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Friday, April 27, 2001


Scorpion fly

*Japanese name:Shiriage mushi *Scientific name: Panorpa japonica * Description: Males are unmistakable -- the abdomen is curled like a scorpion's. The wings, which are held flat when resting, are clear with black spots at the ends, and the head has a large "beak" that is used for feeding. Adults are 15-22 mm long. *Where to find them: On bushes and around forest edges in lowland areas from April to May, then after the rainy season, from July to September. *Food: Scorpion flies will catch live insects such as caterpillars, but will also scavenge dead insects and steal prey from spiders' webs. They will also feed on ripe fruit and pollen. They stab their prey with their beak and drain the insides. * Special features: Like in other species, males fight among themselves to get females. Male scorpion flies have different methods of getting females. Some males will catch a caterpillar and offer it to the female as a gift. While she is eating it, he will attempt to mate with her. Males also release a pheromone to attract females, and it turns out that males that smell best to females also have the best-developed bodies. That doesn't mean they have the biggest bodies, just the most symmetrical. Some males, if they can't catch a gift or attract females with pheromones, try to mate females by force.

Pheromone: Many animals produce a chemical scent called a pheromone, which is used to attract mates. Symmetrical: It is important that insects' wings are exactly the same length, so they can fly properly -- an airplane with wings of different lengths wouldn't get very far. Scientists measure the symmetry of wings and legs as a way of finding out how well developed an insect is.

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