Friday, October 29, 2010

Yellow Jacket

Yellow Jackets in the genus Vespula are found east of the Great Plains and are very commonly seen in Missouri. They are often mistaken for Honey Bees because of their small size and similar coloration. Yellow Jackets aren't bees at all,but rather wasps and are more closely related to Hornets. Honey Bees have furry bodies, whereas Yellow Jackets are almost completely hairless. These are the little wasps that show up near garbage cans, picnic tables, at the ball game and anywhere else there are sweet treats to be found. They will often be crawling all over the rim of your pop can, or walking their way through your caramel covered apple as you sit outside to enjoy a nice fall day. These guys are typically much more aggressive than honey bees, and like honey bees it is only the females that sting, but the similarity ends there. These little wasps can sting repeatedly and will sting in large number if provoked or threatened. Like all stinging insects they use pheromones to communicate and once irritated they will send out an alarm via their pheromones. This chemical perfume alerts any other yellow jackets in the area and they are immmediately on the defensive, and will come to the aid of their sister wasp. The ones pictured here were photographed on my husbands uncles farm. The apples had fallen from the tree and fermented in the autumn sunshine. They were attracted to these apples like a drunken man to a bottle of wine. These little wasps were completely intoxicated. They were actually stumbling on the ground around the apples, and looked for all the world as if they were going to pass out. The addiction to this apple alcohol was so powerful they seemed unable to stop themselves from going back for more. This intoxicated state made them quite docile and I was able to coax them onto my finger where they proceeded to walk in very crooked lines. They seemed to have lost the ability to fly, or even to realize they could. Perhaps that was for the best......a bunch of drunkin wasp flying in all directions crashing into every available surface might have made for comedic entertainment, but I'm pretty sure not to healthy for the wasp.

When these wasps aren't invading our food and drinks; or getting drunk on apples they are busy foraging for nectar for themselves or insects to feed their sister larvae back in the nest. They will capture a likely looking insect and masticate the unfortunate victim, and feed the larvae the chewed up bits of bug.

In the fall young queens will leave the hive on their maiden flights. Any males in the area will pick up her scent and compete to mate with her. Once she is mated the male will die shortly thereafter. Each member of her colony will perish as the night time temperatures drop to freezing.

(Image of queen taken by Steve Scott)

The only Yellow Jackets that survive the winter will be the newly bred queens. They will seek sheltered areas under leaf litter, in hollow trees, in the cracks of foundations or behind the loose bark of trees. In the spring as the weather warms she will become active. She has one thing on her mind.....start a new colony. She will begin building a nest and laying eggs in the hexagon shaped cells. She will feed and care for her offspring until they reach maturity. These mature yellow jackets will then take over the care of the offspring of their queen-mother, as well as expanding the hive and keeping it clean and free of dead bodies. The hive will grow rapidly and be heavily populated with several hundred wasps. They will build these nests under hay bales in barns, in the ground, or anywhere else that seems protected and safe.

(Internet Image)

There is really no need to fear these insects, they are normally very docile while out foraging for food. They are only prone to attack if they perceive you as a threat, or if you happen to come to close to the hive. They will protect their hive, siblings and queen at all costs.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tawny Emperor

In August we took a couple of friends who also enjoy insects and photography to our farm for a photo session. We spent several hours there looking for all manner of insects. In a low-water crossing between two fields we found this beautiful Tawny Emperor (Euptoieta claudia)
drinking water and gleaning minerals from the limestone rocks. She kept her wings spread in the warm sun and remained there for a very long time content to be a butterfly.

These butterflies look very similar to two other orange butterflies that calls Missouri home and that is the Variegated Fritillary and the Hackberry Emperor. In fact when I first spotted this specimen that is what I thought it was the variegated fritillary. Linda Williams, a butterfly expert, was able to give me a correct ID. This was a first for me, and now added to my life list of insects.

They are a beautiful orange with dark markings. Their wingspan is approximately 3 inches, so they aren't a large butterfly but spectacular anyway.

 Males will patrol for females by flying short distances, typically in dry, open areas. After mating, the females will lay her eggs on purslane, moonseed, may apple, violets, and stonecrop. Adults nectar at a wide variety of flowers including common milkweed, swamp milkweed, butterfly weed, peppermint and many others. They will overwinter in the caterpillar stage, they will change from green to brown when they enter into winter diapause. They will become active again when the temperatures warm in the spring and the leaves have begun to appear. They will eat and finish their growth cycle.

It makes me sad to think of winter being just around the corner and all these beautiful butteflies will be gone until spring. I shall have to be content to spend my own hibernation reading, writing and organizing the pictures from this summer.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Unknown Insect

A gentleman brought this insect into my office to be identified. He lives in St. Joseph, MO, I told him I had no idea what it is, but I would photograph it and do my best to figure it out. I have exhausted all my field guides and cannot figure this one out. So I am calling out to all my buggy friends....does anyone know WHAT this is.

The man said it was crawling on his wall in the bedroom. He has seen several more and his concern was bedbugs. I felt pretty certain it wasn't a bedbug, but exactly what it is unknown to me. It is VERY tiny....approximately 1/16th of an inch head to tip of abdomen.

I'm sure this man would appreciate any information he can get on this creature. Thanks in advance.

Belly view

Winter Reading

All too soon the beautiful colors of autumn will fade and winters chill will be upon us. I find that winter is the perfect time to catch up on all the reading I've neglected in the name of more interesting things to do. I literally have a stack as tall as I am...granted at 5'1" that isn't saying too much, but suffice it to say I will be reading all winter. A new blogging friend of mine Florine, found a link to 80 Best Books for Nature Lovers and suggested I share it with my readers. I visited the link and discovered many of the books there I have in my stack waiting on me. So if you are looking for some good, educational and entertaining reading to pass the time this winter please check it out. Perhaps you could even add a few to your "wish list" for Santa.

Monday, October 18, 2010

American Burying Beetle---A Species in Peril

American Burying Beetles (Nicrophorus americanus) in the order Coleoptera are large carrion beetles that are believed to have disappeared from Missouri. They occur in eight states right now with limited populations; including Rhode Island, Arkansas, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. Ohio and Massachusetts have reintroduced populations that are being monitored. This is a far cry from the 35 States that they were reported to have originally been found.

They were listed on the Federally Endangered Species list in 1989, but as early as 1983 they were listed with IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as a species in peril. There seems to be no clear-cut answer as to why they are disappearing from all but 10% of their original range. Most claim it is habitat loss, which may make some sense. They seem to prefer grasslands and open understory in Oak and Hickory forest. With much of this land being cleared for housing additions, strip malls and various other endeavors in the name of progress it stands to reason that this prime habitat needed by the beetles is rapidly disappearing. This clear cutting has also created more edge habitat, which animals like possums, fox and raccoons favor, which compete for the same carrion.  As all to often happens when the habitat disappears so too does the creature that calls it home. Some feel that the use of pesticides and insecticides may have played a part in the reduction in numbers. Although it is reported that these beetles began their decline before the widespread use of DDT. Some claim that the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon may even have played a part in the decline of this species as well. By 1923 it was already becoming apparent that these beetles were in trouble. They were already in severe decline East of the Appalachian Mountains. By the early 1960s this decline in numbers had extended to west of the Appalachians.  If  these animals cannot develop the ability to adapt they do not stand a chance unless measures are taken to correct the problem. Fortunately for these beetles there are many Naturalists, Biologists and Entomologists trying to develop the measures necessary to save this carrion beetle. Breeding programs have been implemented in many zoos across the Eastern United States, one of those zoos calls Missouri home, the St. Louis Zoo is making great strides in breeding these beetles in the hopes of eventually releasing them in select areas within the state. I recently made a trip to St. Louis with my husband and we were given a behind the scenes tour of the Insectarium at the Zoo and shown these magnificent beetles. I was able to hold one and photograph one. They are beautifully marked with shiny black bodies and orangish-red bands on their wings. Exclusive to this species of carrion beetle is an orange mark on their pronotum. On males this orange spot will be somewhat rectangular shaped, in females it is triangular shaped. These are large beetles that reach lengths up to 1 1/2 inches.

These beetles overwinter as adults by digging holes in the soil once the temperatures drop to 60 degrees. They will remain underground until the temperatures once again rise above 60F. Males will actively seek suitable carrion to attract a mate. Many beetles will be attracted to the same resource and "fights" may occur. The largest male and female typically "wins" the use of the carcass. They will move the carcass by crawling underneath and rotating their legs one over the other until they have the carcass moved to a site they deem suitable. They will then begin digging a hole to bury the carcass in. They prefer carrion in the form of birds and small rodents like chipmunks. They may dig a hole up to three feet deep. They will bury the animal and remove any non-edible parts such as feathers, feet and beaks. Those will be brought to the surface and left as a waste product. Then they will use an enzyme they possess to preserve the carcass, by inoculating the flesh to prevent it from decomposing too rapidly. They will then get down to the business of mating. Once bred, the female will lay her eggs in a small tunnel branching off the main burrow where the carcass is. The young larvae hatch in about three days. The parents exhibit remarkable parental  care tendencies. They create a noise with their abdomens that "calls" to the offspring to come feed. The larvae are attracted to the sound and crawl to their parents with begging their mouths agape waiting for their Carrion Hand-outs....think "baby bird". 

If the number of larvae is too large to be sustained on the size of carrion provided by the parents, they will be sacrificed and cannibalized by the parents. Within a week the young have completely consumed all but the bones of the carcass. At this time the parents will leave the larvae behind to pupate. Shortly after, the parents will die having lived approximately one year. It takes about 4 weeks for the young adult beetles to emerge from their pupa. They will overwinter and begin the cycle over the next spring. 

Key to their survival is finding the appropriate carcass; for this species it will be a bird or small to medium sized mammal. They must get this carcass buried as soon as possible before maggots and other insects take over the degradation of the carcass. Not to mention the risk of other predators finding the carcass and taking it away from the beetles and feeding on it. These beetles are nocturnal and accomplish in one night a feat that seems nearly impossible out of a creature so tiny. They must find the carcass, drag the carcass ( both working together in the same direction), find a suitable burial site, dig a hole, bury the carcass, remove the non-edible parts, mate, lay eggs and care for their offspring.

The goal of scientists is to reduce the threat of extinction by creating captive and wild populations. With an approximate 1,500 beetles left in the wild this is no small feat. Research and dedication to education will hopefully bring these incredible beetles back from the brink.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Laurel Sphinx Moths are found throughout Eastern North America. This one was photographed in August at work. It had been attracted to the mercury vapor light pointed out our flag. The next morning it was hanging from the Russian Sage. These are a modestly beautiful moth, certainly not extravagant in their coloring, or in their size, yet pretty just the same. They are sometimes called the Fawn Sphinx, which I assume comes from their fawn-like coloring. They are yellowish-brown in color, with dark margins on their forewings. There is also a bold white line on their forewings, and the hindwings are tan with a dark border. Their wingspan is up to 4 1/16 inches.

They can be found in woodland, yards and nurseries. They are often found around ornamental lilacs, which explains why I found a caterpillar of one of these moths hanging on my lilac bush. This particular moth was being used as a host to the brachonid wasps. Sphinx moth caterpillars are often chosen by these wasps as a host. Brachonid wasps are parasitoids, the females will use their ovipositor to lay eggs under the skin of the caterpillar. The eggs hatch and feed on the caterpillar from the inside. Once the caterpillar has been almost entirely devoured from within these tiny larvae will bore through the skin of the caterpillar and form capsule-like cocoons on the outside of the caterpillar. These tiny white, oval-shaped cocoons will remain on the caterpillar throughout its final days...within a week the wasps will hatch and shortly thereafter the caterpillar will die. It seems a horrific way to die, but it is a normal process in the life of the wasp and a means of biological control of the sphinx moths. 

The caterpillars of the laurel sphinx feed on lilac, privet, ash, fringe tree, and plants in the olive family. Adults will nectar at honeysuckle, and bouncing bet. They will be seen hovering over the blooms at dusk and late evening.

To say that these wasps are terrible is to say that the moths are good. In the case of these creatures neither is an apt description, they are merely doing what they do best, and that is survive by any means possible. In the case of the moth death is eminent, but the wasps will go on to carry out future generations. For me, as a naturalist and lover of all insects it was a rare and exciting glimpse into their lives.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Meadow Katydid

This beautiful katydid is the Woodland Meadow Katydid (Conocephalus nemoralis) and was photographed at the Confluence in St. Louis. There were several of them hopping along the trail. They are strikingly beautiful with color tones of rusty red, black and golden amber. The one pictured here is a female, shown by the ovipositor protruding from her abdomen. She will use this apparatus for laying eggs in the soil.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Marbled Orb Weaver

Marbled Orb Weavers (Araneus marmoreus) are in the family Araneidae and there are 1500 species in this genus. They are a brightly colored orb weaver found hanging in large orb shaped webs from whence they get their common name of orb weaver. These colorful spiders are generally bright yellow with grayish-black markings on their abdomen. The legs are typically reddish with black and gray banding.
Although they can range in color from pale yellow, pale orange, bright orange, beige or even white with black markings. The pattern will usually vary by species as well.

They can be found from Alaska to Newfoundland, then south to Oregon and Utah, then further south to Southern Texas and eastward to South Carolina. They are common in Missouri and this particular specimen was found in St. Joseph and brought into my office for identification. It was one of the prettiest spiders I've ever seen. I captured several images of it before turning her loose, hopefully to find a mate and produce offspring.

They're almost always found in moist deciduous woodland habitats or at the edges of woodlands in August, September and October. These spiders construct a retreat made of silked together leaves in an upper corner of the web. During the day she will hide in this retreat holding onto a signal line that runs to center of the web.

This species feeds on large prey insects such as grasshoppers, cicadas and beetles. Mating takes place in early to late fall. The female will create egg sacs in October and die shortly thereafter. These egg sacs may contain hundreds of eggs and will overwinter. The spiderlings will be born sometime the following spring.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ailanthus Webworm Moth

This tiny, brightly colored moth is the Ailanthus Webworm Moth (Atteva aurea) , these moths are often mistaken for beetles at first glance. I'm sure this comes from their day-flying habits, their small size and their oddly marked wings. This time of year they are often found on the goldenrod (as pictured). They stand out beautifully against the yellow flowers.

These moths are not native to the United States, they came from Central and South America. There is some speculation that they may be native to Southern Florida. This moth has adapted so well and expanded its range in large part due to a plant called "Tree of Heaven" (Ailanthus altissima), It is the genus name of this plant that these moths are named after. Tree of Heaven originally came from Northern China, but so closely resembles in chemical makeup the plants this moth typically feeds on in its larval stage that they use it almost exclusively as their host plant. Tree of Heaven has spread its range exponentially. This plant was used in Europe as an exotic garden species in landscaping and spread rapidly during the 1700's. It wasn't long (1784) before it followed immigrants over to North America where it can now be found in fence rows, waste ground and along roads. This tree may reach heights up to 50 feet and is a short lived species, rarely living more than 45 or 50 years. In China and Taiwan it was used extensively in medical treatments for anything from Mental illness to baldness. There are still people who use the tree today, but mostly as an astringent. For many years this tree was used in this Country by gardeners, and parks departments to beautify backyards, parkways and city streets. It wasn't long before it lost favor among these people for its terrible odor and invasive habits.

This tree gained fame in Betty Smith's popular book "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". This tree was a metaphor for all the immigrants coming into New York City during the 1700 and 1800's. The tree was non-native, hardy and established itself well to its new environment. Much like many of our ancestors have done over the past several centuries.

The Ailanthus moth just followed the plant around the country and has become established in most of the United States. They most likely do not survive the coldest northern regions of its range. The summer residents migrate from the south and spend the warmer months in those extreme northern regions, such as Canada. When cold weather returns these moths die. Next season they will repeat the process.

These moths are considered pollinators. The adults are fond of plant nectar and visit flowers often. They carry pollen from flower to flower as they feed. The female lays eggs on the Ailanthus trees and when the caterpillars are hatched they will feed on the leaves. They spend the day in rolled up silken chambers attached to leaves. They will also pupate inside these webby cells. It is this web that the term "Webworm" came from.

Fortunately the Ailanthus Moth goes wherever the plant goes and helps control the further spread of this plant.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Spiny-Waisted Ant

This beautiful red ant is the Spiny-Waisted Ant (Aphaenogaster tennesseensis) or funnel ant as they are also sometimes called. This species is widespread throughout North America and can be found in the soil, within rotting logs or stumps, and under the bark of trees. The one pictured here was found in an old maple tree stump that is so far decayed that there is very little left of it. This colony of ants have excavated a large series of tunnels in one section of the stump. As I was removing pieces of the stump to look for beetles I disturbed these ants. One in particular caught my eye as she raced back and forth carrying a worm in her mouth. I placed her on a stick and spent the next 30 minutes trying to get her to stand still long enough for a photo. 128 pictures later, I had managed two decent shots. These ants are constant motion. What made the situation comical was the fact that she refused to drop her way, no how was she letting go of that worm. I know the little worm is a beetle larvae of some kind, but what; I have no idea. Must be tasty though.

Ants within this genus are usually medium to large in size with slender bodies, long legs and antennae. They will be dark reddish brown with heavily sculptured bodies. The Queen will look remarkably different than the workers in that she is entirely smooth, and lacks any obvious sculpture.

They will build dense tunnels in soil or rotting wood, these nest may contain numerous entrance holes all leading to tunnels that may be up to 15 inches deep. It is these tunnels that has earned ants within this genus the common name of Tunnel Ant. There are over 200 described species within this genus of ants and many of them are also temporary parasites of other ants within this genus.

A study was done in the Ozarks forests of Missouri and Arkansas on the Oak trees. Red Oak Borers are a huge pest of these trees and many trees are killed each year by their feeding habits. Oaks were being decimated in many areas. Missouri is traditionally an Oak and Hickory forested state. Almost all of our old growth forests are made up of these mighty trees. Losing them to a pest is heartbreaking indeed. During the course of this study it was discovered that these ants feed on approximately 72% of the eggs laid by the Red Oak Borer....I say "GO ANTS!!!!" Besides having a taste for oak borer eggs and beetle larvae they also will tend aphids found on the roots of plants. They've been found tending leafhoppers as well. So it seems they have a sweet tooth. The design of their tunnels also traps other arthropods, causing them to fall into the nest, becoming trapped, and being consumed by these ants.

These ants are not aggressive, but will bite if disturbed. Of all the six and eight legged creatures roaming around our farm, I can honestly say I have been bitten more by ants than any other creature. Ants are not one of my favorites as far as insects go, simply  because of their often times testy temperament. It is bad enough to be bitten, but many of them go the extra mile and spray formic acid on the wound they inflict. Nice of them huh? I swell up like a water balloon and itch for days! I usually try to give ants a wide berth. With over 100 species in Missouri alone this is no easy feat.

Muilenburg, V. L., Goggin, F. L., Hebert, S. L., Jia, L. and Stephen, F. M. (2008), Ant predation on red oak borer confirmed by field observation and molecular gut-content analysis. Agricultural and Forest Entomology, 10: 205–213. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-9563.2008.00371
Author Information
1. Department of Entomology, University of Arkansas, AGRI 319, Fayetteville, AR 72701, U.S.A.
*Correspondence: Vanessa L. Muilenburg. Tel: +1 330 202 3555; fax: +1 330 263 3686; e-mail:
Publication History
1. Issue published online: 10 JUL 2008
2. Article first published online: 22 APR 2008
3. Accepted 25 October 2007First published online 22 April 2008

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Truman Lake

The morning was foggy and chilly as we sat and fished at the cove behind our campsite. The fish were biting but we could not seem to catch anything. We just enjoyed watching the sun burn the fog off the lake and being together. We headed back to the campsite and fixed breakfast, and after eating eggs, bacon and sausage we decided to drive into Warsaw and explore the town.

The scenery along the lake is very beautiful, gorgeous rock cliffs and gorgeous blue water dotted with fishing boats. We headed to the visitors center where we noticed some Black vultures and Turkey vultures roosting near the center. After leaving the visitors center we went to the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery where they raise fish to be released in various lakes, ponds and rivers throughout the state. They provide fishing poles and bait for children to try their hand at catching fish out of one of the ponds located on-site. Several small children were fishing with their families and seemed to be having a good time.

The gulls were flying around everywhere begging for scrapes from the fishermen. They were especially fond of hanging out near the marinas. They are large and loud birds with a very gregarious personality.

Later we walked along a beautiful river walk that wound along the Osage River which feeds into Truman Lake. Flowers were planted everywhere, New England Aster, Goldenrod, Lead Plant, and various other plants in all colors. The insects were taking  full advantage of the late season blooms.

Unknown Skipper

Bumble Bee

Common Buckeye

Gray Hairstreak

Stink Bug Nymph

Black Swallowtail


Many more flowers could be found all over the shoreline around the lake, including this beautiful purple "Water Smartweed". 
I think the Pink Rose Mallow was my absolute favorite flower found at the lake. he stunningly large pink blooms were gorgeous. Definitely eye-catching.

Are you looking for a weekend getaway? Give Harry S. Truman Lake a visit. You won't be disappointed. Excellent fishing, sightseeing, flowers, wildlife and unique insects all abound. The campground is spacious and the staff are friendly and informative. We can't wait for our next visit.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Northern Black Widow

 Black Widows may be one of the most feared spiders in North America. Some would say with good reason, after all they do have venom that is ounce for ounce more toxic than a rattlesnake, and they crawl around on eight legs which completely creeps most people out. This particular species is the Northern Black Widow (Latrodectus variolus) and was photographed at Truman State Park. They are shiny black with a broken red hourglass on their lower abdomen. Northern Widows often have a row of red spots on the back of their abdomen as well (as shown here). While walking the glades, and turning over rocks we found this beautiful female hiding under a rock. She was large with a legspan approximately the size of a quarter. She was very docile and sat perfectly still while I photographed her. I wished I would have had a container to place her in to be able to keep her. It would have been nice to show the public who visit our office exactly what one looks like. While their bite is highly venomous and extremely painful it is rarely deadly except in the very young or the elderly. They deliver very small doses of venom with a bite, which is a good thing. If they delivered as much venom as a rattlesnake we would all be in danger of not recovering from a bite inflicted by one of these awesome spiders.

Black Widows are secretive and elusive spiders. This species generally builds their webs under rocks or logs in open woodlands. If approached they are quick to run for cover. These are not aggressive spiders and will only bite if provoked or caught between your skin and your clothing or if accidentally touched. Males are incapable of biting, it is ONLY the female who bites. The venom contains a powerful neurotoxin and bites can and often do lead to stomach upset, cramps, abdominal pain, sweating, headache, muscle tightness or soreness, delayed pain at the bite sight, and swelling of the hands, feet or eyelids. Swelling at the sight of the bite is rare. Reactions to their bite may last for several days and often require medical treatment for relief. Most human fatalities due to Black Widow bites occur in the Southwestern United States where larger populations of these spiders exist.

These are extremely beautiful spiders, and part of their mystic and beauty may be the fact that they are so highly venomous and potentially dangerous. There is no need to be afraid of these spiders, merely be aware of their possible hazard and avoid contact with them if at all possible. If you have them in your basements, sheds, cellars or anywhere you may frequently encounter them, you might want to consider removing them, especially if you have small children at home. When cleaning in areas where they have been seen always wear gloves. Use caution, but no need to live in fear. They generally never leave the web except when looking for new place to construct their web. Because of their habit of staying close to their web, encounters by humans are rare in Missouri. This particular species is most often found away from human dwellings which makes it even more unlikely we will come in contact with one. I was very excited  to have found one and to get the opportunity to photograph one and it was under the very first rock I flipped. I was flipping stones, with no gloves on, so I was lucky to not have been bitten.

There are two species that live statewide in Missouri; the first and most common in southern counties is L. mactans (Black Widow) and the L. variolus (Northern Black Widow) is found in more central and northern counties. We encountered both species at Truman Lake, I found two L. Mactans within their webs at the bathhouse. Each time I approached I could only catch a short glimpse of them before they darted behind a trim board that their webs were attached to. They were smaller than the Northern Widow that I photographed here.

The good that these spiders provide by eating untold amounts of insects far outweighs any danger that may exist from this spider.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Scorpionflies in the genus Panorpa are in no way related to scorpions or flies. They get their name from the males scorpion-like appendage at the tip of their abdomen. They could have just as easily been called elephantfly....just look at the schnoz on these insects. They do not sting or bite, in fact they cannot hurt humans at all. The first and second pictured here were photographed on our farm, and they are quite common around here.
There are 55 species throughout the Eastern United States and Canada. Most have black patterned wings that are held back over their body. They have a short fluttery flight that rarely takes them more than a few feet away at a time, making them very easy to approach.

 This larger species is Panorpa nuptialis, they may reach lengths up to one inch or a little more. This particular species is found in South Central United States. They are found from central Missouri southward, and I photographed this one at Truman Lake State Park near the lake on some flowers. This seemed to be the most common species of these insects in the area, and I spotted well over a half dozen of them during our two day stay all within 1/2 mile radius. They are omnivores and feed predominantly on insects. They will sometimes feed on pollen or nectar. Males will even occasionally offer females a nuptial gift in the form of a juicy insect morsel. Males also emit a pheromone from their abdomen. The females may be attracted to the powerful chemical cocktail that the male produces or perhaps his gift is what entices her.Most human females appreciate a good smelling man bearing gifts, seems these female scorpionflies do as well. 

Mating will occur as the female feeds on her tasty gift. Males will sometimes pose as females in order to "steal" the potential nuptial gift meant for an intended mate. This gives the male a leg up in the mating game. Females lay their eggs in cracks or crevices in the soil. The larvae feed on dead soft-bodied insects. They will emerge as adults sometime in the fall, and will be found from September through November.  Look for them on low shrubs and ground cover in densely-vegetated woodlands, often near water; grasslands; cultivated fields and forest borders. The adults are usually seen resting on leaves in shaded areas less than three feet from the ground.