Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Snakefly, genus AGULLA

Snakefly, genus AGULLA

from the July 5, 2009 Newsletter, issued from the Siskiyou Mountains west of Grants Pass, Oregon:

For the last couple of weeks a certain glisteny-winged critter has been flying about. When one flew into my trailer and began banging against the screen I finally got a good look at what it was. You can see it above.

Bea with her fast Internet connection had to tell me what that was, too. It's a Snakefly, genus AGULLA, unusual for its slender neck atop a slender thorax. Like dragonflies it bears two pairs of wings, thus four wings. The "stinger" at the rear end is actually the female's ovipositor used in the egg laying process. Snakeflies don't sting. They belong to the Neuroptera Order, which means that they're closely related to antlions, lacewings, dobsonflies and owlflies.

Something about these insects looks primitive, and there's something to that. Jurassic and Cretaceous rock strata turn up an incredible diversity of fossils of snakefly-like insects. However, 65 million years ago when a comet hit the Earth in the area of today's northwestern Yucatan Peninsula, not only did nearly all the dinosaurs consequently go extinct, but also most snakeflies.

Nowadays snakeflies occur throughout much of the Earth's Northern Hemisphere (they're Holarctic) except in northern and eastern North America. Being "relicts" from the distant past, nowadays most species are distributed over small areas, often restricted to a single mountain range.