Have you ever seen a snake fly?

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Have you ever seen a snake fly?

Post by rjlittlefield »

Oh, sorry, I must have put an extra space in that title. :wink:

What I really meant was, "Have you ever seen a snakefly?"


Well, you have now!

These strange creatures are fairly close relatives of Dobsonflies, lacewings, and mantidflies.

Their classification is a bit controversial. Some authors classify snakeflies as Neuroptera:Raphidiidae, while others elevate the family to a separate order and say Raphidioptera:Raphidiidae. All the American species are genus Agulla, formerly assigned to Raphidia says the Audubon Society. Ah, taxonomy...you gotta love those scientific names "that never change and everybody agrees about"! 8)

Regardless of what you call 'em, snakeflies are predatory. They are particularly fond of aphids and are considered beneficial insects. They're also not very common, and they're strange enough to usually attract some attention when they show up.

But some of the strangest features don't appear in a photograph. Peter Bryant writes at http://www.dbc.uci.edu/~pjbryant/biodiv ... Agulla.htm that
They are one of only two groups of insects than can run backwards at full speed (the only other insects that can do this are Webspinners, Order Embioptera)
(Hmm, I've never seen an Embiopteran, or at least I've never noticed one. Something to look forward to, I guess.)

Anyway, the other peculiar thing about snakeflies is that although they have complete metamorphosis, the pupae have all their limbs fully articulated and separated instead of stuck together like most insects. In fact, at http://www.answers.com/topic/raphidiopt ... cal-family it says that
Preimaginal pupae are extremely mobile and, except for their small wing pads, are similar to adults.
Those late pupae are strange looking critters indeed. I saw one, once, long before I knew how to run a camera, and the experience has stayed with me for, ah, a long time now.


Canon 300D with Sigma 18-125mm at 125mm and closest focus, cropped to about 45% of frame width.
This image shows about 2" wide.

If you're really curious about these critters, check out "THE BIOLOGY OF RAPHIDIOPTERA: A REVIEW OF PRESENT KNOWLEDGE", currently available online.
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Post by Beetleman »

That is a strange looking insect Rik. I can see why they call it a living fossil and thanks for all the info you supply with your great shots :)
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Post by Ken Ramos »

Great shot and narrative Rik. :D Right off the bat I said to myself, it's a lace wing, sure looks similar to the untrained eye. I am one of those people who call any insect that comes around, a "bug." :lol: However I have impressed a few folks around here by calling some insects what they actually are and the credit goes to you folks here who bring that information to my attention. :wink: Not only can one learn digital photography here on these forums but learn a great deal about our world as well. Thanks Rik :D
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Post by S. Alden »

That is something I would like to see (and photography). Interesting that it can move backyard as good as it can forward. I cannot do that :lol:
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Post by twebster »

Hi ya' Rik, :D
Rik wrote:Have you ever seen a snake fly?
Uh, actually, I have...

In college I was helping out with a capture/recapture study on western diamondback rattlesnakes. We would capture the rattlesnake and mark it with a numbering system. My friend, Steve Wylie, was holding the business end of a rattlesnake while I was marking the other, less exciting end when I heard Steve mutter softly, "Holy crap!", or words to that effect. Somehow the business end of the snake got loose from Steve and was checking out his other, less exciting end to see what I was doing. I never gave the snake a chance. In a small, but fortunate, burst of adrenaline I launched that snake through the air far enough that the snake probably had re-entry burns before he hit the ground again. So, yes, I've seen a snake fly or, at the very least, glide like the space shuttle. :D :D

Neat shot of the snakefly, Rik, and thanks for the additional info. All of books put the snakefly in the order neuroptera, too, but a lot of my books are a few years old now. I always thought they were a mutant lacewing with an attitude, myself. :wink:

Best regards as always, my friend. :D
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Post by MikeBinOKlahoma »


Actually, there really are flying....errr, gliding....snakes in Southeast Asia! I'd love to see one fly, but that's something I'll probably never pull off.
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Post by rjlittlefield »

Hah, excellent! :lol:

I figured Mike B would chime in with some story about the Asian flying snakes. (I'm disappointed that he hasn't actually seen one :( , but I do appreciate the link -- there are some very interesting videos out there.)

But a flying rattlesnake from Tom Webster, that one I did not anticipate!

You got me beat with that one, Tom. My previous best was the story my grandmother used to tell. It seems that she was out helping my grandfather mow pasture to make hay. All was going just fine until they stopped the mower, Grandma stepped down -- and realized that she was standing right next to a rattler! Well, you can imagine that she quickly took a couple of steps the other direction -- only to realize that she was standing right next to another one! This process repeated several times...until finally she realized that she was trying to get away from the several pieces of one quite dead snake that had run through the mower! It was probably airborne briefly -- long enough to tell here, anyway. :D

I glad you all liked the picture and info about snakeflies. It's fun and I learn a lot researching this stuff, but having somebody to share the best parts with makes it even better.

Thanks! :D

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