The males have an upturned bulbous and sting-like tail, hence why they are called scorpion flies, yet they do not sting. The heads have a beak-like appearance, and their wings have slight variations in pattern which aid in distinguishing the 3 UK species which can be difficult to tell apart. Panorpa communis tends to be more heavily spotted. Body length 17 to 20mm.
Mating usually occurs at night and can be quite dangerous for the male. The female may kill him if things don’t go well, so he gives her a drop of saliva as a present to try and please her before mating is attempted. They feed on dead and dying insects and other invertebrates. They have a crafty way of stealing spider victims wrapped in silk from their webs without getting caught themselves.
Flies May to September. Found in hedgerows and woodland. Often found resting on vegetation in shady places. Common and widespread throughout the UK.
Photographs of Common Scorpionfly (Panorpa communis) male and female, taken June 2013, local pool, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.