula hawk. It is also a beneficial insect that paralyzes its prey, often tarantulas or other spiders, with venom. It then drags the paralyzed live prey back to its nest, where it lays a single egg on the prey. The egg eventually hatches into a larva which feeds on the still living prey. The female is the hunter of the species while the male feeds on nectar.
While the four-inch-long tarantula wasp is beneficial, it has a sting that is said to be one of the most painful in the world. It has no known predators because of its terrible sting. Fortunately, they are not aggressive unless you disturb them.
Aren’t insects fascinating?
— JoAnne Skelly is an associate professor and extension educator, emeritus, cooperative extension at the University of Nevada. She can be contacted at [email protected]