Adapted from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter of June 2, 2007
issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve,
QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

OWL FLY BENEATH THE LIGHT

OWL FLYEarly one recent morning, beneath a high-efficiency security lamp mounted on one of my casita's outside walls, clinging to the white stucco I found the strange, dragonfly-size, dragonfly-like insect shown at the right.

But of course no dragonfly bears such long antennae as the creature in that picture. The antennae alone prove that it's not a dragonfly. In fact, it doesn't even belong to the same ORDER as dragonflies, which means that it's approximately as unrelated to dragonflies as a sparrow is to a woodpecker -- different orders.

I wouldn't have known what my wall-percher was if I hadn't found a larva of this kind of insect when I lived near Sandy Creek in Mississippi, writing about it under the heading "Little Dragon with Big Pincers" in my September 5th, 2004 Newsletter. You can see a scanning of that small but mean-looking larva at http://www.backyardnature.net/pix/owlflylv.jpg.

My wall-percher was an owlfly, closely related to the antlions whose sharp-pincered larvae, often called doodlebugs, dig conical pits in sand and dust, position themselves beneath the sand at the pit's bottom, and await prey who tumble into the pit. That's different from owlfly larvae, though, who with their large jaws roam around hunting prey on the ground and in low vegetation.

Adult owlflies feed on other flying insects. I read that when they're disturbed they release a strong, musk-like chemical that deters enemies, but I didn't harass my wall-percher so I didn't notice that. It's assumed that by poking their abdomens into the air when they're perching their enemies may confuse them with broken twigs.

That strategy sure doesn't work, however, when they're resting on a white stucco wall.