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Insect Identification Key
Order Mecoptera: the scorpionflies and hangingflies

Long beak with mouthparts at end
Members of this order, such as the one pictured, have a characteristic long, tube-like beak with mouthparts at the tip. This insect is a common scorpionfly (Panorpa communis), which is found in Europe. Photo credit: Richard Bartz, Munich.

Click here to see examples of more mecopterans!

Based on your answers to the questions, you have identified your insect as being in the order Mecoptera!

Members of this order include: scorpionflies and hangingflies.

Etymology: Mecoptera comes from the Greek words meco, which means long, and ptera, which means wings. This refers to the long wings present in most members of this order.

General characteristics:
• head with a long beak
• beak has small chewing mouthparts at the tip
• two pairs of wings that have many veins and crossveins (a few are wingless)
• wings are typically long, membranous and similar in size (some have short wings)
• in males of some species, the abdomen is enlarged and curves upward, giving it a shape similar to a scorpion’s tail
• large eyes
• five-segmented tarsi
holometabolous metamorphosis (egg — larvapupa — adult)

Click here to see examples of more mecopterans!

Number of recognized species worldwide: about 480

Basic ecology: Mecopteran adults generally dine on nectar and dead insects, although some will mix some living insects into the diet. During mating, females sometimes attack and eat the males, so the males will often present a “gift” of a dead insect to the female. While she is busy eating, he quickly mates with her and flies away.


Kingdom Animalia
   Phylum Arthropoda
      Class Insecta
         Order Mecoptera

For a list of all of the orders in this key, click here: List of Orders.

Classification note: Although their name includes the word “fly,” neither scorpionflies nor hangingflies are true flies. True flies are in the order Diptera.

Oops! If this doesn't appear to be the order for your insect, go back through the key and look more carefully at your insect while answering the questions again. Your perseverance will reward you!

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Photos at the top of this website are (from left to right): potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) — photo credit: Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture; ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)— photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens) — photo credit: Natalie Allen and Stephanie Kolski, U.S. Geological Survey; preying mantis, monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), hellgrammite (aka toe biter) larva and eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus) — photo credit: Leslie Mertz; Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina) — photo credit: Kay Meng, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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