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Panorpa vulgaris

Another small group of insects is called scorpionflies. They owe their name to their strange, often coloured tip on the back of the body, resembling the famous scorpion's tail. The males have a much bigger tail than the females. There's no need to be afraid of them: in spite of the dangerous appearance scorpionflies can neither sting nor bite. They feed on rotting fruit and plants mainly, but also suck on dead insects. Despite the name Scorpion Flies have nothing to do with common flies whatsoever. Real flies have one pair of wings, Scorpion Flies have two.

Actually there are a few species. They all look alike, but you can tell them apart by looking carefully. Males are less of a problem than females. Their scorpion tale actually are the genitals and these differ per species. Females however can not be told apart from looking at their tale, so we have to look at other aspects. In Holland four species are common. Panorpa cognata is the first and easy to tell apart, for it has a red head. The head is black in all other species. Panorpa germanica can be told apart, for it has no clear band on the wing. Panorpa communis and Panorpa vulgaris both have a clear black band running over the wing. So look at the first spot on the wing, looking from where the wing starts. The spot is usually quite small. But it is bigger in Panorpa vulgaris, completely spanning two cells in the wing. Panorpa communis has a smaller spot, which usually remains in one cell only. Sometimes it does run into the next cell, but it never fills up that second cell. Anyway, that is how we know the animals in the pictures are all Panorpa vulgaris.