Snakefly

Scientific classification: Snakeflies are members of the family Raphidiidae, order Neuroptera.

Snakefly is a common name for a predatory insect with a snakelike posture and body. There are about 200 known species of snakefly, mostly in central Asia, Europe, and North America. More than 25 species survuve in the United States from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Adults are commonly found among shrubs in the spring and summer.

The adult snakefly has a shiny, dark, flat head and an elongated neck-like thorax. It can raise its head above it’s body, making it look similar to a snake ready to strike. It has long, slender antenna and a brown or dark red body and measures between 12 to 25 mm. Its wings (four of them) are membranous, heavily , and opaque with a spot on the front margins near the wingtip. When resting, the wings are held up over its back. The adult snakefly generally captures only small or weak prey, like aphids or young caterpillars. The female has a tail-like organ (an ovipositor) used to lay egg-clusters in bark crevices and similar hidden areas.

Snakefly eggs become larvae that live under bark and in leafpiles. The larva’s feeding habits are not extremely clear, but they likely eats various soft-bodied insects such as wood borer larvae and codling moth pupae. The snakefly larva has a long flattened body and a shiny, dark brown or blackish thorax and head with significant jaws. They resemble the larvae of certain beetles. The long abdomen has ten segments and is mostly brown to dark red, usually with pale rings or spots. The larvae undergo a complete metamorphosis without a cocoon stage and develop through 10 or 11 growth “instars”.