Panorpa communis

The Common Scorpionfly is a spectacular, but harmless fly of hedgerows and nettle patches.

The Common Scorpionfly is one of about 600 species in the Order Mecoptera, or Scorpionflies. They are not true flies (Diptera) and are more closely related to fleas. They are an ancient Order of insects with fossil records dating back to the Upper Permian, over 250 million years ago.

Like other scorpionflies, the Common Scorpionfly has long, beak-like mouth parts, long wings, and a cylindrical abdomen. In the male this typically curves up at the end with an enlarged genital bulb at the tip, so that it appears to resemble the tail of a scorpion although it contains no sting. This structure is absent in the females.

They are common throughout large parts of the UK and can be found in damp and shady hedgerows and particularly on banks of nettles. Despite having large wings, they do not fly long distances, preferring to crawl over damp vegetation in search of their preferred foods, including dead insects and plant sap.

Female Scorpionfly, June 2020