Happy Friday Bug Buddies!!! January is almost over, and not a moment too soon. All this sub-zero weather just reminds us of how nice and warm it is in the tropics. We’ve spent the last several weeks introducing you to some of the most exquisite creatures on Earth---the tropical rainforest butterflies. While planning this week’s Friday Flyers we were looking over some pictures from South America, and we realized that we’ve been neglecting some really UGLY bugs. So this week we thought we’d show you something to haunt you at night. This week’s featured insect is the Dobsonfly.
Dobsonflies are soft bodied insects, with large mandibles and oversized transparent wings. There are over 200 species worldwide. The name Dobsonfly dates back to the 1800’s, but we couldn’t find any reference of who the name was intended to honor. That’s understandable. These guys are pretty ugly. Probably nobody wants to admit it!!! Anyway, Dobsonflies are pretty interesting if you like unusual insects. For starters, their most noticeable feature is their mandibles. In the males, the mandibles are elongated into ridiculously long “pinchers” that are so long that they don’t really have the strength to do much damage. They are mostly for show, and to entice the females prior to mating. The females have shorter, more normal size mandibles, which allows them to deliver a fairly effective and painful bite. Another notable feature is the long segmented antennae which both sexes have. Both sexes have relatively short bodies. And their wings extend much beyond the tip of their abdomens. Dobsonflies range from 2 to 5 inches in length when measured from the wingtip to the tip of the mandibles of the male. When at rest Dobsonflies close their wings over their backs. They are somewhat awkward fliers, and not very aerodynamic. They are readily attracted to lights at night.
The larvae of Dobsonflies are aquatic and live in lakes and streams. They forage on the bottom looking for other edible aquatic insects, crustaceans, and even tadpoles. The larvae look a lot like centipedes, and they have the same formidable mandibles as the adult females. The Dobsonfly larvae can live for almost two years in the water. When the time comes for them to transform into adults, they leave the water to pupate, and usually hatch in a few weeks. By contrast, the adult Dobsonfly lives for only about a week. Even though the adults have the powerful mandibles, they don’t eat as adults. Their only mission is to find mates and start the next generation.
Because Dobsonflies have such short life spans as adults, their emergences are synchronized so that they all hatch at the same time. This makes it easier to find mates. Also, because their larvae live in the water, Dobsonflies don’t stray too far from their home waters. So they are not really forest dwellers unless there is a year-round body of water nearby.
Dobsonflies are one of the groups of insects that sort of get neglected by collectors. This may be because relatively few species are available from insect suppliers. They are relatively easy to capture, especially at the times of mass emergences. And they are certainly impressive enough. The first time you see one in the wild, you’ll have a lasting memory, or maybe a nightmare or two!!! But for those of you who want to add something exotic to your collections, you might consider Dobsonflies as one of your next additions.
We hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of Friday Flyers. We love sharing our interest in butterflies and insects with you. Please enjoy the photos we have posted with this week’s edition, and be sure to see all the previous pictures in our Friday Flyers album. Remember to “like” our Wonders Of Nature page, and be sure to pass it along to all your Facebook Friends. We hope you’ll visit our Wonders Of Nature department soon, and we look forward to seeing you.